Vienna will soon be home to the world’s tallest wooden building. Designed by Rüdiger Lainer and Partner, the so-called HoHo project will be built in the Seestadt Aspern area, one of Europe’s largest urban development sites. It will stand 276 feet tall and house a hotel, restaurant, and wellness center together with apartments and offices. It will cost about $65 million to construct.
Project developer Caroline Palfy, of Kerbler, tells The Guardian that her firm chose wood because of its environmental benefits. “I think it is important everyone…..thinks in different ways. We have wood, which is a perfect construction material for building,” she said. “It was used 200 years ago and it was perfect then and is perfect now.”
76% of the building is expected to be made from wood. Unlike concrete, which adds significantly to carbon emissions, wood from sustainable forests absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sequesters it for the entirety of a building’s life. The architects say the HoHo tower will save 2,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions compared with a similar concrete structure. That’s the equivalent of driving a conventional car 25 miles every day for 1,300 years.
The idea of such a large wooden building has not been met with universal applause. In particular, the Vienna fire service says it was not consulted before plans for the building were announced. “The main factor is that everyone wants to build higher and higher buildings. An 84-metre-high building in Europe is not usual and there are a lot of necessities that have to be realised,” said fire service spokesman Christian Wegner. “A few of us were upset because it was crazy to present an idea like this that has not been discussed with everyone yet.”
“They have to carry out special tests on the correct combination of concrete and wood. 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.”
Worldwide, commercial buildings made of wood are gaining acceptance as architects, developers, and municipal officials seek ways to reduce the carbon footprint of new construction in cities.