The spotlight of the festival will be on cross-laminated timber technology
THE American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), the leading international trade association for the American hardwood industry, will participate in the London Design Festival 2013 in collaboration with dRMM Architects and Arup.
According to AHEC, visitors will have a chance to experience the city in a new way this autumn, with the construction of the ‘Endless Stair’, a highlight of the LDF, which will see a series of interlocking timber staircases rising to a height of several storeys outside St Paul’s Cathedral, overlooking the Millennium Bridge and across to Tate Modern. The ‘Escher-like’ timber staircase will be on display for the duration of the festival, which runs from September 14 - 22.
The project is the brainchild of architect Alex de Rijke, the founder of architects dRMM and dean of architecture at the Royal College of Art, working to a commission from AHEC, and engineered by Arup. The project aims to showcase the potential of cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels made from American tulipwood.
CLT is a method of exploiting the structural properties of timber to create panels that can form buildings quickly, efficiently and sustainably. Introduced to the UK by a small number of forward-thinking architects, of whom dRMM was the first, CLT is a well-proven technology that has been used on projects such as the residential Bridport House in Hackney, east London.
“Up until now all CLT has been made from softwood, however, using a hardwood such as tulipwood, which is widely available, has great advantages. As a result of its superior structural properties, CLT panels made from tulipwood could potentially be much thinner than softwood panels of similar strength and stiffness. This leads to a saving in materials and to the possibility of more slender solutions. The elegance of the steps in the ‘Endless Stair’ is only possible as a result of these superior structural properties,” said Roderick Wiles, AHEC director for Africa, Middle East, India and Oceania.
“Since discovering the unique properties of tulipwood from a testing programme at BRE in 2005, AHEC has been determined to market its use for structural applications and this installation will throw the spotlight on the potential of this versatile and readily available hardwood.”
CLT is the new buzzword in the dialogue for green building, and is changing current perceptions of how to build with wood. As a highly pre-fabricated building material, it is essentially a panel made of wood planks that are fastened together using interlocking profiles instead of glue or fasteners, and can be used for long spans, such as roofs, floors and walls. An engineered building product made entirely of wood; it possesses the inherently positive environmental characteristics common to all wood products with further benefits engineered into the final product during the production process. As such, CLT embodies several key characteristics that have driven its rapid and sustained growth including robust structural capabilities, inherent fire resistance, renewable and sustainable production, simple, straightforward assembly, as well as a highly effective and efficient built environment.
The Endless Stair, despite its intriguing geometry, will be constructed from a series of repeating components, demonstrating the versatility of the material.