Signage at the entrance to the Timber City exhibit at the National Building Museum, 2016-2017

It may be called the National Building Museum, but what's going on there at its "Timber City" exhibit is much more intended to promote the present and future of commercial and high-rise construction techniques than it is concerned about what's in the past.

The display, which opened Sept. 17 and will run through May 21, piles on the arguments for why wood should be the material of choice for buildings that often are constructed today from concrete and steel. A slew of charts included in the one-room exhibit in Washington argue that wood is a greener, less expensive, easier-to-use choice. Here's an example of one such chart, which like the rest of the exhibit's displays is printed directly on what appears to be a thick slab of wood:

TimberCity exhibit chart showing energy needed to produce one ton of material

This chart compares the average amount of carbon dioxide emissions from various building products:

Chart showing net carbon dioxide emissions of various building materials

Some of the charts and call-outs come courtesy of APA-The Engineered Wood Association:


Part of the TimberCity exhibit, this time on energy use

Timber City even challenges claims that wood is a fire hazard. Cross-laminated timber and its ilk actually remain strong in a fire for longer times than does steel, one chart shown at the exhibit maintains:

Part of the Timber City exhibit at the National Building Museum, 2016-2017

Taken together, Timber City challenges efforts like Build With Strength, a campaign launched last year by the National Ready-Mixed Concrete Association that has published several press releases taking aim at wood. That campaign has been quick to highlight local actions and research studies that curb the use of wood in construction--particularly as a result of recent fires--and question its value in mitigating hazards.

When complete, 475 West 18th, by SHoP Architects, will be the first structural timber building in New York City. The 10-story residential building was one of two competition winners of the USDA's U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize.
Kate Colabella / Courtesy SHoP Architects When complete, 475 West 18th, by SHoP Architects, will be the first structural timber building in New York City. The 10-story residential building was one of two competition winners of the USDA's U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize.

The charts and language promoting wood over other materials are lesser elements in the exhibit. Many of its most picturesque displays involve photos and scale-model mockups of rencent buildings constructed from wood. ProSales' sister publication Architect showcased many of those designs in its preview of the exhibit.