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Sweco takes sustainability to new heights with world’s tallest timber tower

In 2019, Sweco helped push the boundaries of sustainable construction after applying our expertise to Mjøstårnet, the world s tallest wooden building.

The mixed-use tower, located in Brumunddal, Norway, stands at 85.4m tall, boasting 18 stories and 15,000 square meters in size.

This extraordinary timber tower uses glue- and cross-laminated wood sourced from sustainable forests – the majority being local – for its primary structure. As a renewable material with low embodied carbon, the use of timber helps to significantly reduce the building’s environmental impact in comparison to other traditional building materials, such as concrete or steel.

Sweco provided structural design, fire, acoustic and concrete services for the ground-breaking project, and worked closely with its project partners AB Invest A/S, Voll Arkitekter, Moelven Limtre and HENT, to successfully navigate some of the unique challenges posed by using timber in tall tower buildings.

Innovative measures to protect the building in the event of fire include each of the building’s floors and rooms being designed as standalone units and its structures co-ordinated to mitigate against fire spread. The facade incorporates a firestop material, and fire strips protect the steel components connecting the building’s timber from high temperatures.

Sweco’s engineers also helped introduce the innovation of rounded edges to the building’s pergola. This enabled it to meet its height ambitions and deliver a design that mirrored the building’s internal structures, while also mitigating against the effects of wind.

Mjøstårnet was – quite literally – a landmark project. Despite many benefits, and some notable schemes aside, timber has not yet reached its potential in the UK as a building material for medium to tall buildings. The hope is that the achievements of this project, along with factors such as the availability of more test data on timber’s fire performance and developments in heat resistant glues, will help to change that.

One of the key advantages of timber is its environmental credentials. As an industry, we’re faced with the challenge of drastically reducing our carbon footprint, meaning naturally occurring and sustainable materials such as timber are set to become an invaluable resource. The use of timber could be particularly advantageous in the UK, where the government has recently passed legislation committing to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Timber also lends itself to modern, highly-efficient building methods such as offsite construction, which was used to prepare the individual timber beams for the Mjøstårnet project. Offsite’s tightly-controlled design and manufacturing process means physical waste and overall energy usage are drastically reduced, delivering significant savings not only during the construction process, but throughout the building’s lifecycle.

Sweco has a wealth of expertise in building and designing with timber, and has worked on other pioneering projects in Scandinavia. We work closely with our international colleagues to implement key learnings and best practice, and we’re looking forward to supporting the further use of this exciting material here in the UK.