An hour outside of Stockholm, C.F. Møller Architects has crafted the tallest timber tower in Sweden. Inaugurated last February, the record-breaking Kajstaden Tall Timber Building serves not only as a landmark for the newly founded Kajstaden district of Västerås, but also as a powerful symbol of the many benefits—sustainable, structural, and otherwise—of high-rise timber structures.
"The building in Kajstaden constitutes a new chapter in the history of construction, as it is currently Sweden’s tallest solid-timber building," says Ola Jonsson, associate partner at C.F. Møller Architects. "Through research projects and our other timber projects we have focused on innovation and contributed towards developing ways of realizing high-rise buildings made of timber. Industrial timber technology also provides architects with better tools for designing beautiful houses that boast a high degree of detail."
The architectural potential of building with wood has been greatly expanded thanks to cross-laminated timber. The prefabricated solid timber panels are engineered for high levels of resistance against fire and moisture, which are common problems associated with old wooden buildings.
With over 100,000 square meters of solid timber projects in the works, C.F. Møller Architects is showing through example how solid wood is a climate-conscious alternative to concrete. Designed for extreme strength, cross-laminated timber also retains wood’s flexible and lightweight advantages that translate to faster installation times and fewer deliveries to the construction site.
"Wood technology facilitates a value-adding lifecycle perspective in all stages of construction, and is crucial to the goal of a bio-based circular economy," says Rob Marsh, sustainability manager at C.F. Møller Architects. "The total carbon dioxide savings from the use of solid wood instead of concrete are estimated at 550 tons of CO2 over the building’s life."
The benefits of solid-timber construction extend beyond the environment and cost savings—the high-precision technology involved in CNC-milled solid timber with glulam elements also results in airtight and energy-efficient envelopes without the need for extraneous materials.
The architects also note research suggesting that wood-framed buildings contribute to human health and well-being thanks to improved air quality and acoustic qualities.
"We’re currently experiencing a greater focus on building with timber than ever before, but whilst blocks of flats are currently being built in timber in the Nordic countries and worldwide, when it comes to tall buildings, timber is far from the natural choice within the construction industry," says Peter Fynholm, vice director of the Nordic Network for Tall Wood Buildings, an organization that includes C.F. Møller Architects.
"It’s annoying, as there’s untapped potential in the use of a renewable resource in an industry that affects the climate as much as the construction industry does. It’s therefore crucial that we learn from our experiences, e.g. what we’ve learned from Kajstaden in Västerås."