The first tall urban housing project to be constructed entirely from pre-fabricated solid timber, from the load bearing walls and floor slabs to the stair and lift cores.
The exemplar project has spearheaded the introduction of CLT in the UK, and pioneered a wider international movement in its use. Completed within 49 weeks, and delivering 29 fully insulated and soundproof apartments, the project demonstrated for the first time that CLT has the potential to be a financially viable, environmentally sustainable and beautiful replacement for concrete and steel in high-density housing.
'Stadthaus' is effectively divided into two sections that are independently owned, accessed and serviced. The local residents association has an office at ground level and the Metropolitan Housing Trust has apartments on levels 1, 2 and 3. Levels 4-8 are privately owned. Level 4 marks a change in floor layouts and external elevations.
The nine-storey tower is built from a tight honeycomb of structural panels, with a timber core providing stability, and inset balconies with structural balustrades to strengthen the outer structural wall. Its distinctive pixelated façade, made up 2,500 individual panels in three hues, arranged to capture how the shadows fell on the site of the building, means that the modern, Gerhard Richter’s abstracts inspired aesthetic fits comfortably into its context. The lightweight wood-pulp cladding avoids adding unnecessary bulk to the tower.
The building is insulated and airtight beyond UK requirements. Mechanical ventilation of all rooms includes a heat recovery system that retains 70% of the heat that would normally be lost when return air is expelled. Photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof generate a modest supply of renewable energy.
With sustainability high on the agenda, the design meets the Lifetime Homes standard and includes a green-wall wrapping on the southern elevation of the building to encourage local biodiversity. A variety of new shrubs and trees will create an ecologically sustainable ‘pocket’ park.
The development includes a landscaped playground for children on the south side, which parents can overlook from half the apartments.
RIBA President's Award for Research 2009
Images: Will Pryce