April 2017

We begin this issue by looking at the Ogden Center for Fundamental Physics designed by Studio Libeskind, which opened in March of this year. A spiraling structure that marries Libeskind’s penchant for sharp geometry with sustainably sourced materials and an energy efficient system, the timber-clad building is set to achieve BREEAM excellence as well as net-zero energy consumption. Given its sustainable credentials, futuristic design and use of a natural material like timber, the iconic research center has reaffirmed Durham’s international position in space science.

Also in March, the sixth edition of Dubai Design Days was held at Dubai Design District. The American Hardwood Export Council unveiled its ‘Seed to Seat’ furniture collaborative, which brought together good design, environmental awareness and ‘new’ American hardwoods. The idea was to introduce seven designers to four American hardwood species, which are less widely specified in this region, while also challenging them to design a seat using only solid lumber and as little non-wood materials as possible. We visited the show and tested all the pieces. What’s remarkable though is that it would take a mere 3.32 seconds for all the American hardwood used to make the seven pieces to be replaced naturally in the U.S. forest.

In his article for this issue, Andrew Waugh argues that tall towers are not the answer to environmental challenges. Currently, about a third to half of the carbon emissions associated with a building over its lifecycle comes from creating the materials used to build it, but developers, builders and architects have been reluctant to change. The solution doesn’t have to be invented. It already exists, in the form of modern engineered timbers. Unlike conventional materials, sustainably sourced engineered timber actually stores carbon. Engineered timbers are also cheaper, faster to build and can be pre-cut in factories, so there is less time lost to weather and safety risks are easier to control. The resulting buildings are sturdy, safe and well-insulated.

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