Little London Apartment Building Is Made of Cross-Laminated Timber

©. Amin Taha Architects

It's a really interesting mix of CLT, brick and yes, wicker.

Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT, or crosslam) is a fascinating material. It was invented in Austria about 20 years ago to use up bits of lumber that were left over after cutting out the big stuff, and now it is finding its way into taller buildings all over the world. That’s because it has some real benefits over concrete and traditional wood frame construction when it comes to multi-family housing. Amin Taha Architects demonstrate this in a very neat little apartment building in London.

Interior of unit

© Amin Taha ArchitectsThe architect explains in Swedish Wood Magazine:

By using crosslam instead of concrete, we’ve managed to cut carbon emissions by 15 percent during the construction process. But it has been more than just an environmentally positive choice. Crosslam also has many technical benefits, not least in keeping construction times down. The fact is that it only took us ten days to get the structure of the walls and roof in place. Since we chose to expose the wood on the interior, we didn’t need to set time aside for dry-lining and painting, which saved a great deal of time and money.
Interior with people

© Amin Taha Architects

It’s also fire resistant; as has been done with heavy timber for hundreds of years, the designers make it thicker than needed for structure to have a “burn layer” of wood that turns into insulating and non-combustible char. This wood is also treated with an additional retardant.

door detailing

© Amin Taha Architects/ nice door detailing

It’s better acoustically than conventional wood construction and is getting better all the time as architects get more experienced and figure out the details. Architect Dale Elliott explains: “We improved the acoustic performance using extra insulation, acoustic panels and a floating wooden floor between apartments.”

Axo of structure

© Amin Taha Architects

After building what is really an entire building out of crosslam (this is what Swedish Wood calls it, it is the first time I have seen this term and I like it, nicer ring than CLT) they wrapped it all in brick with a pattern they call a “half Flemish Bond.” It is not even really connected to the building at all; it is “decoupled from the rest of the building to allow it to expand and contract separately. Each of these materials serves a different purpose, acting and moving in their own way but with careful detailing, together they form the seamless contribution of structural form and architectural vision."

balcony detail

© Amin Taha Architects

The balconies are a bit odd...

...serving as extra decoration and softening up the otherwise quite stringent design language of the façade. The balconies are reminiscent of hot air balloon baskets, and they are actually manufactured in a similar way. Long, brown willow canes are woven around a frame made from diagonal steel poles. The spacious balconies create a natural link between inside and out, and their positioning also promotes social interaction between the apartments.
balconies from above

© Amin Taha Architects

Crosslam uses a lot of wood compared to traditional framing; I am having an internal debate with myself about whether Swedish style prefabricated sorry, Monteringsfärdiga construction doesn’t make more sense. Or perhaps there is room for both; Crosslam certainly goes up fast, sequesters a lot of carbon and looks gorgeous.

detail of seat

© Amin Taha Architects

Lots more images at the Amin Taha website.