One of the world’s tallest timber buildings has finally opened its doors to the public

One of the world’s tallest timber buildings has finally opened its doors to the public

    By David Rowlinson  September 9th, 2021

    The Sara Cultural Centre rises 75 meters (246 feet) above the Swedish city of Skellefteå. It is a state-of-the-art cultural venue and hotel that positively contributes to the local community while standing as an international showcase for sustainable design and construction. The carbon-negative building is one of the world’s tallest timber towers and a new centre for creativity in Skellefteå.


    The timber cultural centre is a celebration of the heritage of its site. Combining traditional materials with modern technology, the project employs sustainable and efficient construction methods and aims to be carbon negative within 50 years.

    With timber construction forming a key cornerstone in the transition to net zero, the carbon-negative building aims to broaden possible applications and spark widespread advancements globally in the use of timber as a sustainable structural material for complex and high-rise buildings.

    The high-rise hotel is built up from prefabricated 3D-modules in cross laminated timber (CLT), stacked between two elevator cores that are also constructed from CLT. The low-rise cultural center is built with columns and beams of glued laminated timber (glulam) and cores and shear walls in CLT. The integrated structural design has eliminated the need for concrete entirely from the load bearing structure, which helped to reduce construction time and significantly reduce the building’s carbon footprint.

    The cultural centre was constructed using timber sourced locally from regional sustainable forests, and processed in a sawmill approximately 50km from the building. The timber structure has sequestered more than twice the carbon emissions caused by operational energy and embodied carbon from the production of materials, transportation, and construction on site.

    Environmentally conscious design, together with a ground-breaking energy system, has been used to reduce the building’s energy use. Solar panels on the roof produce renewable energy that, combined with the timber structure, compensate for the CO2 emissions produced by the building. The building is designed to have a lifespan of at least 100 years and will be carbon negative within 50 years.

    Robert Schmitz and Oskar Norelius, lead architects on the project, said: “Mass timber has emerged as one of the most sustainable solutions for building structures known today. Realising a full timber structure of a complex building with mixed uses, mixed volumetry, and a high-rise of 20 storeys, Sara Cultural Centre broadens the application of timber as a structural material and proves that timber is a viable solution for virtually any building type. We hope that this project helps others in our collective transition towards carbon neutrality.” 

    Article first appeared in Designboom


    David Rowlinson

    David hails from Lancashire, England and has lived in Australia since 1994. He studied Architecture at Sheffield University and also has an MBA from Macquarie University and a Master of Marketing from UNSW. Prior to joining Planet Ark in 2016 David was Marketing Manager then CEO of a major Sydney-based manufacturer of modular carpets used in all commercial building applications. His proudest achievement was the development of an industry-leading environmental sustainability agenda, including the unique Earthplus product reuse program.

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