Editor’s pickNew ‘Toronto Tree Tower’ built from CLT ups the ante in green architecture

Penda,Toronto Tree Tower,CLT,Canada

“The ‘Tree Tower Toronto’ should be seen as a catalyst for future residential buildings that are more efficient to construct and more ecological to our environment than common construction methods.”

Penda has teamed up with Tmber, a CLT manufacturer, to propose a modular and natural high-rise tower in Toronto, Canada.

The 18-storey tower will stand at 62m high and will comprise 4500sqm of residential areas and 550 sqm of public areas with a cafe, a children’s daycare centre and workshops for the neighbouring community. The structure of the building is a hybrid of Cross Laminated Timber, concrete and steel. The building is also clad with timber panels.

Although the concept of ‘plyscrapers’ or stuffing blocks with vegetation is not new, Penda’s Tree Tower Toronto ups the ante by melding two ideas—wood for construction and vertical forests—for a sustainable high-rise proposal in urban areas.

“This connection helps further to develop a true ecological high-rise, supplies its residents with fresher air and provides a lower carbon footprint. The extensive use of wood will set ambitious sustainability targets and will be a catalyst for similar developments in Canada,” Mark Stein, CEO of Tmber, stated.

In 2012, Stefano Boeri proposed Milan’s first vertical forest. The Italian architect is also working on a similar concept for Luizhou and Nanjing in China.

Around the world, wood is experiencing a renaissance as builders and urban designers race against climate change to imagine solutions for a more sustainable, liveable future. There are lofty visions of wood towering over 80 storeys, ambitious plans for new units above old concrete structures—such as the new Singapore Sustainability Academy and Metsa Wood’s #cityabovethecity campaign. In school, students are encouraged to think and design likewise.

Canada is no stranger to these utopian dreams, itself being home to the world’s tallest timber building. The Canadian government awards buildings that exceeds carbon footprint standards. Such credits supplement 10 – 20 per cent funding of the building cost and is a direct injection to green-light sustainable housing proposals and are an incentive for forward-thinking developers.

“Our cities are an assembly of steel, concrete and glass. If you walk through the city and suddenly see a tower made of wood and plants, it will create an interesting contrast. The warm, natural appearance of wood and the plants growing on its facade bring the building to life and that could be a model for environmentally-friendly developments and sustainable extensions of our urban landscape,” Chris Precht, partner at penda, said.

Construction method

In wood construction, CLT panels are pre-fabricated in a factory, then transported to the construction site for assembly like a huge lego block.  The benefits are immense: quicker construction times, less noise, waste and a high degree of quality control as most parts of the building are assembled in a controlled indoor environment.

The process that creates structural engineered wood products takes far less energy than steel, cement or concrete and produces fewer greenhouse gases during manufacturing. Further, wood stores carbon in itself (approximately one tonne per cubic metre) thus it has, compared to other building materials, a lighter overall environmental footprint.

Because buildings account for almost half of all energy used worldwide, the quintessential focus of the design community has to be on strategies to reduce the energy consumption in buildings and in their construction, Penda stated.

Furthermore the modular construction systems considers the after-life of a tower. The most valuable elements of a building such as wires and copper are buried in demolition, but “down-constructing” secures a sustainable life-cycle.

“A modular system formed in the future city will make the module a part of the shared lifestyle more than the building. This way, the service life of the building module will be greatly increased for sustainable development,” Dayong Sun, partner at penda, said.

“In a way, we are growing the material for an extension of the tower on its terraces," the architects joke, on the large outdoor areas provided for green-thumbed residents.

Wood as a construction material and trees on the facade truly offer a unique and coherent ecological design and exhibit a symbiosis of a built and a natural environment.


All images are credited to Penda