skip to primary navigationskip to content

Case study: Supertall Timber

Working across the scales and disciplines, researchers from the Natural Material Innovation Centre contribute to the development of sustainable timber-based architecture.

The Oakwood Tower

One of the most spectacular outputs from the Natural Material Innovation Centre is the proposed design of a 1000 feet tall timber skyscraper in London. The Oakwood Timber Tower developed in partnership with PLP Architecture is proposed to be integrated within the Barbican and could be a sustainable solution to providing much needed housing in central London.

Working across disciplines to develop sustainable building materials

Currently, majority of high rise construction is performed with steel and concrete. Both of these commodities are energy intensive to manufacture and therefore, are associated with a significant greenhouse gas emission. The scientist from the Natural Material Innovation Centre are developing new ways of using timber. Work carried out at the Centre can allow this sustainable plant material to be a true alternative to steel and concrete in the construction industry. 

To understand and improve wood researchers at the Natural Material Innovation Centre work across scales and disciplines.  Biochemical analysis allowed the scientists from the Dupree Lab to propose a molecular model of timber nano-scale architecture (graphics below). The model focuses on interaction between components of wood and is further supported  by solid state NMR experiments.



Molecular architecture of timber




The molecular insight gained from biochemical experiments help scientists working under the supervision of Prof Oren Sherman to design polymers more suited for impregnation of wood. The efficiency of timber impregnation is further enhanced thanks to mathematical modelling of the process performed by researchers led by Prof Paul Linden.



Visualising the process of wood impregnation




Wood impregnated with certain polymers, can have properties more suited for the use in the construction industry. Impregnated wood can be used to construct super tall timber towers, such as the Oakwood Tower designed, in collaboration with PLP Architecture, by researchers working in the Architecture Department under the supervision of Dr Michael Ramage.  


The Oakwood Tower