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Swedish Wood Reaching New Heights

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The last decade has borne witness to an explosion of innovation in timber design, construction and promotion. This has resulted in market analysts forecasting dramatic growth in the use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) products.

Nowhere else has the uptake of wood buildings been so enthusiastic as Scandinavia. A longstanding exponent for progress in the wood market, Sweden is in the process of completing its next step towards carbon net neutrality through a groundbreaking projected named Sara Kulturhus.

Built-in the city of Skellefteá and standing at 20 storeys high, the aptly nicknamed ‘House of the Future’, can claim the title of tallest timber building in Sweden. Every aspect of the sleek wood design reflects the architect’s (White Arkitekter) intent to encourage creativity and bolster the local community with the addition of this new civic centre. Additionally, the extensive use of locally sourced timber throughout the build allows Skellefteá to boast a gigantic carbon store, garnering green praise internationally.

Concept image of Sara Kulturhus
Outside carapace timber frame (Photo: Courtesy of White Arkitekter)

Upon entering Sara Kulturhus, visitors will be presented with a sweeping timber staircase. Acting as the building’s central nervous system, the wood frame links together the multiplicity of recreational, civic and corporate function rooms.

The base of the structure comprises prefabricated wooden room modules supported by concrete slabs intended to evenly distribute the weight of the building. On first inspection, this inclusion of concrete may seem to undervalue the environmental benefits provided by the wood. However, Sara Kulturhus earns its sustainability credentials with extensive use of solar cells offsetting energy use in the construction and concrete inclusion.

Flexible outdoor environment allowing for seating an exhibitions (Photo: Courtesy of White Arkitekter)

The main architect responsible for the project, Oskar Narelius, made clear his intent to create a tribute to: “the city’s rich wood tradition”. This sentiment translates into the “flexible outdoor environment”, in which the use of seating cubes on a tasteful wood flooring allows for the large exhibition space, where visitors can learn the importance of wood and its significance to the local community.

The 20 timber storeys of Sara Kulturhus will be supported by concrete slaps (Photo: Courtesy of White Arkitekter)

In addition to acting as a civic house the wooden structure comprises the “Elite Hotel”, providing its potential 1,200 residents with a spa, restaurant, bar, conference department, and beautiful panoramic views over Skellefteá and surrounding woodlands.

The restaurant affords customers splendid panoramic views of the surrounding woodland (Photo: Courtesy of White Arkitekter)

In light of the recent COVID-19 epidemic, the antimicrobial properties of wood in the high contact environment of the hotel and civic centre become particularly poignant. If the porosity and microscopic structure of the wood surface is maintained, bacteria become trapped within the wood, preventing them being transferred to new surfaces and causing cross-contamination. This additional safety afforded by the wooden structure, should allow a greater peace of mind to the guests visiting Sara Kulturhus. To read more on the antimicrobial properties of wood read our article.

After examining the plans and concept artwork the numerous accolades collected by the architects for Sara Kalturhus come as no surprise. Already the recipient of the Architectural Review/ MIPIM 2018 Future Project Award and nominated for the World Architecture Festival 2018 Best Future Projects, there is little doubt that the building will receive even more praise upon its completion later this year.

To read more Sustainable Wood articles on timber design follow this link.

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