Sweden Is Building a City Out of Wood

Advocates say fire risks are minimal and the construction has a better carbon footprint
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2023 10:29 AM CDT

Swedish urban developer Atrium Ljungberg's upcoming project in Stockholm is an interesting foray into sustainability. In 2025, the company says it will begin construction of what it calls the "world's largest wooden city." CNN reports that Atrium Ljungberg envisions "Stockholm Wood City" as an activity hub with 7,000 offices and 2,000 homes, along with restaurants and shops. The Economist reports the project will be built in the Sickla section of Stockholm and cover nearly 821,000 square feet, with a projected cost of $1.4 billion. The company, as with other developers putting up wooden skyscrapers and the like around the world, says wood has all kinds of advantages over concrete and steel, including a better carbon footprint and cheaper, quieter construction.

But what about fire? As CNN notes, the city will use "engineered lumber," which advocates say is actually safer than traditional construction methods in regard to fire. Such timber "is a composite in which layers of wood are laminated together in specific ways," explains the Economist. Axios notes that this project appears to be part of a trend, with "1,300 mass-timber buildings being constructed or already developed" across the US alone. Annica Anas, CEO of Atrium Ljungberg, says she is "convinced that we will see more such projects across the world."

Skeptics, however, say more research is needed to back up the carbon footprint claims, as well as those about fire safety, the outlet notes." Timber can be perfectly safe if it's done right," Jose Torero of University College London tells Dezeen magazine. But the "if-it's-done-right" qualifier should not be shrugged off—various factors can affect just how safe a mass-timber building is, including the size of rooms and the amount of exposed wood. "This is not a technological or technical problem," says Torero. "It is fundamentally a problem of competency." (More Sweden stories.)

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