Located all not that far from the biomass-tastic BIQ House
, an eight-unit apartment complex billing itself as “probably the healthiest klimaneutalste [climate-neutral] and multi-family house in the world” is now open for tours through November as part of the International Building Exhibition (IBA)'s Smart Material Houses line-up in Hamburg's Wilhelmsburg quarter.
While BIQ is without a doubt the slimiest multi-family project to hit Hamburg, Stuttgart-based firm Architekturagentur’
s five-story Woodcube
is most certainly, err, the brownest and an amazing feat of sustainable building. The entire 16,000-square-foot structure — each of the eight “wellness apartments” measure between 750 to a little over 2,000-square-feet and — is almost completely constructed from carbon-capturing untreated solid wood with the exception of elevator shafts, window casings, the foundation, and certain fixtures (yes, the thrones are still porcelain). Amazingly, simple beech wood dowels were swapped in for glues and adhesives in a “project that demonstrates how the traditional techniques involved in solid wood construction can be re-interpreted in a striking design.”
Slab-like balconies jut out of the untreated, naturally ageing wooden façade, and are a marked feature of the building’s design. Inside, wood forms just as conspicuous a feature of the building as it does on the outside: ceilings, outer walls, and floors all have wooden surfaces. One utterly novel feature is the bare solid wood casing around the massive staircase, which eschews layering or adhesives. In addition to forming the structure of the building, the 32 centimetre-thick solid wood walls also provide complete insulation.
Topped with a photovoltaic array and boasting a heat recovery ventilation system, the high-performance, passivhaus-comparable building’s utter dearth of non-renewable, petroleum-based building materials not only renders it fully biodegradable (it was built following Cradle to Cradle principals) but also means superior indoor air-quality for its health-conscious inhabitants considering that there’s not an off-gassing substance in sight.
This is one healthy house down to the core — a "fountain of youth for the body, mind, and soul" as the Woodcube team describes it. In addition to a lack of air pollutants, Woodcube also promotes a better night's sleep: "There is scientific evidence that you sleep deeper, calmer, and more relaxed in solid wood furniture. Specifically, it was proved that even the heart beats slower when you sleep in an environment without artificial wood materials or surfaces."
Other intriguing features of WoodCube include an energy-efficient elevator outfitted with a break energy recovery system, iPad-controlled energy management systems, and an appliance and bicycle storage area in the basement of the building. The aforementioned solar array provides the building with all of its electrical needs. And as mentioned, while not designed in accordance to stringent Passivhaus standards, Woodcube’s energy performance is similar, if not better, with the added bonus of improved ventilation due to untreated wood’s inherent breathability:
With a neutral carbon balance throughout its building and operational phases, Woodcube demonstrates the potential of solid wood structures in the field of climate-neutral construction, as well as energy supply from renewable sources. As it uses limited and natural materials in its construction, the Woodcube’s consumption values are comparable to those of a passive house. Its design therefore makes a significant contribution to climate protection, a feat that cannot currently be achieved by any other approach.