The Mjøstårnet by Voll Arkitekter is credited with assisting timber architecture in reaching new heights.

Mjøstårnet, an 85,4-meter-tall tower in Brumunddal, Norway, was one of the first real timber skyscrapers in the world.

Architects: Voll Arkitekter

The 18-story mixed-use skyscraper was deemed the tallest timber structure in the world by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) when it was finished in March 2019, easily exceeding the 53-meter Brock Commons Tallwood House in Vancouver.

According to design firm Voll Arkitekter, the landmark exemplified what the future of sustainable architecture may look like.

The 18-story tower on the coast of Norway’s largest lake, Mjsa, which gives the structure its name, features apartments, a hotel, office space, and a restaurant.

It was constructed from cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glue-laminated timber, commonly known as glulam. Because both types of wood are composed of layers of lamellas bonded together lengthwise, they are considerably more durable than conventional wood.

Massive glulam trusses constructed of light-colored spruce wood support the structure along its outside facades and serve as its interior columns and beams. Meanwhile, the building’s three elevators and two stairs were supported by CLT.

The skyscraper was constructed quickly because the structural mass wood was left exposed within. The project’s groundwork began in April 2017, and the first wooden construction was completed only six months later.

The firm was especially interested in using wood due to its environmental credentials. As carbon sponges, trees absorb atmospheric carbon, which is subsequently sequestered in wood and kept in buildings.

Wood is also less carbon-intensive to produce, transport, and build than concrete, resulting in a production process with less carbon emissions. The embodied carbon in steel and concrete buildings accounts for 11 percent of worldwide carbon emissions.

The legislation in Norway mandates forest owners to recover harvested areas within three years.

Because to Brumunddal’s closeness to a major forestry and wood processing centre, the spruce and pine used to construct Mjstrnet were supplied from adjacent woods.

Scandinavia’s proximity to vast forests provides the country with an abundance of native wood resources, which has led to an increase in the number of architects utilizing wood in the region.
Despite the studio’s commitment to employing wood, the material was not without drawbacks. Because to the natural lightness of wood, the building’s peak was susceptible to swaying in the wind, which was a challenge for the architects.

To circumvent this issue, architects design composite buildings, such as wood-concrete hybrid constructions or timber frames with concrete cores. Therefore, Voll Arkitekter chose to include concrete into the flooring of Mjstrnet to give it the requisite strength and heft.

Ascent, an 86.6-meter-tall Wisconsin skyscraper built by Korb + Associates Architects, surpassed Mjøstårnet as the highest wood structure in the world in 2022.

The CTBUH classifies a building as an all-timber structure if both the primary vertical or lateral structural components and the floor are made of wood.

When completed in 2026, a 100-meter-tall timber apartment complex in Switzerland designed by Danish firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen would surpass Ascent as the highest structure in the world.

Photos by: Ricardofoto