As the need for environmentally friendly and alternative building methods grows, some companies have looked back to traditional materials like wood to reduce carbon emissions. In fact, Swedish Real Estate company Atrium Ljungberg recently announced plans to build a wooden city made entirely out of timber. According to a press release by the company, the project will become “the world’s largest urban construction project in wood.” 


Stockholm Wood City


The aptly named “Stockholm Wood City,” will cover over 60 acres in Sweden’s capital city. It will feature restaurants, shopping, 7,000 office spaces, and some 2,000 homes. The project is located in the Sickla district, a neighborhood that already has over 400 companies and a need for new innovative and sustainable development. 


Plus, according to the developers, the city will be a “five minute city.” That is, workplaces, homes, leisure facilities and amenities will all lie within a five-minute walk of each other.  Not only is this convenient for those who will live and work in Stockholm Wood City, but it also has the potential to be great for the environment. Residents will rarely ever have to drive or take public transport during their work week thus cutting down on carbon emissions. 




Cutting down on driving and transportation emissions isn’t the only thing that will make the city sustainable. Building projects currently account for a whopping 39% of global emissions. However, building with timber can reduce the climate impact of buildings by up to 50 percent.” This is mostly because using timber can reduce the amount of time and resources it takes to build a major project. 


Plus, timber itself is inherently more sustainable than other materials. That’s because wood is what’s known as a “carbon sink.” This means that timber buildings literally suck carbon dioxide out of the air. Not only is this good for the environment, it can be beneficial for human health as well. 


Timber buildings have been found to have better air quality than non-wooden buildings. They have even been found to reduce stress, and increase productivity in those who live and work in them. Part of this has to do with their carbon sequestering qualities, and part of it has to do with the natural and calming aesthetics of wooden structures. 




The new wooden city is set to have an organic- nature inspired aesthetic. Early renderings of the design show natural light-colored office buildings filled with abundant greenery and wide glass windows. Between the buildings, the renderings suggest ample sitting areas for residents to relax between work, shopping, and dining.


Wooden Cities are Popping Up Around the Globe


Wooden buildings are hot right now. The United Kingdom has an office building made entirely out of timber; Switzerland has the world’s tallest wooden tower, and the United States is working on making wooden skyscrapers and a wooden airport roof at PDX.  And it doesn’t seem like building with timber is going to slow down anytime soon- even in the U.S. 


In 2022, Fast Company reported that there are already about 1,300 large timber buildings that are being constructed across the United States. And, as the technology grows and cities adapt their building codes, we can expect even more wooden buildings to start popping up.


So, it’s safe to say that wooden buildings are spreading like wildfire. But wait? What about wildfires?!


What About fires?


If you’re from a wildfire prone area you may be wondering… won’t a fully wooden city be more vulnerable to a catastrophic fire? The answer is a little complicated. Some experts, like José Torero, professor of fire safety engineering and building design at University College London, see new wood buildings as potentially dangerous. “My concern is that there are no proper standards of competency when it comes to the design of mass timber buildings,” Torero told Dezeen.


Torero stressed that it’s not that timber buildings are inherently dangerous, it’s that “there are no proper standards of competency when it comes to the design of mass timber buildings.” Torero worries that this lack of standards combined with a big push to roll out wood buildings fast could lead to higher fire risks.


Additionally, large fires in timber buildings pose a high risk to surrounding buildings. “The ultimate consequences in the case of a timber building can be much more significant than in the case of a concrete or steel building,” Torrero said. If a fire were to spread from building to building in an entire city of wooden buildings, the consequences could be dire. 


Atrium Ljungberg CEO Assures Fire Safety 


However, Atrium Ljungberg CEO, Annica Ånäs, told Axios that Stockholm Wood City meets the “same high safety requirements as all other constructions,” This includes fire safety. The project, she asserted, uses “engineered wood” which is naturally fire-resistant because it forms a “protective char layer” on its surface. This char layer supposedly helps the structure in the event of a fire by preventing structural breakdown. 


Additionally, according to CNN, other fire safety experts assert that timber is actually safer than steel in a fire. This is because it “burns at a relatively slow and predictable rate” allowing people to escape and fire crews to have time to battle the blaze. (Still, it might be wise to start out by building wooden cities in less fire prone areas.)


When will Construction Begin on Stockholm Wood City?


Construction for the city is set to start in the next few years with the first buildings completed by 2027. If all goes to plan, Stockholm Wood city will be a livable, walkable, environmentally friendly city focused on community: 


“Our industry leaves a big mark, and it is important for us to make a positive difference in both the shorter and longer term. We want to create an environment where our customers, those who will live and work here, can participate in the development and design of the city district of the future.” said CEO Annica Ånäs of the upcoming project.


Meanwhile, we’ll be on the lookout for more wooden building projects. Hopefully more projects like Stockholm Wood City will start to pop up so we can collectively reduce our carbon footprint.




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