Wooden skyscrapers: the future of architecture

Mjøstårnet: the tallest wooden skyscraper in the world. | image: woodify.no

Norway’s third-tallest skyscraper also has the most unique construction: it’s made entirely of wood. The building, known as Mjøstårnet – meaning Mjosa Tower – is located in Brumunddal, a small Norwegian industrial town that sits on the edge of Lake Mjosa. This small town is known for its role in the lumber industry, making it the perfect place to build the tallest wooden skyscraper in the world.

Built with local pine and harvested directly from its garden, Mjostarnet is the pinnacle of wood-based architecture. With 18 stories, a hotel, offices, swimming pool and restaurant, the structure is nearly 300 feet tall. While it’s a tenth the size of the tallest skyscraper in the world – located in Dubai – for a country where the average building height is three stories, Mjostarnet is quite the feat.

Inside the wooden skyscraper
Wooden details throughout Mjøstårnet. | picture: archdaily.com

Mjostarnet was built with 100% different types of engineered wood, produced to be as strong as steel. Everything, including the elevator shaft, is built entirely of wood. Glued laminated timber, short for glued laminated timber, is wood bonded together with a weather-resistant adhesive. Glulam can be produced in various forms, including solid blocks used to form the main load-bearing parts of the skyscraper. By designing it this way, it makes the wood denser and stronger than normal. For this reason, glulam provides timber skyscrapers with the same strength and stability as steel for a conventional building structure.

The use of biosourced building materials has many advantages, especially from an ecological point of view. According to a 2018 study, the average production of concrete and other common building materials accounts for around 28% of carbon emissions. The chemical and thermal processes involved in the manufacture of concrete alone contribute to 8% of global emissions.

Not only is the production of these materials unsustainable, but the chances of them being recycled are low. It is much more economical for companies to simply produce more rather than recycle. As a result, the majority of landfills are filled with unused concrete and steel from demolished buildings.

In comparison, the production of glulam and cross-laminated timber stores CO2, rather than adding to the production of CO2 emissions. Often, especially in places like Scandinavia, the wood can be sourced and produced locally. This eliminates a massive amount of emissions that would typically be produced when transporting construction materials like concrete and steel to a construction site. The invention of cross-laminated timber and glulam provided the construction industry with a unique and sustainable alternative to producing stable and structurally sound buildings.

Skyscraper Mjøstårnet
Mjøstårnet, Norway. | picture: archdaily.com

The wood trend is gaining ground in the architectural sector. Especially in Scandinavia. After the completion of Mjøstarnet, architects recognize the benefits that bio-based building materials can have on the industry as an alternative to traditional materials. The effects of pollution on the atmosphere are becoming increasingly apparent. Many cities have recognized this and are trying to build environmentally conscious buildings. In addition to intentionally building with sustainable products, in places like Norway, Norwegian law requires harvested wood to be replanted. Thus providing new growth for future generations, making wood a reliable and reusable resource.

As many cities focus on reducing their carbon footprint and producing more sustainable and “eco-friendly” products, engineered wood could become even more popular soon. Places like Norway and Scandinavia have architects designing their next big wooden skyscrapers or even entire developments.

Developers from Stockholm, Sweden have already come up with a development built entirely of wood. This includes a variety of wooden skyscrapers comprising shops, restaurants, office buildings and apartments covering 19 city blocks. The use of wood in the construction of modern cities could change the way we recognize them today.

Forget the concrete jungle, it might not be long before wooden skyscrapers become the new normal.

The future city of Stockholm
Numerical proposal of Stockholm’s timber development potential; image: nelma.org

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