With wood becoming a trend in the building of skyscrapers, Dutch architecture firm, Team V Architecture goes the extra mile with the construction of HAUT, a timber residential high-rise that is destined to be the tallest timber tower in the Netherlands and possibly the world.
Text by Isabelle Pinto | Photography by Team V Architecture & Ineke Oostveen
The Dutch are indeed well-known for their environmental conscience which is very well-portrayed by their lifestyles – using electric cars and bicycles as their main means of transportation – as well as their constant efforts to come up with new green solutions, for instance, safe and sustainable “plastic” roads which we covered in one of our previous issues (Issue 9 : January 2016). And it is this same motivation towards promoting a more sustainable environment that drove Dutch architecture firm, Team V Architecture to come up with designs of a 73-meter (240-foot)-tall timber residential high-rise called “HAUT” that will be the tallest timber skyscraper in the Netherlands with a high possibility of also becoming the tallest of its kind in the world, depending on construction schedules.[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=”show” ihc_mb_who=”1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8″ ihc_mb_template=”1″ ]
The use of wood in high-rise buildings has been making headway in the architectural arena worldwide since the past five years. Using this humble material as opposed to the more mainstream use of steel and concrete is highly regarded as a more sustainable alternative in construction and is therefore becoming more popular amongst architects nowadays who are constantly vying for higher levels of sustainability in their designs.
Firstly, unlike conventional materials, wood boasts a much smaller carbon footprint. When comparing the production of a wood plank and a steel beam, for instance, converting a tree into a plank of wood is said to generate less pollution when compared to converting a lump of iron into a steel beam. And while the entire process of producing wooden materials for construction – the logging, refining and shipping of wood products – does inevitably release a certain amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, this release is effectively compensated for by trapping large amounts of carbon dioxide before any of these even takes place.
“If our tower, HAUT, were to be made of concrete, it would emit 650,000 kg of carbon dioxide into the environment,” notes architect-director of Team V Architecture, Do Janne Vermeulen. “But since it is made of wood, a substantial amount of carbon dioxide is stored within it instead. To be exact, 3 million kg of carbon dioxide will be stored in HAUT’s timber,” she adds, explaining that live trees naturally take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. So, when the trees are taken down to be used as building materials, the carbon dioxide is effectively trapped within the confines of the wood. This largely contributes to a carbon neutral city.
Apart from its stark contrast to the rest of the city of Amsterdam’s skyline that is not so prominent with high-rises, the proposed residential tower would also boast a unique design with a rather interesting façade of randomly-positioned cantilevered balconies. In fact, the use of wood in itself would give it a different aesthetic value. “It would have a totally different ‘look and feel’ than steel; it’s natural and warm,” says Vermeulen. The building would also feature tall windows providing extensive views towards the river and the surrounding neighbourhood.
The residence would rise up to 21-storeys high with 55 apartment units that are fully-customizable according to the residents’ tastes, hence the project’s name –short for “Haute Couture” – which simply means “tailor-made”. Residents would have their own say in the size of their apartment, the number of floors, the lay-out and the positioning of double height spaces, outdoor loggia’s and balconies.
Within the tower’s triangular base is a stunning glass-covered public urban winter garden where residents can have the pleasure of growing their own vegetables. It also serves as an ideal place to relax and socialise with one another.
Targeting a BREEAM Outstanding rating – the highest possible sustainability grade for green buildings, the tower’s sustainable features do not stop at its use of wood. It will be equipped with an energy-generating façade of high efficiency photovoltaic panels. Wastewater produced within the building would also be collected and purified for reuse.
WOOD’S OTHER VIRTUES
With the use of wood in HAUT, however, comes obvious concerns over a fire hazard. According to Vermeulen, wood has the ability to self-extinguish which makes it just as safe as a steel building.
Most people have the perception that steel and concrete are some of the strongest building materials but Vermeulen disagrees. “In some cases, buildings made of timber are even stronger. For example, during earthquakes, they generally perform better than concrete buildings,” she claims. The architect also has no doubts about the building’s durability as she quotes examples of the wooden canal houses in Amsterdam. “They date from the 17th to 19th centuries and are still standing strong,” she notes.
Good things, however, come with a price and this is no different with timber buildings. Due to it being a relatively new trend and subsequently having a less competitive market, building in wood is currently more expensive compared to building in steel and concrete. So by building HAUT, Team V Architecture hopes to accelerate developments in timber high rises so as to make it more common and therefore, cheaper and more accessible for all kinds of projects. The highly-anticipated residential skyscraper is slated to begin construction in the second half of 2017 by the Dutch River Amstel in Amstelkwartier, Amsterdam.[/ihc-hide-content]