Would Wood Be Good?

Of all the recent advances in tall-building construction, perhaps the most counterintuitive is the nascent move toward wood as the primary material for high-rise towers. Yes, wood construction is environmentally friendly. It comes from trees that trap atmospheric carbon dioxide (a gas that, most scientists say, is the cause of manmade climate change); it’s a renewable resource; and, according to experts, the manufacturing process for wooden building products emits less carbon than that for any other material used in construction.

But, wood isn’t as strong as steel and concrete, right? And, an even bigger concern: wood burns. It’s not hard to imagine a giant timber tower being quickly devoured by flames. It’s an image that’s hard to shake.

A recent article posted on the website Fast Company, however, may put these fears to rest. In it, author Jesus Diaz tells of Mjøstårnet, an 18-story, 265-ft.-tall project being built in Brumunddal, Norway, that will soon be the world’s tallest all-wood building. With the help of a five-part mini-documentary produced by construction company Moelven, we learn that the latest engineered-wood building materials are both strong and fire-resistant. We also learn of innovative construction techniques being employed on this jobsite.

It’s not likely that wood will replace steel and concrete in every future high-rise project. But, it does appear to be a viable option for many types of buildings.

Drawing Attention

The cover of the September 2018 issue of Oregon Business magazine

In its September issue, Oregon Business magazine took on the topic of elevator maintenance and safety in an article titled “Shafted,” which noted a shortage of qualified technicians and a growing maintenance backlog as part of the reason for an increasing number of entrapments. In fact, the article became the edition’s cover story, and, as such, was the subject of much internal discussion about how to illustrate it. In a companion piece, Oregon Business Art Director Joan McGuire explained the creative process for designing the cover, which is both stark and compelling. As developers build ever higher, the issues raised in the article will have to be addressed, and the sooner, the better. This simple yet engaging cover should catch the attention of those in a position to tackle the problems.

At Skilled-Worker Competition, Everybody Wins

We hear almost daily that the careers of the future are in high technology, and to survive in this future our children and grandchildren will need education in the realm of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). There may be a grain of truth in that, but the nation still needs workers skilled in hands-on occupations — everything from cosmetology to construction, electrician to elevator technician. This is where SkillsUSA comes in. This association serves people preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled-service occupations, and it showcases its efforts in the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. This year, the event drew 18,000 people to Louisville, Kentucky, many of them competing with peers in an event that’s doing its part to revive the trades. Good-paying jobs are out there; SkillsUSA is showing the way to them. While many of the competitors in this year’s event were young people just starting out, others were mid-career folks looking for new opportunities; the oldest was 73. Special thanks to the nonprofit WorkingNation for helping to get the word out through its promotion of the event.