A collaboration between AHEC, Waugh Thistleton Architects and Arup, with lighting design by SEAM. MultiPly challenges how we build our towns and cities, using sustainable American tulipwood and innovative methods of construction to confront two of the current age’s biggest challenges – the pressing need for housing and the urgency to fight climate change. Presented at the London Design Festival 2018, New London Architecture and as part of Interni's Human Spaces in Milan, it demonstrates how, through using engineered timber and modular construction, buildings can be deconstructed, reconfigured and repurposed at the end of their life.
The complete structure comprises 17 interconnecting modules, made from a total of 102 60mm and 100 mm thick x 2.6m long cross laminated timber panels (CLT) finger-jointed by Glenalmond Timber and fabricated at the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC).
Working with CSIC rather than an established continental CLT producer enabled Waugh Thistleton and Arup to have more control through each stage of the manufacturing process and refine the intricate design.
It's first location, at the remodelled Sackler Courtyard in London, is the roof to the subterranean gallery below and has no foundations adding a unique demand to the project. The lightweight property of tulipwood CLT lent itself perfectly to the space and meant Waugh Thistleton could go even scale the structure up to 9 metres tall.
Carolina Bartram, Project Director, Arup commented, “The seemingly simple series of stacked boxes are a complex engineering challenge, made more interesting by the fact the sculpture sits on the newly completed, elegant Sackler Courtyard at the V&A. It is a privilege that as engineers for the Sackler Courtyard, we are also contributing engineering designs for MultiPly.”
Highlighting the potential for the speed of construction of the modules was paramount. All of the joints have been digitally manufactured by Stage One with great precision and, to make the design even more streamlined, there are only two steel construction details. These clever design details means the structure can be assembled in under a week.
It's flexible design meant that following the London Design Festival, six of the original modules were relocated to a temporary home in South Crescent on London’s Store Street as part of a collaboration with New London Architecture.
A set of benches and tables, made with thermally-modified American tulipwood were also placed around the pavilion. This timber has been modified by controlled heating, effectively crystallising the wood’s cambium and providing enhanced stability and durability. The process changes the appearance of the tulipwood, giving it deeper brown tones throughout and making it suitable for external applications.
It's third location see's the pavilion travelling across the sea to Milan for Inerni magazine's Human Spaces, as part of Milan Design Week. Its new inception in Italy shows how easily it can be reconfigured to meet the users’ needs.
“Bringing MultiPly to Milan in a new configuration brought with it new challenges,” says Simon Bateman, Structural Engineer at ARUP. “We were building higher than we did in London, from a narrower base, and on a windier site: this meant that the first priority was checking that the structure would stay stable in the wind. We then had to thoroughly review the fixings between the boxes for the new configuration, and add new ones where necessary, which was relatively straightforward due to the modular form. "
MultiPly is carbon neutral. Carbon emissions of 68 metric tonnes (MT) CO2 eq. are offset by 38 MT CO2 eq. due to burning of wood offcuts produced during manufacturing (which substitute for fossil fuel) and 30 MT CO2 eq. of carbon stored in the wood in the finished installation.
Tulipwood, which makes up nearly 98% of the mass of Multiply, is one of the most abundant American hardwoods with forest volume of over 1000 million m3, 7% of the total U.S. hardwood resource.
Tulipwood is under-utilised from a forestry perspective. The creation of larger markets for this timber would reduce pressure on other less abundant commercial hardwood species and enhance financial returns from sustainable management of diverse semi-natural forests.
The volume of tulipwood standing in U.S. hardwood forests expands by 19 million m3 every year. It takes only 5 minutes for the 320 cubic meters of tulipwood logs harvested to manufacture MultiPly to be replaced by new growth in the U.S. forest.
MultiPly demonstrates the technical and environmental potential of a new construction product - hardwood CLT. This potential, and the message MultiPly sends out, may be more relevant than the immediate - and more readily quantifiable - environmental impact of MultiPly at the times and places it is on display.
Equally significant is that MultiPly is fully demountable and can be flat-packed into its component kit of parts and put back together in several different configurations. Long life in use significantly mitigates the environmental effects of the design. Less regular replacement means less repetition of impacts. Long-lived wood products also supplement the carbon store in the forest and help to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere.
The use of tulipwood, largely untarnished by mixing with other materials and chemicals, ensures that at the end of MultiPly’s life, the panels are readily reusable and recyclable and any components needing to be disposed of are biodegradable and non-toxic. They may also be safely incinerated, providing a carbon-neutral source of energy
On the 1st February this year, MultiPly opens to the public in Madrid Rio at its entrance to the Casa de Campo, as part of the Madrid Design Festival 2020, where it will remain for two weeks.
Saturday 1 February - Saturday 15 February 2020
Madrid Rio, entrance to Casa de Campo.
MultiPly opens to the public in the courtyard of the Universita Degli Studi di Milano (University of Milan) on 8 April, and it will remain there until 19 April as part of the curated Interni Human Spaces exhibition for Milan Design Week (Fuorisalone).
