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Carbon negative 75m tall timber tower opens in Sweden

A new cultural centre in Skellefteå, Sweden is opening its doors to the public for the very first time. The Sara Cultural Centre delivers a state-of-the-art cultural venue and hotel that positively contributes to the local community while at the same time being an international showcase for sustainable design and construction. Source: Timberbiz

Standing at 75-metres tall, the carbon-negative building is one of the world’s tallest timber towers.

Sara Cultural Centre is home to Skellefteå Art Gallery, Museum Anna Nordlander, Västerbotten Regional Theatre, and the new City Library, alongside The Wood Hotel, restaurants, spa and conference centre.

Skellefteå has a long tradition of timber construction and a local timber industry, but many wood houses disappeared when the city centre was modernised. By combining the local timber tradition with innovative technology and engineering, the city’s wood heritage is now being brought into a new era.

The scheme signifies an important milestone at White Arkitekter, in its vision that all its architecture will be carbon neutral or better by 2030 – with timber construction forming a key cornerstone in the transition to net zero.

Wood is the only renewable and carbon-neutral building material we know of and Sara Cultural Centre sequesters more than twice the carbon emissions caused by operational energy and embodied carbon from the production of materials, transportation, and construction at site.

The conscious design combined with a ground-breaking energy system developed by Skellefteå Kraft and ABB reduce the energy use of the building. Solar panels on the roof produce renewable energy that, together with the timber structure, more than compensates for the carbon emissions caused by the building. Sara Cultural Centre is designed to have a lifespan of at least 100 years.

The full timber structure of this complex building with mixed uses, mixed volumetry, and a high-rise of 20 storeys has broaden the application of timber as a structural material.

The mixed-use program called for a range of innovative solutions in mass timber construction to handle spans, flexibility, acoustics, and the overall engineering challenge.

Two different construction systems were developed together one for the cultural centre and one for the hotel. The 20-storey hotel is built up of prefabricated 3D-modules in cross-laminated timber (CLT), stacked between two CLT elevator cores.

The lower rise cultural centre consists of a timber frame with columns and beams made of glue-laminated timber (GLT), with cores and shear walls in CLT.

The two systems collaborate to distribute the shear loads of the tower using the least material possible. The characteristic trusses above the grand foyers are composed of a GLT and steel hybrid that enables a flexible, open-plan space that can adapt to different uses over time.

Sara Cultural Centre was designed to open in up all directions in order to activate the surrounding streets. Spaces that are usually hidden behind the scenes are open and visible from the street, showcasing the craftsmanship behind the creative process. Open layouts, generous and transparent glazing reveal the activities inside the building by passers-by, inviting them to enter.

At the heart of the building lies a giant foyer that invites spontaneity, creativity and community and welcomes everyone regardless of their previous cultural interests.

Photos courtesy White Arkitekter, Martinsons/Jonas Westling and Åke E:son Lindman