Cambridge University’s Centre for Natural Material Innovation (CNMI) recently revealed conceptual designs for a 300-meter-tall, timber-framed skyscraper in London as part of research project.

“It’s a catalyst for future thinking,” says Simon Smith, a principal at Smith and Wallwork, Cambridge, which is handling structural design of the tower.

The building would comprise a central tower with a 20 x 20-m footprint buttressed by smaller towers cutting into each corner, explains Smith. External, vertical timber mega-trusses would carry all vertical and horizontal loads without relying on an internal core. 

To carry such loads, the structure would require 2.5-m by 2.5-m sections of glued, laminated (glulam) beams and columns, as well as cross-laminated timber panels up to 1.75 m thick, adds Smith. The tower would be supported by 65,000 cu m of spruce elements.

As well as reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, timber structures are more sustainable, lighter and can be quicker to build, say the CNMI researchers. “Timber and other natural materials are vastly underused, and we don’t give them nearly enough credit,” says Michael Ramage, CNMI’s director.

With 18 months remaining on the research project, CNMI also is being supported by PLP Architecture, London.