Wooden high-rise building

Roots: Aiming high while conserving resources

Hardly any other building material has as long a history as wood. Wood is even more sustainable than concrete and is therefore considered the building material of the future. Particularly building types with which one does not first associate wood have recently been increasingly developed, planned and built from the material - such as a high-rise wooden building. The "Roots" project in Hamburg's HafenCity is currently the tallest wooden high-rise building in Germany.

Nov 15 2021

"Roots" takes root in HafenCity 

"HafenCity meets the highest standards of sustainable urban development – with attractive housing, modern workplaces and low-emission mobility," explains Hamburg's First Mayor, Dr Peter Tschentscher. "With the 'Roots' project, Germany's largest wooden high-rise and one of the most modern and sustainable residential and office buildings is being built in the Elbbrücken quarter.

As the future headquarters of the German Wildlife Foundation, 'Roots' stands for a special closeness to nature. In the Elbbrücken Quarter, Hamburg shows how sustainability and climate protection can be implemented in urban development in concrete terms."   

In total, 181 flats will be realised on 19 floors in the "Roots" project, as well as exhibition rooms and the administration of the German Wildlife Foundation. All upper floors will be built with solid wood ceilings and interior walls, only the basement and ground floors as well as the access cores of the hybrid building are planned as reinforced concrete structures.

This construction method not only contributes to the reduction of the CO2 footprint, but also limits noise emissions during implementation and allows for a healthy indoor climate. 5,500 m³ of softwood are to be used for the construction - plus façades, windows and coverings. A second façade made of glass also ensures fire, UV and moisture protection. Sliding glass elements protect the surrounding loggias from wind and weather.

The 19-storey wooden high-rise "Roots" will in future be part of the entrée for the Elbbrückenquartier © Garbe Immobilien-Projekte GmbH

A bridge to nature 

Wooden façade, surrounding loggias, open spaces in the 2- to 5-room flats and views of the harbour, the city centre and the Elbe canals: the sustainable use of resources and the architectural design of "Roots" respond to the growing trend towards a sustainable lifestyle. The approximately 15,000 m² of residential use is supplemented by 430 m² of gastronomy space and various types of parking spaces.

An underground car park with almost 100 parking spaces including charging infrastructure for electric mobility and 23 stationary car-sharing spaces as well as over 500 bicycle parking spaces are part of the concept. A 600 m² green inner courtyard as well as a yoga room with terrace for the future residents underline the closeness to nature.  

The German Wildlife Foundation will move into 1,700 m² of office space and integrate an interactive exhibition on more than 2,000 m², which will provide insights into the topics of nature and species conservation. In addition, a learning workshop will be built here to enable nature education with all the senses, as well as Germany's first nature film cinema. "What is a foundation that cares about nature and wilderness doing here in the still young Hafencity district, in the middle of a new building district made of concrete and steel, and in future also of wood?

My answer is quite clear: this is exactly where we belong! Because in addition to protecting wild animals and their habitats, the German Wildlife Foundation is very concerned to counteract the alienation from nature and to inspire people for nature. Because only what people know they can also protect," explains Dr Jörg Soehring, Chairman of the German Wildlife Foundation. 

The completion of "Roots", designed by the Hamburg-based architectural firm Störmer Murphy and Partners, is scheduled for 2024. The investment volume is 140 million euros. Architect Jan Strömer explains to us in a short interview what the challenges were in planning what is currently the tallest wooden high-rise in Germany.

On 13 September 2021, the project developer Garbe Immobilien-Projekte GmbH symbolically buried a time capsule in the nine-metre-deep excavation pit with Hamburg's First Mayor Dr. Peter Tschentscher, Dr. Jörg Soehring, Chairman of the German Wildlife Foundation, and Jan Störmer of the architectural firm Störmer Murphy and Partners © Garbe Immobilien-Projekte GmbH / Daniel Sumesgutner

There are not yet many high-rise buildings made of wood; in Germany, "Roots" is the first 19-storey wooden high-rise. Why is that?  

In most building regulations in Germany there are rules that allow buildings made of wood only up to a height of 22 metres – which corresponds to about 6 to 7 storeys. The Roots shows that timber construction is also possible in this dimension. We need the political will and entrepreneurial courage, research and development to increase the timber construction quota across all building classes. Innovation must be allowed!  

Is architectural planning more difficult with wood as a material? 

It is not more difficult, but the construction of wooden high-rise buildings is uncharted territory under German building law. Here we are doing pioneering work in cooperation with the relevant authorities and Garbe Immobilien-Projekte GmbH, which is costly at first but will pay off in the long term and pave the way for many more timber projects on this scale.  

With the architectural design of "Roots", you are responding to the growing trend towards a more sustainable lifestyle. What do you see as the clear advantages of wood as a building material? In terms of construction, but also in terms of interior design? 

I see much more than a trend here - the CO2 emissions of the construction industry must be significantly reduced, that is an absolute necessity. One of the most important resources for this is wood as the only renewable raw material. It binds CO2 over a long time, even when recycled - a building like the Roots can be seen as a storehouse of materials.

The building material has many other advantages: Due to a high degree of prefabrication and the high precision of the wooden modules, the construction process is very short compared to conventional building methods. The building material, which naturally regulates temperature and humidity, also offers the occupants a pleasant and healthy indoor climate.  

After studying in Bremen, Hamburg, Delft and London, Jan Störmer founded Hamburg Design GmbH for architecture, industry and graphic design in 1970, followed two years later by the architectural group me di um, Hamburg. In 1990, he joined forces with Will Alsop to form Alsop & Störmer Architects. After Holger Jaedicke became a partner in the office in 2002 and Martin Murphy in 2004, they have been operating as Störmer Murphy and Partners since 2009.  

Photo: © Störmer Murphy and Partners

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