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Could This Be 2022's Greenest Innovation Yet?

Sweden’s remarkable wooden skyscraper captures as much carbon as 10,000 forests. Located in the city of Skelleftea, it's constructed from over 12,000 cubic metres of wood - and is capable of sequestering nine million kilograms of carbon dioxide throughout its lifetime.

Sweden's wooden Sara Cultural Centre
Credit: White-Arkitekter

Between the towering trees of Sweden's Bothnian coastline, a new skyscraper is bucking the trend of the traditionally carbon-heavy construction industry. The 20-storey, 75-metre-high Sara Cultural Centre - named after a popular Swedish author - has recently opened its doors.

It’s yet another wooden structure to adorn the streets of Skelleftea - a city that is tackling the climate crisis one newbuild at a time.

“Everyone thought that we were a little bit crazy proposing a building like this in timber,” says Robert Schmitz, the architect behind the construction. “But we were quite pragmatic, so we said that if you can't make everything in timber, then we can at least do some of it that way. But during the design process, we all came out and said that it's more efficient to build everything in timber."

The cultural centre is home to six theatre stages, a library, two art galleries, a conference centre and a 205-room hotel. It’s all built from over 12,000 cubic metres of wood - harvested from forests just 60km from the town.

The design is part of a wider effort in Skelleftea to wean the local construction industry off environmentally-harmful materials.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, building work was responsible for over 38 percent of global energy-related carbon emissions in 2015 alone. The production of cement, meanwhile, is the largest single industrial emitter of CO2 in the world.

By contrast, wood sequesters carbon dioxide, binding it from the atmosphere and storing it for good. Those behind the Sara Cultural Centre - the second tallest wooden tower in the world - claim the skyscraper will capture nine million kilograms of carbon dioxide throughout its lifetime.

But the building’s sustainable focus doesn’t stop there. It also boasts solar panels capable of powering the edifice, and storing excess energy in the basement.

Tomas Alsmarker, head of innovation at Swedish Wood, says the country has seen a huge change in building materials over the last five years. For over a century, Sweden had banned wooden homes above two storeys high. Now it is the material of choice in the country with the largest percentage of forestland in Europe.

"For all buildings up to eight storeys high, the question is not whether it’s possible to do it in wood. You should ask why we should not do it in wood.”

Find out more in this 90 second video...

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