And the race is on to build the world’s tallest timber tower, with a new entry: the HoHo project in Vienna, at 24 stories and 276 feet. Designed by Rüdiger Lainer + Partner Architects, the building will include restaurants, a hotel, and ” shopping areas of fitness, beauty, wellness and business.”
There are many benefits to building plyscrapers, not the least of which is the fact that wood sequesters carbon dioxide. According to Maddy French in the Guardian, the developer says she chose wood for its environmental benefits:
“I think it is important everyone now in 2014 thinks in different ways. We have wood, which is a perfect construction material for building,” she said. “It was used 200 years ago and it was perfect then and is perfect now.” With 76% of the building expected to be made from wood, architects say it will save 2,800 tonnes of CO2 emissions when compared with a similar concrete structure, the equivalent of driving a car 25 miles every day for 1,300 years.
The biggest problem is convincing the fire departments that it is safe. However the architects don’t think this will be a problem, planning to have top of the line sprinkler systems and small fire compartments. This shouldn’t be a serious issue; steel construction needs fire protection too, and some engineers say that heavy timber actually outperforms steel in a fire.
There is also the issue of whether one should be building 24 story buildings in a city like Vienna, which is mostly low-rise and built to what I call the Goldilocks density. However one politician tells the Guardian that “Vienna is not a skyscraper city but innovation is part of our city and why not try new things?”
This may be one of those cases where architects and developers push the envelope because they can, and not necessarily doing what they should. Low-rise Euro-loaf style buildings are easy to do in wood, they just don’t get the coverage.