Closing circles

Architecture firm Partner & Partner has come up with two sustainable high-rises based on the principles of the recycling economy. The concept recently received the German Sustainability Award Design.
by Anna Moldenhauer | 1/4/2021

“Woodscraper” is the name of the project pointing the way forwards for high-rise construction. Partner & Partner Architekten are planning Germany’s first wooden high-rises in Wolfsburg. Planned sustainably in every respect, the project started receiving prizes even before any ground had been broken – not only the 2019 German Federal Ecodesign Award but also the 2020 German Sustainability Award Design in the category “Visions for the Future”. The intention with these two resource-positive high-rises, each boasting 12 stories, is to bring the cycle full circle. “An approach to construction that is based on the principles of cradle-to-cradle and the circular economy,” explains Jörg Finkbeiner, who, together with Klaus Günter, established Partner & Partner. Basically, this touches upon the question of regenerative energy concepts and an environmentally-conscious choice of materials, right up to the non-load-bearing components, among other things, techniques such as drywall components made of straw instead of the classical kind of plaster drywalling. Moreover, a forward-looking construction method means that it is not difficult to adapt the layout if usage requirements change. What’s more, the precise prefabrication techniques used for the wooden building panels allow for a considerably shorter construction time.

“Woodscraper” will above all be defined by the mainly spruce and fir used, which is definitely destined to produce a healthy ambient climate for the total of 90 residential units in the two high-rises. As well as its pollutant-free, breathable qualities, the wood also possesses strong load-bearing qualities that even put concrete in the shade. “I believe that wood as a building material had been underrated for a long time and has not been readily seen as the kind of material suitable for high-rises. The first high-rises date back to the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th century, the ‘age’ of steel and reinforced concrete. Over the past 30 years, wood has experienced an enormous innovative upsurge and now, in these days of resource shortages and climate change, it is wood that offers the best material performance,” suggests Jörg Finkbeiner. Partner & Partner Architekten’s holistic approach also includes avoiding the accumulation of building waste as they insist on recovery and reuse of as much of the materials as possible. It is Finkbeiner’s belief that “the construction trade of tomorrow should premise its outlook on thinking buildings through, starting from the end of their useful life.”