Carbon-neutral Woodcube apartment block made almost entirely from wood


August 23, 2013

Woodcube is on display at IBA Hamburg until November (Photo: IBA Hamburg)

Woodcube is on display at IBA Hamburg until November (Photo: IBA Hamburg)

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As we've previously reported, the use of wood as a building material for larger structures is gaining steam throughout the construction industry. In honor of this year's IBA Hamburg architecture festival, German architectural firm Architekturagentur has created Woodcube: a 5-story carbon-neutral apartment block constructed almost entirely from wood.

The vast majority of the building is wood, excepting necessary fixtures, along with the foundations and elevator shaft. However, no glue nor treatment of any kind was used on the wood during the construction of Woodcube, and the architects instead turned to simple wooden dowels in order to join the necessary pieces together.

Woodcube has a total floor area of 1,479 sq m (16,000 sq ft), and contains eight residential units, themselves measuring between 90 to 190 sq m (968 to 2,045 sq ft). The building's 32 cm (12.5 inch)-thick outer walls offer excellent natural insulation.

An efficient ventilation system based on a heat exchanger can be controlled via iPad, and the elevator is fitted with a brake energy recovery system, cutting down on its energy consumption by an estimated 60 percent. Woodcube also sports solar panels to produce all the electricity required for the building's systems.

The construction of Woodcube began last November and was completed this April. The structure will be on display at IBA Hamburg until November, as part of the festival's Smart Material Houses exhibit.

Sources: IBA Hamburg, Woodcube [German Translation] via Inhabitat

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

If this was created using recycled wood that would be great. However, the building appears to use a lot of wood which results in more deforestation. Did they plant trees to help offset the natural resources used?

Nick Aspinwall
This is a termites wet dream. Jim Sadler

Wood as a building material, that's revolutionary! I'm so glad maybe now I can stop living in this dark dirty cave. What will they think of next maybe something round that helps move things? Maybe something hot that gives off light? Wait a minute what am I doing humans surely could not have developed a written language before building homes with words so... gfsdhjil aeuifhlzscvmbjhio sadikjdfgzl fgaop apui9grf

Jon Smith

Looking forward to seeing all wood structures reach 30 stories and more. Nothing beats wood, natures material!


What percent of wood versus standard or traditional building materials, such as gyproc, plaster, paint.

What is the expected life span? No mention of surface finishes, fire retardants, or treaments of any kind?

What is wrong with using nails and screws, vesus wooden dowels.

How long does it take versus other contruction styles?

Still a lot of metal framing required for the glazing, elevator shafts in concrete, etc.

Bob Flint

You can get away with being carbon neutral building a block or two but if the idea catches on, how many more can you build before it becomes carbon negative as I doubt you can plant enough to keep pace.

Won't protecting the wood from termites and fire neutralize any cost savings? Maybe, it for wood lovers only.


How is building with wood green????? Cement last a long time, can be made by burning waste and steel can be made by electricity generated by nuclear power plants.


In the long run I think concrete would use less carbon assuming the building lasts that long.

@ Nick Aspinwall Deforestation is mostly caused by subsistence farming. The people who own the land the harvested trees was on usually replant behind them.


Makes me think Great fire of London...

Sam Sams

Wood is carbon fibre, so where exactly does carbon become neutral? Underground carbon in the form of petrified oil will mutate sooner or later according to natural process. It will enter the atmosphere whether we burn it or let it rot...same as wood.

Current priests offer prayers to stop the sky falling... backed up with earth money...yet the sky obeys natural process regardless of prayers nor supplications.


Genius NOT! What happens when one is built during a period of high humidity, turned over to tenants, who (naturally) like using heaters and dehumidifiers so all the little dowels get loose? At the first high wind session the thing would shake to pieces. Or does the 'super' go round once a week tapping them all tight again? Besides, many building fires get started by vandals / idiots lighting fires in dumpsters - stored downstairs - so up she goes!

The Skud


"Wood is carbon fibre, so where exactly does carbon become neutral?"

Where do you think the carbon in wood comes from? Perhaps you need a quick primer on the natural short term carbon cycle.

As long as the trees are replanted use of timber for construction is at least carbon neutral. If selectively logged old trees from well managed forests are used it can be carbon negative. It certainly beats concrete which even with slightly greener modern versions using industrial waste like fly ash, it still is one of the major sources of CO2 we have today.


That one's a piker.

Try doing a search for "murray grove waugh thistleton" and read some of the stuff on the Stadthaus. The eight storey building was built in 29 days actual time onsite by just four men with a traveling crane. (Actually just the top seven storeys, and excluding fit-out.)

The walls are afoot thick with a two inch layer of insulation down the center. It's not a wood frame building.


Are all the wall planks attached with wooden dowels? Also the words 'fire' and 'risk' spring to mind. Has the wood had any rot- proofing treatment? After a short period of time, the outside of this building will look grey as the timber weathers (strangely enough, to the colour of concrete) As the building is only four stories tall, you would think they could actually do away with the lift, and all its complicated metal machinery. A nice wooden staircase would be quite sufficient. I have to say I'm getting very bored with this carbon saving mentality.


Nickname of a cube shaped building made almost entirely of wood: Tinderbox.

Victor Engel

The fires we are having now are the result of the art majors who want to preserve the forests at all costs from logging. This done for a century or so will produce old growth with no wildlife. All of the CO2 needed to produce the forests will now be released by the fires so that the cycle can repeat. The greenies can not see the benefit of using the wood for building houses etc. They fantasize that the forests will last forever. Volcanoes produce more CO2 than any other source which is fortunate for humans because we need lots of CO2 for the plant animal cycle. The carbon tax is not for saving the planet it is for growing larger government. This short paragraph contains all the info necessary for anyone fooled by the "carbon scare" to regain sanity. It will have to be read objectively, however, with no dismissal.


Why is nobody counting all the glue in the construction materials? Tons of glue is used in OSB, plywood, laminated beams. Unless the lumber (and it's not really lumber, it's manufactured building materials) comes from recycled shipping pallets or similar, it's hardly carbon neutral. All that stuff is generally made from green trees (I mean green as in freshly logged).

Ele Truk



@ Greatbasin

Dismissal is the very best you can expect when you post nonsense like this;

"Volcanoes produce more CO2 than any other source which is fortunate for humans"

Humans produce more than 100 times the CO2 from all of the world's volcanoes combined each and every year.

And you need at least a brief primer on the natural carbon cycle if you think we need either to maintain CO2 in the atmosphere.

Also, have you ever even seen an old growth forest? "No wildlife" is the complete opposite of what you will find. As I said above, selective logging of well managed forests is the key.




There is no shortage of episodic technophilia in this article's comments. If you are not a subject matter expert, as the architects and engineers who built this are, please save your (incorrect) anecdotes.

Steve Knaub
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