The materials may sound like the makings of a shoddy IKEA dresser — but the glued laminate timber that partially makes up Sweden’s latest architectural wonder could offer a glimpse at future skyscrapers.
In Sweden, architects are attempting to journey back to the days before concrete, bricks, and steel, and building impressive towers made with timber, The Washington Post reported.
The shift to timber is meant to bring sustainability back to building practices, the architects told the Post, and builders have already constructed a $110 million proof-of-concept called the Sara Cultural Center in Skelleftea, Sweden, to show that the sky is the limit when it comes to wooden structures.
“The municipality asked for a “brave building,” and that’s what we did, Robert Schmitz told The Post.
Nearly every part of the Sara center is built with prefabricated wood, and features grand halls, ginormous ceiling fixtures and art displays, and expansive views. According to the Post, the Sara center has a public library, three theatres and banquet halls. If they prefer a longer stay, the site has a hotel with a restaurant, pool, and spa.
The dream of wood architecture in Sweden doesn’t stop with the architects of the Sara center — in Stockholm, plans are underway to build an entire wooden city center.
The architects told the Post that, at least in the heavily forested areas of Sweden, wood-based architecture is the future of sustainable building for several reasons.
These buildings don’t depend on cement. The building material’s emissions have grown faster than most other single sources of carbon dioxide thanks to their increased demand and production, Inside Climate News reported. Cement manufacturing accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, research from the University of Rochester shows.
They don’t rely on steel either. The material’s manufacturing accounts for 7 to 9% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions, per the World Steel Association.
White Arkitekter also claims that their process will be carbon negative, the Post reported, because the buildings themselves will store nearly 9,100 tons of carbon dioxide — offsetting the carbon used to transport and build the structures themselves.
While fires are a major concern, Sara Center’s architects assured the publication there were processes in place for ensuring the safety of the buildings. These include fire resistant coatings.
The Post reports that the trend for timber-framed buildings is not restricted to Sweden. Across Europe, Asia, and even in the US, wood towers are becoming a more common building material, reinforced by a desire to combat climate change.
The Post reported that this could become more common in the coming years as countries in Europe and the US begin to account for wood structures in their building codes.
According to a Reuters analysis, the use of wood laminate in the US could significantly increase as a result of its inclusion to US building codes, as well as insurance coverage of wood-built structures.
This trend isn’t limited to wood. In places like West Africa, architects like Diebedo Francis Kere are turning back to traditional building materials like soil, stone, and vegetation as sustainable building materials.
“The built environment — as it is built now — is not sustainable,” Michael Green, the author of “The Case for Tall Wood Buildings,” told the Post.