Wood as a regular material in urban architecture

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We recently attended the second meeting of the KnoWood European project, held at the main campus of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary, Canada.

The second work session attended by the project’s 11 partners from various countries consisted of an intensive training course for teaching staff and company representatives. The issues address include innovation in the building industry and the role of wood as a material for sustainable construction.

Calgary provided the participants with the opportunity to visit various examples and observe how a modern city – Canada’s third largest in terms of population – has managed to convert wood into a regular material that has been successfully incorporated into building construction methods. Indeed, we had the chance to admire several outstanding works of architecture covering various uses and types, but which all featured wood. We were also able to visit several building sites where the noise and dust traditionally associated with building work have disappeared thanks to the use of the far cleaner wood.

Highlights of completed works include the recently opened Red Deer College students’ residence, a magnificent example of sustainable architecture. This innovative 5 storey building features a structure of pillars with GLT (glue laminated timber) and a lightweight framework on the façades. It houses 145 studios and communal areas and is also energy self-sufficient thanks to the 545 solar panels installed on the façades and roof.

We also had the opportunity to visit Calgary’s spectacular Central Library. One of the hallmarks of this public cultural space is the freeform double-curved wooden roof, one of the largest of its kind in the world and made of red cedar wood from the neighbouring province of British Columbia. The wood spirals up to a height of more than 25 metres in this iconic, arch-shaped building.

In short, this second meeting of the KnoWood project partners in Canada enabled us to observe in situ how wood can become part of the cityscape in a region with a long-standing tradition in the use of this plentiful natural material that is ideal for the construction of modern, sustainable and healthy buildings.

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