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Local Matters / Architecture & Landmarks

France aspires to world record by building highest wooden towers

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Southwestern French city Bordeaux will soon boast the two tallest wooden housing towers in the world, each comprising 18 floors and measuring 50 meters. They are set to dethrone the 14-floor Treet tower in Bergen, Norway.

Wooden construction is gaining in popularity, and altitude. While a first solid wood edifice containing 140 social housing units will see the light in September in Ris-Orangis near Paris, two 50-meter high wooden towers will soon grace the Bordeaux skyline.

The Mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppé, has announced the construction of the tallest wooden housing structures in the world. As a result of a competition launched by the city, seven projects were shortlisted. Out of these, two were selected for construction: the Hyperion Eiffage Tower by architect Jean-Paul Viguier, measuring 57 meters and containing 82 housing units over 18 floors, and the Silva Tower, by Kaufman & Broad, measuring 50 meters.

The competition’s aim was to develop the timber sector in French real estate and consolidate the nascent industry of prefabricated solid wood panels. Until recently, 10 floors were the maximum a wooden construction could support. But technical advances have allowed pioneering countries such as Austria to build far further. Two projects of 84 meters (24-floors) and 65 meters respectively are currently underway in Vienna, however these will not contain housing, but merely a hotel and shops in one and an observatory in the other, leaving France to aim for the tallest wooden housing record.

Both buildings will be chiefly made of wood, apart from the central core of each one containing the stairways and elevators. These will be built out of concrete for stability in the wind.

From the outside, the towers will look like regular concrete edifices, with the wood hidden in the structure to protect it from the elements. The Hyperion building will allow for a peak at its wooden skeleton from under its balconies while Silva’s glass façade will render the wood structure visible.

The towers will comprise 35% of social housing, 5 to 10% aimed at first-time buyers with controlled rents at 2,800 euros per square meter with the remaining space containing luxury apartments.

Unlike the Ris-Orangis edifice, the material for the towers does not come in ready-to-assemble kit form, so while the social housing block will be ready in under a year, the Bordeaux towers are expected for completion between end 2019 and early 2020.

Photo credit: Lesechos

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