04 November 2021

The Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) city of Skellefteå (Sweden) recently gained global recognition of its sustainable initiatives through an article published in The Guardian about its wooden architecture.  

This Swedish municipality is defined by its climate-conscious initiatives, and the heavy use of wood is particularly interesting. Not only are there wooden car parks, apartment buildings and schools, but there is also one of the tallest new wooden buildings in the world. 

The Sara Cultural Centre and its towering Wood Hotel stand at 20 storeys tall and store around 9 000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. The construction of the building brought several benefits to local workforces. It took advantage of the local timber industry as materials were sourced from nearby factories which meant the number of truck deliveries decreased by 90%. Improved worker productivity and satisfaction were also observed as the building site was reported to feel like a cleaner and safer environment than others.   

A building with a brain 

The building uses AI technology to monitor energy use and predict heating needs. Impressively, it can communicate with surrounding buildings and send excess energy produced by its solar panels to other buildings and vice versa. In a way, the building has a brain with this advanced technology.   

This building now stands as a blueprint for the new generation of wooden skyscrapers – or ‘plyscrapers.’ Even though Skellefteå had the advantage of being near a forest, Swedish architects believe the same process could be replicated elsewhere. While further research is still needed to determine the relationship between proximity to a forest and carbon savings, other ICC cities should consider this valuable learning material and think about what a wooden skyscraper would look like in their own city and what they can learn from this example. 

This initiative should be recognised as a good practice especially for cities working on the Green economy and Local Green Deals thematic track. It shows similarities with a recent initiative in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (The Netherlands), where an agreement on timber construction targets was signed recently by all 32 municipalities and now forms part of their Local Green Deal. Further information on this specific work is available here

Skellefteå’s recognition and Amsterdam Metropolitan Area’s new development is a reminder than ICC is encouraging meaningful work, and we hope it influences ICC cities to continue to strive to make a difference in their thematic tracks.