More and more wooden buildings are coming out of the ground – and we’re proud to support that development.
There’s one ‘alternative’ building material that’s become the talk of the town – funny considering it’s been around for ages. It’s wood.
Wood – or, more specifically, timber – is having its time in the sun. All-wood high-rise structures are sprouting up across Europe – and beyond. They’re becoming an increasingly common sight in cities across the world, as developers and constructors alike, keen to build structures that are more environmentally friendly, are drawn to wood and its unique properties.
What is there not to like?
Why is wood making such a huge comeback? Timber structures have a few things going for them. For one, timber acts as a ‘natural carbon sink’ – it removes and stores CO2 from the atmosphere.
Timber as a construction material has a much smaller carbon footprint than that of cement or steel. It demands less energy and less water to produce, making it an attractive alternative construction material, especially at a time when the construction industry is keen to do its part to advance sustainability.
Timber also happens to have great insulating properties, adding to its appeal: air pockets within timber's cellular structure create a natural barrier against heat and cold. And, of course, wood looks great – its natural esthetic appeal is difficult to match. More and more wooden buildings are coming out of the ground across the world – and we’ve been proud to support that evolution.
The Nordics leading the trend
One of the regions where such constructions can be found are the Nordics, which have a long tradition of working with wood.
One timber construction that’s made headlines in architectural circles is Sara Skelleftea, in northern Sweden. The multi-purpose complex housing art galleries, a conference center, as well as a 20-story boutique hotel wrapped in a glass façade, is made entirely out of timber – including its eight elevator shafts – and is equipped with Schindler elevators.
We’ve equipped many other smaller timber structures in the Nordics but another one that stands out is Valle Wood, Norway’s largest commercial building made entirely from cross-laminated timber, which is equipped with our Schindler 5500 elevators.
As you would expect, such projects require a very specific expertise. Wooden elevator shafts are not without their challenges: they’re prone to heavy vibrations. To keep vibrations in check, special elevator rails and larger-than-usual plates are needed. This means wooden elevator shafts typically need to be wider than their traditional, concrete counterparts. "To be involved in the process early on means we were able to influence the design of the elevator shafts," says Peter Rehnström, who oversaw the Sara Skelleftea project for Schindler.
But what about safety? Contrary to common belief, buildings made of wood are as safe as those made of steel and concrete. While wood can burn, it is a much more predictable material than steel and concrete. Besides, wooden buildings are designed to be as safe as any other building and often even exceed the requirements of the building code.
Wooden buildings on the rise globally
Timber building structures are no longer only found in the Nordics – the trend is also taking hold in other parts of the globe. And we’d like to think we played a small part in that.
In Germany, we’ve helped to mainstream timber in the construction industry by developing a standard fixing solution for elevators in timber buildings. It all started when construction company Kaufmann Bausysteme approached us to install an elevator for a three-story school annex built entirely out of timber. Time was of the essence. We developed a fixing solution in 14 weeks, becoming in the process the first elevator company to develop a standard fixing solution for buildings with timber hoistways in Germany. Following the success of the project, we were mandated by Kaufmann Bausysteme for the installation of elevators in 24 timber three-story school extensions planned in the greater Berlin area.
In Australia, too, we’ve equipped 25 King Street in Brisbane – currently the tallest engineered-timber office building in Australia – with elevators powered by Schindler PORT technology.
Wood in all its shapes
It’s fair to say we’ve developed a solid expertise in timber buildings – and we’re continuing to work on many different fronts as the appetite for the sustainable material continues to grow.
In Switzerland, we’ve teamed up with timber construction manufacturer Renggli AG on a prefabricated building construction project, developing prefabricated elevator hoistway modules made of timber, complete with pre-installed elevator components.
We assembled the elevator modules in the factory before transporting them to the construction site, where the modules were stacked on top of each other, Lego-style, to form a complete elevator hoistway. This method results in quicker installation time on-site. It also advances safety since our workers assemble the different elevator modules in the controlled environment of the factory.
Prefabricated constructions also have the benefits of being more affordable than traditionally built homes. That concept of affordability lies at the center of the start-up Boklok, a tie-up between Skanska and IKEA, which builds prefabricated buildings made primarily from wood, using a smart, industrialized and efficient process. To date, BoKlok has developed about 14,000 homes in Sweden, Finland, Norway and the UK – and we’re proud to support this venture with our mobility solutions.