Urbane Holzarchitektur: Sawa in Rotterdam (Niederlande)
Urban wooden architecture: Sawa in Rotterdam (Niederlande) by Mei architects and planners. © WAX+Mei architects

Commitment to climate protection is closely linked to the fight against CO2 emissions. Here, the building sector plays a crucial role: wooden architecture in particular represents a promising way to work towards a CO2-neutral future.

By hicklvesting.

Holzarchitektur: Wohnbau im Schweizer Gümligen
residential building in Gümligen (Switzerland) by Marazzi + Paul Architekten

The European Union intends to be climate-neutral by 2050. This will require decarbonisation at every level of the economy, with the construction sector having a particularly key role to play. The sector accounts for around 40 per cent of CO2 emissions globally, and steel and concrete, in particular, take enormous amounts of energy to produce. There needs to be a paradigm shift to break free from these building materials and the associated environmental impact. Natural, renewable building materials play a crucial part in this.

Most notably, the eco-all-rounder wood is undergoing a real renaissance. Wooden architecture reduces the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in several ways. Firstly, sustainably managed woods and forests play a key role in tackling the greenhouse effect by removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The wood used for architecture in turn provides further environmental protection as the raw material acts as a natural binder for the greenhouse gas that causes global warming and thus as a carbon store. As a renewable and also easily recyclable resource, it offers a compelling alternative to the mineral-based building materials that are currently used. Wood has been used as a building material for thousands of years, but the current trend for this material has little to do with traditional construction techniques. Computer-aided design programs and the use of high-tech construction and processing machines now enable precisely calculated structures. These engineering possibilities minimise the use of materials and also open up entirely new aesthetic avenues. Architects are making bold progress here and are actively helping to shape a carbon-neutral future.

This trend is reflected in the winning projects of the ICONIC AWARDS: Innovative Architecture 2021. The firm KOZ Architectes has created Europe’s largest wooden residential building with Sensations in Strasbourg. The technical brilliance of this eleven-storey building with 146 apartments meant that it could even be built in an area that experiences seismic activity. Cross-laminated timber (CLT) was used as the material. This is also currently being used to construct the Sawa residential tower in Rotterdam, designed by Mei architects and planners. The 50-metre high building at the port features a stepped design all the way to the top, providing plenty of room for green spaces on the terraces of each storey and thus also supporting biodiversity. Concepts that work on a large scale also make sense on a small scale: The wooden workstation from Hello Wood Studios is a modular mini room that is quick to construct and enables flexible use. There is also rapid growth in new wood technologies outside of the big cities. Whether it’s the Stadttor Troisdorf project by Atelier Brückner, the passive house in the Franconian Lake District by Nouri-Schellinger, the house and studio in Mellau by Jürgen Haller Architekten or the multi-generation housing in Gümligen by Marazzi + Paul Architekten – wood is the vehicle of choice for the transition to a green, carbon-neutral future in all of these structures.


The ICONIC AWARDS: Innovative Architecture honour architectural highlights and make industry trends visible. In 2021, some outstanding examples of timber architecture were awarded:

Sensation in Strasbourg (France) by KOZ Architectes
Sensation in Strasbourg (France) by KOZ Architectes

Sawa in Rotterdam (Netherlands) by Mei architects and planners
Sawa in Rotterdam (Netherlands) by Mei architects and planners

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