Murray Grove in London, UK

Constructed entirely in timber, the nine-storey high-rise is the tallest timber residential building in the world.

The building has been assembled using a unique structural system pioneered by KLH of Austria. The panels have been formed using timber strips glued together into a solid mass element with minimal movement characteristics. Prior detailing experience has been gained through applications in a variety of projects including housing, commercial developments, schools and industrial units. Our interest in using KLH came from an environmental position and a drive to get timber more readily accepted in the UK construction industry.

The concept design has been developed with the material in mind, with the twenty-nine private and affordable apartments generated in a honeycomb pattern around a central core. We worked very closely with Techniker structural engineers and KLH to integrate the technology without sacrificing the design principals. The cross-laminated solid timber panels form a cellular structure of timber load-bearing walls, including all stair and lift cores, with timber floor slabs, and as such will be the tallest pure timber residential building in the world.

Each of the panels is prefabricated, including cut-outs for windows and doors. As the panels arrive on site, they are immediately craned into position, dramatically reducing time on site. The entire nine-storey structure has been assembled within nine weeks. A ‘platform construction’ configuration is used throughout this structure. Each floor is set on the walls below, and then another storey of walls is raised and so on up the building. Joints are secured with screws and angle plates. Stresses are generally very low throughout the structure and at points where cross-grain pressures are high, screws have been added to reinforce the timber locally. Progressive collapse is avoided by providing sufficient redundancy so that any single elements can be removed.
The timber is untreated and relies on the building envelope for protection from damp and rot. The construction process is entirely dry and the site remains very neat and clear of superfluous materials throughout first and second fix stages.

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Maintaining a high acoustic performance for Murray Grove was a key issue for us. Timber buildings have always been classified as poor in terms of their acoustic performance due to their superlight structures compared with reinforced concrete and masonary. Cross-laminated solid timber KLH panels have a significantly higher density than timber frame buildings.They provide a solid structural core on which different, independent and separating layers can be added. The layer principal overcomes any acoustic or sound transfer issues. With a consistent and economic layering strategy of stud walls with gaps in front of the party walls, floating floor build-ups and suspended ceilings, u-values that exceed UK requirements have been achieved.

Using a bulk timber panel system affects the carbon footprint of the building in three ways. Firstly, the production of cement produces 870 kg of carbon dioxide. This equates to 237 kg of carbon per tonne. We have estimated that if this building were to be a concrete structure, it would contain approximately 950 cubic metres of concrete. This would require 285 tonnes of cement and would, therefore, produce approximately 67,500 kg of carbon.
Additionally, the production of steel produces 1750 kg of carbon dioxide, which is 477 kg of carbon per tonne. It is estimated that the building would, if built in reinforced concrete, require about 120 tonnes of steel, the production of which would have generated 57,250 kg of carbon.
We have used 901 cubic metres of timber within the building. Timber absorbs carbon throughout its natural life and continues to store that carbon when cut. The fabric of Murray Grove will store over 186,000 kg of carbon.
Thus, our chosen construction method has resulted in a reduction in the carbon load of the building of 67,500 + 57,250 + 186,000 = 310,750 kg of carbon. This is equivalent to over 310 tonnes of carbon.
The estimated carbon dioxide produced in the generation of the energy for the building, including the transportation of the timber panels from Austria, is 10,000 kg/c/yr. This has been entirely offset by the building’s carbon saving for some 21 years.
Additional renewable energy is generated by means of photovoltaic panels on the roof, which supply energy for lighting to all common parts of the building and the water booster pump.
The building is insulated and airtight beyond UK requirements. Ventilation is provided to all rooms via a heat recovery system which transfers 70% of the heat, which would normally be extracted outside, to incoming air.
With sustainability high on the agenda, our design also includes a green-wall wrapping on the southern elevation of the building to encourage local bio-diveristy. A variety of new shrubs and trees are also being chosen to create an ecologically sustainable ‘pocket’ park.

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The facade was created by recording the changing light and shadows formed on the empty site by the surrounding buildings and trees; the pattern was captured through a sun-path animation. The resulting image was pixilated, picked up, stretched and wrapped around the building. The exterior cladding forming this pixilated image is made up of over 5,000 indivdual panels across the building in three shades: white, grey and black. The 1200 x 230 mm panels are manufactured by Eternit and made up of 70% waste timber.
Each apartment has its own internal balcony and with the windows these appear as the ‘missing piece’ on the facade; an additional punctuated rhythm over the abstract image of the facade.

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