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Construction techniques have advanced significantly since humans started building their houses out of wood, but wood is still used for the architectural enhancements it offers. Many different types of wood have been used in millions of structures across the globe, and now the world’s first building made from hardwood cross-laminated timber (CLT) has been unveiled.

World first hardwood1

Maggie’s is a charity that provides practical and emotional support to people living with cancer. Built on the grounds of specialist NHS cancer hospitals, Maggie’s Centres are built to be warm and welcoming places with qualified professionals on hand to offer a programme of support shown to improve physical and emotional wellbeing. The newest Maggie’s Centre, designed by dRMM Architects and supported by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), employed tulipwood in its construction.

The Centre was constructed from more than 20 panels of five layer cross-laminated American tulipwood, ranging in size from 0.5m - 12m long. dRMM chose tulipwood for the design of Maggie’s Oldham for the “positive influence” wood has on people and for the beauty, strength and warmth inherent to American tulipwood. Wood is known to significantly reduce blood pressure, heart rates and recovery times; it has more health and wellbeing benefits than any other building material, according to the Wood Housing Humanity Report 2015.

World first hardwood2American tulipwood CLT has unparalleled strength and lightness, according to dRMM, and is approximately 70% stronger in bending than a typical CLT grade softwood. Tulipwood CLT is one of the most sustainable timber species, with fast natural growth replenishing the “stock”.

“From the Oldham project inception we knew it was the right material for Maggie’s, not only structurally and visually, but conceptually. An elevated, open plan, all-timber and glass building - with trees growing through it, and every detail considered from the perspective of use, health, and delight - was always going to be special,” says co-founder of dRMM, Professor Alex de Rijke.

The curved glass feature in the centre aims to bring nature inside the building, while the main kitchen table around which Centre visitors are encouraged to sit, is built from recycled tulipwood CLT. According to AHEC, Maggie’s Oldham structure proves that hardwoods have a role to play in the “timber construction revolution”.

“For AHEC, Maggie’s Oldham is one of the most important developments in a decade of research and development into structural timber innovation and one that could broaden the use of CLT in the construction industry. The creation of this product and significant use of hardwood will transform the way architects and engineers approach timber construction,” says Roderick Wiles, AHEC Director for Africa, Middle East, South Asia and Oceania.

“Tulipwood is particularly useful in structural applications given its very high strength to weight ratio. In fact, American tulipwood CLT is around three times stronger and stiffer in ‘rolling shear’ than its softwood equivalent and its potential in wood construction is extremely promising.”

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