Architecture

Sustainable tower is a triumph of timber construction

Sustainable tower is a triumph...
The Sara Cultural Centre reaches a maximum height of 75 m (246 ft)
The Sara Cultural Centre reaches a maximum height of 75 m (246 ft)
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The Sara Cultural Centre reaches a maximum height of 75 m (246 ft)
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The Sara Cultural Centre reaches a maximum height of 75 m (246 ft)
The Sara Cultural Centre was constructed from sustainably grown and locally sourced timber
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The Sara Cultural Centre was constructed from sustainably grown and locally sourced timber
The Sara Cultural Centre's main hotel consists of 20 floors and offers views of the stunning landscape just south of the Arctic Circle
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The Sara Cultural Centre's main hotel consists of 20 floors and offers views of the stunning landscape just south of the Arctic Circle
The Sara Cultural Centre's interior decor leaves the wood uncovered to highlight its natural beauty
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The Sara Cultural Centre's interior decor leaves the wood uncovered to highlight its natural beauty
The Sara Cultural Centre includes an art gallery, museum, theater, and library
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The Sara Cultural Centre includes an art gallery, museum, theater, and library
The Sara Cultural Centre includes solar panels and an energy efficient heating and cooling system
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The Sara Cultural Centre includes solar panels and an energy efficient heating and cooling system
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A tower that reaches a height of 75 m (246 ft) may not sound all that impressive – the Empire State Building is over five times taller, after all – but when you consider that the Sara Cultural Centre in Sweden is made almost entirely from wood and is actually one of the world's tallest timber towers, it puts that height into perspective. The project also packs a lot of sustainable features and is expected to become carbon negative in 50 years.

The Sara Cultural Centre is a mixed-use development that consists of the high-rise 20-story tower, as well as a low-rise cultural center. It includes an art gallery, a museum, a theater, and a library, plus a hotel with a restaurant, spa, and conference center.

The tower's upper floors offer dramatic views of the landscape around Skellefteå, which is just below the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland, and the interiors highlight the natural beauty of the wood.

"The high-rise hotel is built up from prefabricated 3D-modules in Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), stacked between two elevator cores entirely made of CLT," says White Arkitekter. "The low-rise cultural center is built with columns and beams of Glued Laminated Timber (GLT) and cores and shear walls in CLT. Integrated structural design has eliminated the need for concrete entirely from the load bearing structure, speeding up construction and drastically reducing the building's carbon footprint."

The Sara Cultural Centre's interior decor leaves the wood uncovered to highlight its natural beauty
The Sara Cultural Centre's interior decor leaves the wood uncovered to highlight its natural beauty

The timber used in construction has been sourced locally from sustainably managed forests and processed in a nearby sawmill. The building's exterior includes sunscreens to shield the interior from the 24-hour summer Sun in that part of the world and a heat pump-based system provides energy efficient heating and cooling. A total of 1,200 sq m (almost 13,000 sq ft) of solar panels reduce its draw on the power grid, and an integrated AI-based system adjusts energy use depending on occupancy.

While all of this is obviously excellent, we were still curious how White Arkitekter reached its prediction that the project would become carbon negative after 50 years of operation (it's expected to last over 100 years in all).

"Including the operational energy use and energy production of the building (solar panels) during the 50 years the building is carbon negative," explained the firm's representative. "The building is carbon negative in construction, as the timber sequesters more carbon during its lifetime than is emitted from the construction. The 50 years is the conventional time frame for a life cycle analysis, in those 50 years the trees that were planted when harvesting the timber for the cultural center will have grown and absorbed more than twice the amount of CO2 from the atmosphere than was emitted to produce and assemble the building."

The Sara Cultural Centre includes an art gallery, museum, theater, and library
The Sara Cultural Centre includes an art gallery, museum, theater, and library

Where it ranks in the world's tallest modern timber rankings is a little complicated. The worlds tallest all-timber tower is currently Norway's Mjøstårnet, which reaches a height of 85.4 m (280 ft). Second place might have gone to Vienna's HoHo Wien, at 84 m (275 ft), however that has a concrete core rather than timber, so is more properly considered in its own class of hybrid timber/concrete towers. So that would appear to make the Sara Cultural Centre's 75 m (246 ft) the world's second-tallest modern all-timber tower, but we'll wait for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the influential body that rules on such questions, to weigh in and make it official. Either way, it's certainly an outstanding example of tall timber construction.

Source: White Arkitekter

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4 comments
4 comments
RobC
The wood inside is beautiful. I'm surprised to see the exposed wood on the outside. It will be interesting to see how that holds up to the elements over time.
Username
Pretzel logic at its finest. The building will be carbon negative because the forest planted to replace the trees cut down will outweigh the building process. That could be said of any project were a bunch of trees are planted even if no wood was used in its realisation. If a project claims carbon negativity it should be strictly for the development and operation of said project.
Karmudjun
Thanks for the write-up Adam.
No mention of fire proofing though - it is in a colder part of the world, and will meet the designer's carbon neutral qualifications unless Ms. O'Leary's cow happens to knock over an oil lamp around all that lumber! Now that would knock the carbon sequestration well off the charts in the wrong way!
Nelson Hyde Chick
We are going to need more and more lumber to house more and more people while also needing more and more trees to capture the more and more CO2 produced from the more and more people, the following just adds-up to a disaster.