Last year, AN‘s Midwest Editor Chris Bentley reported on the advances being made in wood construction and how we were on the verge of seeing tall timber towers sprout up around the world. The AEC community has been talking about building high-rise structures with wood for years, but there obviously hasn’t been a major revolution with the building type just yet—the tallest modern wood building doesn’t even top 100 feet. Well, that record is about to be shattered by a new tower in Vienna that could usher in a new era of high-rise development.
Inside the tower. (Courtesy Rüdiger Lainer and Partner via The Guardian)
The Guardian is reporting that a 276-foot-tall wood tower, known as the HoHo project, will start to rise in the Austrian capital next year. The designer of the project, Rüdiger Lainer and Partner, says the building will be made of 76 percent wood, saving 2,800 tons of carbon when compared to a similar concrete structure.
Obviously, the creation of a wood building, especially a tall one, has people worrying about the elephant in the room: Fire. Since the building would be unprecedented, the Vienna fire service is reportedly working very closely with the architects to make sure everything is up to code and then some.
“They have to carry out special tests on the correct combination of concrete and wood,” a spokesperson for the fire service told the Guardian. “We also want to develop a more fail-safe sprinkler system. I expect they will pass the tests but if they develop the building as they say they will, it will be a serious project.”
While somewhat counterintuitive, timber can actually be quite resistant to fire. As Bentley explained: “Heavy timber and cross-laminated timber actually have built-in fire protection; dense wood will burn slowly, charring instead of catching fire all at once. Part of bringing a wood building up to code is providing enough wood so that even after fire produces a ‘char layer,’ there is still enough left to support the structure.”