Wood is the New Good

Michael Goldrick
Development Director
Frasers Property Australia, Sydney

Sauerbruch Hutton were recipients of the Best Tall Building Worldwide Award in 2016 with the KfW Westarkade, that successfully integrated structure, services and architecture into a tall building. The project, located in Frankfurt, Germany showed drastically reduced figures of consumption and CO2 emission and demonstrated in an exemplary way how tall buildings can be re-integrated in existing urban situations.

Three years later the practice’s interest in sustainable urban and architectural development has led to an in-depth exploration of grey energy in construction materials and processes. In this pursuit a number of projects were realized using timber as a building material. The practice was awarded the German national timber award 2017 with a church and in 2019 with a seven-story student dormitory constructed out of modular timber units. Other projects re-using and adapting existing buildings and new projects in an industrial context followed. Currently other modular timber projects up to seven floors are on the drawing board.

A seven-story office building in Helsinki was designed in 2015 as a headquarter for Sitra, the Finnish innovation fund—but not realized and a further timber high-rise structure (17 floors) in the Hafen City in Hamburg is in preliminary design stage at the moment. Case studies demonstrate architecturally ambitious use of this material in an urban context and reveal potential and limitations of it as a structural material in tall buildings.