BERLIN (DE) - Until recently, wood was seldom used for multi-storey buildings. Since the industrial revolution, steel, concrete and glass, along with stone and brick, have been the building materials of choice. All of them strong, fire resistant and modern looking.
But it now turns out that large spans and tall structures can be built using the new, in most cases prefab, timber products. And what's more, built faster, cheaper and more ecologically efficient. The seven-storey apartment building in Berlin, designed by Kaden Klinbeil, is proof of this.
The architects' starting point was the clients' desire for a timber building. That wish was not granted in the design of the facades, where the architects felt that plaster was more appropriate in the stony urban context. But the load-bearing frame and the interior finishing are made entirely of timber products: glulam (glued laminated timber) columns and beams combined with timber-concrete composite floor slabs. The staircase, which is also the escape route in case of fire, was placed on the outside and made of concrete.
In terms of fire safety, at least, this project is definitely a first. Until 2002, wood construction in Berlin was restricted to three storeys; the regulations were then relaxed to permit a maximum of five storeys. With this building, Kaden Klingbeil, in consultation with specialist fire safety engineers, developed a kind of prototype for high-rise in wood.
Innovation is not confined to the fire safety level, which is comparable to a brick building. The reduced construction height, the extremely flexible floor plans and the excellent insulation (and thus low heating costs) were all important for this project. The architects have not only satisfied their seven clients' request for an affordable, made-to-measure dwelling, but also offer a possible solution to the broader problem of how to keep middle-income families in the city. (Kirsten Hannema)