Skyscraper of glass and wood

Skellefteå in northern Sweden has wooden houses, wooden schools and a wooden bridge, as well as control tower Its airport is made of wood. On September 8 in this city, about 200 kilometers from the Arctic Circle, one of the tallest wooden buildings ever built, with materials coming from the coniferous forests of the area in which it is located, was inaugurated: it is the Sara Cultural Center (Sarah Kulturhouse), a 20-storey complex that, in addition to containing exhibition spaces, theaters and a library, also houses a restaurant, conference center and hotel.

It is a homage to traditional Swedish construction, but is also an example of many buildings of this type built in recent decades, which have a very low environmental impact: according to its creators, Sarah Kulturhus can be “negative emissions” (we go back).

Sara Kulturhus is 75 meters tall and is the third tallest wooden building in the world after Mjøstårnet from Bromundal, Norway and the Borg HOHO from Vienna, which exceed 85 and 84 meters respectively.

It was designed by the large Swedish architecture firm White Arkitekter and built by the structural engineering firm Florian Kosche: it is located in the center of the city and takes its name from the Swedish writer Sarah Lidman, born in 1923 in Västerbotten, the same area in which Skellefteå is located, for which he is pronounced. like him.

It is a complex of spaces of different heights, sizes and styles, which are adapted to be used for different functions: built almost entirely with blocks of locally produced wood, processed in a sawmill about 60 kilometers from the city.

The hotel’s 205 rooms, which are located in a skyscraper, are built from prefabricated units, mounted one on top of the other.

Both the hotel structure and the structure of the other spaces of the complex consist of large blocks of cross plywood (cross-linked plywood, or CLT), that is, hardwood panels pressed and interlaced in a criss-cross arrangement, some up to 27 meters long. The columns and beams of the structure are made instead of glulam, which consists of flat planks or laminate glued together with parallel fibers and is ideal for these elements because they are as resistant as regular building materials, such as concrete and steel: to make the corners of prefabricated units more rigid, CLT was used with glulam.

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Glulam construction techniques were introduced into Europe in the 1990s and then used to construct larger and larger buildings. The choice of wood allows you to do so Use less cement, which are generated with a large amount of energy expenditure and the production of polluting emissions. It also has other benefits. For example, it allows you to save on production costs, according to many, it is more beautiful to look at and allows you to absorb carbon dioxide from the surrounding environment (we get there). Since chipboard is very compact, it is easier to transport than traditional materials; In addition, shallow foundations are required and no heavy machinery is required to pump concrete or move steel beams.

The construction of the entire complex needs about 10 thousand cubic meters of CLT and 2,200 cubic meters of glulam, Dice Cultural Center website. Its facades are covered with 7700 square meters of stained glass.

Of the observations that are made more often than wooden buildings regarding their safety in case of fires.

According to various experts in the field, flammability is one false anxiety: Come to remember guardianThe materials used to build the complex take a long time to catch on fire. In any case, a special coating with a diameter of 4 cm was applied to the CLT plates, which in the event of a fire would protect the main structure for about two hours, and all surfaces were treated with flame retardants, that is, special products that slow down combustion. some materials.

In some of the larger spaces of the building, such as the center entrance or the theater halls, some steel panels and bars were inserted to provide more support for the beams and the timber structure. Additionally, to prevent the tower from swaying too much in case of strong winds, concrete elements were inserted into the two upper floors of the structure.

Robert Schmitz, White Arkitekter partner and one of the project managers, He said for architecture magazine seas That Sarah Kulturhaus has designed “to bring together under one roof” some of Skelleftea’s most important establishments, with the goal “to become the main attraction of the city”.

Also for this reason, most of its facades are covered with large windows that allow you to show the architecture and shapes inside, such as the ceiling of the main lobby or the staircase leading to the upper floor naturally made of wood.

Oscar Norelius, another project manager, added: “The building was designed around the idea of ​​optimizing materials, using each in the best way.”

The tender for the construction of the cultural center was opened in November 2015 and works began in October 2018. Had the same project been built with traditional materials, such as steel and concrete, it would have required an additional year of work; Thanks to the choice of wood, the number of truck trips used to transport materials has been reduced by 90 percent, he wrote guardian.

– Read also: Wooden skyscrapers stories

Skellefteå is powered by 100 percent renewable energy sourced from wind and photovoltaic plants, and this is where the electric vehicle lithium battery production plant is located. The largest in Europe. Sara Kulturhus was also built with great care taken in the efficiency and resources with which they are run, as well as the environmental impact of their construction.

The complex uses electricity from a 1,200 square meter photovoltaic system and is heated by a geothermal heat pump. Its systems are managed with software that helps to control and predict consumption: in the event of an excess of electricity, it can be stored in special batteries stored in the basement, or taken to the nearby tourist center.

White Arkitekter estimated that the Sara Kulturhus building would last at least a hundred years. The architecture studio that aims to achieve exclusively Zero Emissions Projects by 2030, asserts that during his lifetime the complex will also take place”negative emissions“Make a careful evaluation, let’s see better.

“Carbon neutrality,” also known as “zero emissions,” is the state in which per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2)2) or any other greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere is removed to the same extent. In other words, carbon neutrality occurs when you stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere beyond the amount you can remove. With “negative emissions” we refer to all those systems that are capable of removing some carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The (optimistic) idea that wooden construction is able to eliminate circulating carbon dioxide is very prevalent in the sector, and is known as “carbon sequestration” (literally, carbon dioxide sequestration). However, this is not active removal: the idea starts from the fact that when a tree is cut down for its use, carbon dioxide2 Confiscated during the process of its development is still imprisoned in the wood. Instead, it will be released into the atmosphere if the tree is used for energy production (eg burning) or if it dies with age and is left to rot naturally.

So Sarah Kulturhouse Architects subtracted the “imprisoned” CO2 from the building’s total emissions. This, along with the fact that the felled trees have been replanted, and the building is powered by clean energy that produces more than it consumes, should ensure that in 50 years, Sarah Kulturhaus will have been “removed” from the atmosphere. almost double of carbon dioxide emitted in order to build it.

– Read also: How difficult is it to determine environmental costs

Harold Manning

"Infuriatingly humble social media ninja. Devoted travel junkie. Student. Avid internet lover."

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