Our biggest design decision was no doubt the decision to build the whole office out of Massive Wood. Very few multi-story offices in Europe have been built out of Massive Wood so far and none yet in the Netherlands.
Massive Wood in this case means something entirely different from using wood for some of the structures and façades, as is commonplace in many buildings. No, here the entire structure is made of massive wood, with no use of steel or concrete (except for the basement floor and walls). The walls and floors will be built up of 26-36cm massive wood panels, consisting of multiple cross-layers of glue-free solid FSC fir wood, sustainably harvested in South Western Germany.
The decision to go for massive wood was triggered by our quest to find a material for construction that would not only answer all of our technical requirements to achieve high energy goals (such as thermal mass, insulation, airtightness) but also score very high in sustainability and health.
From a sustainability perspective, there is no better building material than wood and it is very unlikely that anything better can ever be developed. Which other material absorbs so much CO2 during its growth and then provides such good thermal mass and insulation values during its lifetime ?
Using wood may sound unsustainable to some. We need as many trees as possible to absorb CO2 right ? Correct! But a sustainably managed (FSC or PEFC) forest absorbs more CO2 than a wild one, as the removal of grown-up trees creates space in the forest for fast-growing young ones. So in fact wood from sustainable forests easily outperforms any
After visiting multiple suppliers and references in Austria and Germany we eventually selected "NurHolz" from Rombach in Germany's Schwarzwald to supply pre-fab floor- and wall- panels which can be quickly assembled on site in May. Trucking all of these panels to Haelen of course takes a toll on our project's CO2 balance, but that is easily compensated by the big CO2 savings that the material itself provides when compared to concrete.
Is massive wood more expensive ? Yes, in the short run it is. But we are very optimistic about recovering the extra investment because there is no healthier environment to work in. No glue, no paint, no cold radiation from walls or floors, perfect comfort. If there is one building in which all risks of "sick building syndrome" have been tackled, this is it.
We will all have to switch our "take-make-waste" linear economy into a circular economy in which all materials are either re-used or given back to nature. If we don't, there simply won't be enough materials around for all of us. By building our office out of one of nature's best products we make another small step in preparing our company for the circular economy of tomorrow.