PMI #MIP2020 | Mjøstårnet
For using wood to reach the sky
When developer Arthur Buchardt set out to push the boundaries of sustainable architecture, he took aim at the central material of skyscrapers: steel. He wanted to rely solely on timber for the structure’s frame—and he wanted to do it without sacrificing height.
“[Buchardt] felt it was time to do something special, to make a change and to inspire others,” says Rune Abrahamsen, CEO of Moelven Limtre, a Nordic wood laminate producer. “He actually sketched a building on a napkin and asked me and my colleagues, ‘Can you do this?’ We said, ‘Give us a few weeks to consider whether this is possible or not.’”
And with that 2015 meeting, the Mjøstårnet project was born.
When completed in 2019, the 18-story Mjøstårnet tower in Brumunddal, Norway broke the height record for timber structures—and now serves as a blueprint for other ambitious and sustainability-minded developers across the globe.
The environmental benefits of timber construction are compelling: While the production of steel and concrete emit carbon dioxide, wood actually serves as a carbon sink, absorbing more than it produces.
Wood construction can also accelerate project timelines, because timber doesn’t require the setting time of poured materials like concrete.
For contractor and project developer Hent AS, construction of a large and complex timber structure was a new prospect, with challenges ranging from fire prevention to material transportation. The company created schedule efficiencies by constructing four to five floors at a time instead of the typical two to three—with the glue-laminated timber known as glulam. That helped make up time for other processes that took longer, such as installing the wood structures that separate each floor.
Just 49 months after Buchardt sketched a timber skyscraper on the back of a napkin, the uber-eco-friendly skyscraper opened its doors at a record-breaking 85.4 meters (280 feet). It nabbed the honor of “world’s tallest timber building,” conferred by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, from the still in-construction HoHo Tower (84 meters) in Vienna, Austria. But the team isn’t too protective of its title.
“We’re proud of the building, obviously, but we also hope that with this project we can inspire other clients in Norway and anywhere to consider timber as a viable option for their tall buildings,” says Abrahamsen. “We want our record to be broken. We look forward to that.”