Amsterdam is Going to Build a New District Out of Wood

Image Credit: iStock, SafakOguz

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When a lumberjack announces “TIMBER” it means watch out, because a tree is coming down. When the City of Amsterdam announces timber, it means that’s what it’s using to construct an entire neighborhood.

The Netherlands’ largest city confirmed this week that wood will serve as the building block for an entire new district.

All Wood in the Hood

Amsterdam is already a masterwork of human engineering. Through a vast network of dikes, pumps, sand dunes, and canals, the port city remains free of flooding despite existing two meters below sea level.

In 2020, the municipalities that make up Greater Amsterdam agreed to take the region’s engineering prowess a step further by pledging to use wood as the primary material for 20% of new construction by 2025. Builders will break ground on the new wood quarter — named Mandela Buurt after nearby Nelson Mandela Park — with environmental and social good at the forefront:

  • One 2020 study estimated the equivalent of 47% of the emissions from Europe’s concrete industry would be sequestered if 80% of construction on the continent used wood– a renewable resource that facilitates quicker construction times– as the primary material.
  • The Mandela Buurt will have ten new apartment blocks, a primary school, and offices for social services. Of 700 new apartments housing 2,100 people, 80% will be offered at below-market rent.

The Burning Question: While fires were a huge risk to wood buildings in the past, engineering and technology have caught up: structural timber more fire-resistant than even steel or concrete can now be built with a combination of modern chemical coatings and building techniques. The world’s largest wood building, a 280-foot tall multi-purpose building called Mjøstårnet in Brumunddal, Norway, is set to be usurped this summer by Ascent MKE, an $80 million, 284-feet tall condo in Milwaukee. We’ll take a pass on the penthouse.