News & Events

Zero Carbon. Hybrid Wood. Supertall.

September 8, 2020

With breakthrough patent-pending design, DIALOG has pioneered a design combining sustainable mass timber, steel, and concrete to create a zero carbon tower soaring 105 storeys.

We started with the question:

“How can we design a ‘supertall’ building that maximizes the overall use of sustainably harvested wood in high-rise construction in the most cost efficient, energy efficient, and elegant manner, that also has a positive impact on human wellbeing, and the wellbeing of the environment?”

Our answer is the zero carbon hybrid timber tower prototype. Our integrated team worked together to meet this compelling challenge.

Why we are doing this?

The world needs to cut global carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 to avoid the worst effects of climate change (IPCC, 2018), and buildings and construction currently account for some 39% of energy-related emissions (UNEP, 2017). Architects, engineers, and planners can play a big role in the solution. DIALOG has adopted the AIA 2030 Commitment to make all projects carbon neutral by 2030.

The world of design, engineering and construction can face this challenge in the context of three important industry transformations:

  1. Net zero carbon transformation. Cities, states, and countries around the world are now getting serious about carbon.  Many are in a race to find zero carbon city planning and building design solutions.
  2. A few progressive communities want to be the first to come up with the most compelling strategy to use composite wood systems in tall buildings to encourage smart urban density. Wood, when harvested sustainably, is an environmentally regenerative resource and one of the most effective ways to store carbon.
  3. Everything is being transformed by automation and machine learning. In the building sectors, computational design is now the cutting edge of that new reality. How we shape this new reality will be critical to how we work in the future.
  • To maximize the use of sustainably harvested wood by volume: We believe that tall timber is a critical part of the solution to global climate change. While the race to build “all wood” is on, we know there’s a better way. That way is with a combination of materials like wood, concrete and steel, including sustainably harvested timber. Our patent-pending Hybrid Timber Floor System (HTFS) offers open spans and fire safety so it can be integrated into any building typology.
  • To go net zero carbon in our building materials: By using sustainably harvested timber in combination with concrete and steel we can reduce embodied carbon by 46% versus traditional steel and concrete construction, while simultaneously increasing sequestered carbon.
  • To go net zero energy in building operations over time: All anticipated energy will be generated by renewables both on-site. How? By deploying photovoltaics (PV) on the East, South, and West façades. We propose to go even further by using a natural gas-powered district energy cogeneration (cogen) plant to provide the power and heat that’s not produced by the PVs. The combustion emissions from the cogen plant, including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulphur oxides, will be captured and sequestered by an algae bioreactor.
  • To design an elegant, yet supersized response to urban density needs: Imagined as a symbolic gateway at the northern edge of the city of Toronto, our prototype would be the tallest building in the city at 105 stories. The prototype would serve as a key node of dense, transit-oriented development in a largely suburban environment. Using cues from nature, the tower will effectively integrate into the surrounding urban fabric. Mirroring the structure’s verticality with a long horizontal landscape will form a symbiotic landscape relationship with the structure.
  • To enhance occupant wellbeing: The prototype will maximize interior exposures to warm, natural wood. The expansive, envisioned open spaces will act as needed relief for the building’s users, supporting their health and wellbeing with physical and visual access to sustainably harvested timber.
  • To build for tomorrow, today: The prototype is imaged as a key node of dense, transit-oriented development in what is now a largely suburban environment. Placing 5G antenna at the top of the prototype would also make it a key node in the next-generation network, connecting smart city innovations such as autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things (IoT). Further, we’ll use computational/generative (CD/GD) design modeling to link the building’s envelope design to its energy efficiency. Parametric modeling and analysis tools will help to set its long-term performance criteria and targets

The team making this vision a reality includes: Daria Khachi, leading the wood design strategy; Thomas Wu, leading the tall-building and HTFS design strategyJim Montgomeryleading the peer review study of the HTFS;  Simon Ko and Steve Sestic and Ryan McClanaghan, leading the building-form design and mixed-use programming strategy; Cameron Veres leading the high-rise stacking and core design strategy; Vance Harris leading the building-envelope design strategy; Alison McNeil and Simone Ferkul leading potential hotel-use integration strategy; Raul Dominguez leading the mechanical-systems design strategy; Naresh Arora, leading the electrical-systems and CIT systems design strategy;  Antonio Gomez-Palacioleading the urban-integration strategy; Bryce Miranda, leading the natural-capital, and vertical-landscape strategy; and, Craig Applegath, coordinating the efforts of our team, as well as leading the zero-carbon and green-design strategy.

Externally, we partnered with EllisDon to help us test the construction logic and provide costing input. We also consulted with our friends at RWDI to get input regarding tall-building aerodynamics.

Overall, this is a project that integrates our high-rise design expertise, with our green design expertise, our wood design expertise, and all at the frontiers of design!