Northern Sweden becomes home to one of the world’s tallest wooden skyscrapers

The Sara Kulturhus in Skelleftea stands almost 80 meters high.

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A new 20-story wooden building in northern Sweden housing a library, six theater stages and a hotel is set to put art, concerts and meetings at the heart of one of the world’s tallest timber constructions.

Sustainability, innovation and creating something for the community were in focus when planning the Sara House of Culture in Skelleftea — Sara Kulturhus in Swedish — which is almost 80 meters high.

“It didn’t start as a 20-story house in Skelleftea, it started with a strategy which basically means that Skelleftea didn’t just want to survive but develop,” said Skelleftea head of urban planning Therese Kreisel, seated on the wooden staircase which is at the center of the building and functions as a meeting place for its visitors.

Skelleftea, which is around 800 kilometers north of the capital Stockholm, and 200 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle, has a population of around 33,000 people and forestry is one of the biggest local industries.

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Kreisel said the building was constructed from 12,200 cubic meters of wood from trees harvested from within a 60-kilometer radius of the city.

The cultural center, which takes up the lower four levels of the building, is built with columns and beams made of glued laminated timber and without the use of concrete. The cement industry currently accounts for about 7 percent of global CO2 emissions, per the International Energy Agency.

The building houses six theater stages, the city library, two art galleries, a conference centre, restaurants, and a hotel with 205 rooms that offers views of the surrounding city.

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Apart from being one of the world’s tallest wooden buildings and a meeting place for the city’s residents, the building’s energy system tries to be as carbon neutral as possible.

The building is equipped with solar panels, batteries and a heat pump that works with electrical, water and district heating. Even the sprinkler system, which in most buildings is usually powered by diesel, is powered by renewable energy.

Excess energy from the building is passed on to other parts of the city or stored in the cultural center’s on-site batteries.