The Maritime Station at Tour & Taxis, the Erasmus Garden district in Anderlecht or the Woodskot student residence… Real estate developers are now embarking on the construction of large wooden buildings. A novelty that could turn the habits of an entire sector upside down.
55 metres high, 17 floors, 98 housing units. After the Hyperion tower, built by Eiffage, and Silva, a second tower that will be built in Bordeaux next year, it is Google’s turn to build skyscrapers made of solid wood. Sidewalk Labs, the architecture and urbanism branch of Google’s parent company Alphabet, recently unveiled a digital mock-up of what would be the tallest solid wood building in the world, reaching 35 floors. A prestigious project on which Google has been working for a year.
What’s at stake? Innovation, of course, but above all a smaller carbon footprint for new buildings. The challenge is enormous: more than 40% of CO2 emissions come from the construction and real estate sectors. Whereas concrete has long been the favourite, now wood represents a valid alternative. It makes the construction of a building more sustainable, since it is the only CO2-absorbing material.
Towards a sustainable city
Wooden constructions are experiencing a revival, also beyond the detached house. More and more developers and public authorities intend to develop large-scale projects – mainly vertical buildings – and to make wood the new bridgehead of their developments. At the beginning of February, the French government presented a plan for the “sustainable city”. By 2022, 50 % of new buildings built within the scope of major development projects led by the Ministry of Housing – such as Paris-Saclay, Euroméditerrannée in Marseille, Euratlantique in Bordeaux, etc. – must incorporate wood or bio-based materials.
An example to follow? In Belgium, actors such as Befimmo, Cofinimmo or Ion are interested in the issue. The Belgian industrial group CFE and BPI Real Estate have decided to combine their strengths in a new entity, Wood Shapers, dedicated to the design and sustainable construction of wood and prefabricated materials. Among these new eco-sourced projects, the former Brussels Maritime Station, on the site of Tours & Taxis. On the agenda: 53,000m2 of wooden structures for offices and a shopping centre, 6,000m2 of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and 3,000m2 of glued laminates. The construction site in this building that is more than a hundred years old will become “a city in the city”. It is expected to close in 2020.