Kim Herforth Nielsen is the founder and creative director of trailblazing Danish architects 3xN. The Copenhagen firm is making a name for itself by building in wood – and building sustainably. Their most prestigious project to date, a new home for the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, opens in June. They are also building blue chip eco buildings in Sydney and Toronto and a new high school in Stuttgart. 3XN designed the new Copenhagen Royal Arena and Bella Sky Hotel in the Danish capital, the Danish Embassy in Berlin, the Museum of Liverpool and the Swedbank HQ in Stockholm.
Why is being green important to you?
“Considering that the building industry is currently responsible for around 30% of global waste and energy use, I believe architects have an obligation to come up with smarter and more sustainable ways of building in the future. And rather than just focusing on sustainability I believe we need a holistic approach also considering human needs and behavior.”
Tell us about the new home of the IOC you designed in Switzerland
“Olympic House, the new headquarters of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, is opening in June. This building will become one of the most sustainable office buildings in Switzerland targeting three sustainability certifications that are well recognized both internationally (the LEED Platinum standard) and nationally (the Minergie and SNBS standards). Olympic house is a prime example of how design and sustainability can complement each other. We used high ambitions for sustainability as a design driver to push the boundaries and create a building that is cutting edge on all parameters.”
Is wood a good alternative to other materials?
“Yes, it is a great material to work in and has several great assets. First of all, trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere rather than releasing it. For every dry tonne of timber produced, 1.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide is taken from the atmosphere. Timber is a renewable material. When a tree is felled a new one can grow in its place. Wood is breathable and can absorb and release moisture. It creates a naturally regulated indoor climate. Designwise timber creates a great warm ambience.”
Is wood good structurally as well?
“Timber is structurally the most efficient material by weight as it requires less resources to handle during the construction phase and the lighter material also requires less foundation. Timber construction only takes 2/3rds the construction time of traditional concrete buildings and requires only 1/6th of the transport.”
Tell us about the new Toronto project - the tallest wooden skyscraper in North America
“T3 Bayside will be the tallest timber office building in North America. The use of timber contributes to the sustainability of the building, both reducing construction time and allowing the building’s elements to be easily disassembled and re-used for other purposes.”
How CLT or Cross Laminated Timber works in buildings?
“The wooden structure in Toronto will be built in Cross Laminated Timber. CLT is a very strong and efficient building material with low environmental and climate impact during production. The materiality of timber defines the unique interior aesthetics and will also be reflected in the exterior of the building. Both the material and the shape of the wooden frame will ensure great acoustics. The use of wood, a breathable and absorbent material that allows the release of moisture, ensures a naturally regulated and healthy indoor environment and ambience.”
You are also designing some prestigious eco projects in Australia?
“In Sydney we have designed the new Sydney Fish Market where sustainability plays a huge part in the final design. Currently under construction also in Sydney is Quay Quarter Tower, where we are reusing 95% of the existing tower on the site and building a new 49 storey high rise around it. This has meant a substantial reduction of co2 emission while also saving time in construction of the new building.”
Words: Christopher Beanland
Header: Future Copenhagen Children Hospital (2024),3XN