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Tall Timber Building Offers Sustainability In Sweden

C.F. Møller Architects has designed what it calls Sweden's tallest wooden building. Located next to a lake in Västerås, the residential project has been specifically designed so that it can be dismantled and recycled if required.

Tall timber building offers sustainability in Sweden

As of writing we're awaiting word back from C.F. Møller Architects as to its exact height, but it has a total floorspace of 7,500 sq m (roughly 80,000 sq ft) spread over eight floors (taking into account its double-height apartments, it's actually nine floors high). For comparison, the world's tallest timber tower, Norway's Mjøstårnet, rises to 18 floors.

CF Møller Architects chose to use cross-laminated timber for the scheme as it is renewable, recyclable and has a lower carbon footprint than other traditional building materials like concrete. Wooden buildings are also believed to improve wellbeing of occupants when in use.

Elsewhere, the architecture and urbanism arm of Google parent company Alphabet called Sidewalk Labs has recently unveiled a digital model of what would be the world's tallest mass-timber building. It follows the company's recent proposal for a mass-timber smart city in Toronto it has designed with Thomas Heatherwick and Snøhetta.

The architectural potential of building with wood has been greatly expanded thanks to cross-laminated timber. The prefabricated solid timber panels are engineered for high levels of resistance against fire and moisture, which are common problems associated with old wooden buildings.

Text description provided by the architects. Kajstaden - Tall Timber Building is an important landmark for sustainable construction and a reference project that shows that conversion to climate-conscious architecture is possible. Through research projects and several active wood projects, C.F. Møller Architects has focused on innovation as well as developing and implementing multi-storey buildings with solid wood frames. In Kajstaden, an active decision was made to prioritise industrial timber techniques for the building material to influence and take responsibility for the impact of the construction industry on the environment and climate change. A crucial advantage of wood, unlike other building materials, is that the production chain for the material produces a limited amount of carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, it is part of a closed cycle, where carbon is retained in the frame of the building.

The Kajstaden - Tall Timber Building is nine floors high with an elevated ground floor and a top floor with a double-height ceiling. The high precision technology involved in CNC-milled solid timber with glulam elements results in air-tight and energy-efficient houses without other unnecessary materials in the walls. The low weight of the material means fewer deliveries to the construction site and a more efficient, safer and quieter working environment during construction. It took an average of three days per floor for three craftsmen to raise the frame. Mechanical joints with screws have been used, which means that the building can be taken apart so that the materials can be recycled. The total carbon dioxide saving is estimated to be 550 tonnes of CO2 when using solid wood instead of concrete.

C.F. Møller Architects is currently engaged in construction projects across a total area of 100,000 m2 with a focus on the use of solid timber in Sweden and the UK, and hopes to be able to help push the construction industry in a more sustainable direction by realising these projects as good examples and sharing its knowledge of building with timber.

Commercial developers in markets like Portland, Seattle, Denver, and beyond are increasingly willing to shoulder the higher upfront costs of mass timber construction because they recognize that sophisticated consumers are willing to pay a premium for its aesthetic and sustainability benefits. While there is little public data currently available on the increased rent that potential mass timber buildings would offer, Consulting-Specifying Engineer estimates mass timber projects can command rent premiums $7 higher per square foot or more. There is also ample anecdotal evidence from mass timber projects across the US supporting the economic viability of commercial developments. For example, the T3 tower project in Minneapolis opened in 2016, quickly sold in 2018 for $87m, and was 82% leased at the time of sale. For the 80 M Street SE project, the building owner was able to lease approximately half of the new mass timber leasable floor area prior to the start of construction.

This is a good start. But to drive more rapid scaling of mass timber across the nation, expanding federal, state, and local incentives on both the supply and demand side will be necessary. Expanding funding incentives to timber-rich areas in the Southeastern United States could further help to increase mass timber production. These incentives can also help us ensure that the timber used in mass timber production is sourced sustainably, using proper forest management practices. The introduction of policies aimed at cutting building carbon would also make low-carbon materials, like mass timber, a more appealing option and would likely increase demand for mass timber products.

We have already started on the right path. The adoption of low-carbon procurement policies, known as Buy Clean legislation, at state and local levels nationwide signals a policy shift toward considering embodied carbon. Potential future policies targeted at incentivizing mass timber construction can come in many forms, including direct tax reductions, density bonuses, code updates, or expedited permit approvals. Large corporations with sustainability goals can further increase the impact of federal, state, and local incentives by using their purchasing power to help grow economies of scale within the mass timber market.

The built environment is constantly changing. Interest has been growing around the world in the design and construction of taller timber buildings. The demand is not only due to the availability of new innovative materials like cross-laminated timber (CLT), but predominantly based upon the need for green and sustainable architecture, driven by building owners, managers and designers who see timber as a positive solution given the sustainable credentials it offers.

The construction industry has started to recognize that timber can offer an economically favorable construction method for mid and high-rise buildings [1], with architecturally modern and innovative solutions. Timber also provides lighter construction that results in substantial savings in foundation works when compared to other materials, leading to development opportunities in areas with poor soils. Another advantage of timber construction is the amount of offsite prefabrication that provides for highly accurate production, leading to faster overall construction times, which reduces building costs and weather protection costs, while increasing returns on investment. Timber also has other benefits in construction, such as significantly reduced crane costs, ease of alteration on site, reduced noise to neighboring areas and also reduced site traffic, especially when compared to concrete construction.

It is apparent that one of the key fundamental problems facing the timber industry in the use of timber as a high-rise building material is education. By education, this is not just raising awareness, but elevating the skills and knowledge of fire safety/protection engineers in the design of timber high-rise buildings. Fire departments, authorities having jurisdiction and especially fire safety/fire protection engineers, all need to have a greater understanding of how high-rise timber buildings can be constructed in a fire safe manner [8]. The timber industry has focused on education on low-rise buildings and has lagged in developing education on medium and high-rise buildings, which has been understandable, given the market demand, which has been driven by codes. Industry groups representing timber manufacturers and suppliers have roles to play, but more importantly, universities also need to provide equal lecture hours among concrete, steel and timber and offer more post-graduate opportunities in timber research.

The desire to build sustainable buildings has led many to consider timber as part of the primary load-bearing frame. However, timber buildings are currently limited by prescriptive code legislation and in many jurisdictions, a reluctance to allow evidence based performance solutions. Model building codes that limit the use of materials based on type, rather than fire performance, are the greatest barrier to the use of timber. Model building codes therefore need to reflect the science and engineering capabilities of a construction product.

As knowledge and understanding of the fire performance of new timber products such as CLT develops, the potential for change in building codes becomes increasingly possible. Through increased education to improve the understanding of how timber performs in fire and targeted research to assist with the implementation of innovative timber elements, we should expect to see more tall timber buildings being safely constructed.

The cultural center, which takes up the lower four levels of the building, is built with columns and beams made of glued laminated timber and without the use of concrete. The cement industry currently accounts for about 7 percent of global CO2 emissions, per the International Energy Agency.

The Sara Cultural Centre is 75m tall and homes a theatre, a gallery, a library, restaurants, a conference centre and a hotel.The 20-storey hotel is built up of prefabricated 3D-modules in cross-laminated timber (CLT), stacked between two CLT elevator cores.

The lower rise cultural centre consists of a timber frame with columns and beams made of glue-laminated timber (GLT), with cores and shear walls in CLT. The trusses above the grand foyers are composed of a GLT and steel hybrid. The building is designed to have a lifespan of at least 100 years, the architects claim.


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