Visit MultiPly at:
Università degli Studi di Milano
Address: Via Festa del Perdono 7
Monday 8th to Sunday 14th April, 10am – 12pm
Monday 15th to Friday 19th April, 10am – 10pm
As part of the New London Architecture's housing programme, MultiPly will be reconfigured and displayed at the Building Centre in London. The exhibition coincides with the NLA's focus on factory-made housing and what opportunities it could present for the future of housing in London.
Hear from designers Waugh Thistleton Architects and the American Hardwood Export Council in this lunchtime tour of the installation. Gain insight into the innovative material, cross-laminated timber (CLT) made from sustainable American tulipwood and learn about the flexible system.
This is a free event.
For more information click here.
As part of the Exhibition Road Day of Design, Waugh Thistleton Architects will run a workshop outside the V&A’s Sackler Courtyard to give young, aspiring architects a chance to recreate MultiPly, on a smaller scale.
Sunday 23 September (10.00 - 17.00)
Join AHEC in a discussion with Waugh Thistleton Architects and Arup to talk about how MultiPly relates to the wider construction industry and what part CLT will play in the construction revolution.
Featuring: Ben Evans, London Design Festival, Andrew Waugh, Waugh Thistleton Architects, Andrew Lawrence, ARUP and David Venables, American Hardwood Export Council.
Monday 17 September (10.00 - 12.00)
A unique partnership of business, academia and applied research came together to make the tulipwood cross laminated timber panels (CLT) for MultiPly. Glenalmond Timber, Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) and Edinburgh Napier University’s Centre for Offsite Construction + Innovative Structures (COCIS) all made key contributions. They all also agreed that the project held lessons for the future of wood-based building and specifically use of hardwood in engineered timber construction.
First in the production chain was Glenalmond – the Perthshire-based timber supplier. On receipt of three containers of tulipwood from the U.S. mills, which included some ‘prime’ timber, but was mostly lower ‘2 and 3 commons’ grade, Glenalmond put it all through TH1 visual grading. It was then sawed it into two standard widths to maximise yield and ensure consistent arrangement of the material in the CLT lamellae. Widths were then all cut and finger jointed to lengths specified by project architects Waugh Thistleton and engineers Arup.
“Planing revealed its extraordinary colour variation and the extremely fine finish possible. Tests of the finger-jointed material in our laboratory also highlighted its strength. Some withstood over 100N/mm2, which is impressive.” – Fraser Steele, Glenalmond
Next CSIC came into the MultiPly picture due to its timber-based construction expertise and also as the only facility in the UK with an industrial scale CLT vacuum press. CSIC works with all types of construction materials and approaches. CSIC’s brief was firstly to make the finger-jointed, planed lamellas from Glenalmond into panels for testing at Edinburgh Napier University, then the core 101 CLT panels, split approximately 50/50 between three-ply 60mm and five-ply 100mm thicknesses, for the MultiPly pavilion itself, and lastly, an additional nine panels, 4 of which were fabricated using ultra-durable, moisture resistant thermally-modified tulipwood.
The role of COCIS in the project was to undertake exhaustive performance testing of the timber and finished panels. Professor Robert Hairstans, head of COCIS, agrees that MultiPly could open up new horizons for CLT, and not just in the UK.
“Our core theme will be the possibilities for integrating tulipwood into CLT production and the nature of the end product; one with a high strength to weight ratio and pleasing aesthetics, so with good engineering and architectural credentials.” – Robert Hairstans, Napier University.
The panels and modules had to be of a scale that they could be carried on trollies through the main entrance archway, with just a small crane used to lift them into place. The components and panel joints also had to be made ultra-precisely so that assembly, using just steel connectors and a hand ratchet, would be fast and accurate. In fact, contractor Stage One first assembled and disassembled the structure in their factory to make sure everything fitted – effectively it’s the first prefabricated engineered hardwood flatpack building.
For all parties involved, they all agreed that MultiPly has been valuable to involve future construction market shapers in an area of such innovation and development potential.This has shown that tulipwood CLT can be a real precision product, with panels capable of being CNC machined to tolerances of +/- 1mm.
“Until AHEC approached us, all our work had largely utilised home-grown or imported softwood. In fact this has been the first time large-scale hardwood CLT panels have been made in the UK, where actually there’s no-one yet manufacturing CLT in any volume at all. The high profile of MultiPly, on display in such a prestige venue as the V&A, could also add to momentum for the start of commercial CLT manufacture in the UK. We believe it can only be a matter of time.”– Mark Milne, CSIC.
During the day, the American tulipwood installation promises to be fun and playful. The labyrinthine spaces lead visitors through a series of stairs, corridors and open spaces, inviting them to explore the potential of wood in architecture. In the evenings, with subtle lighting, the pavilion becomes a quiet and contemplative space, allowing visitors to reflect on the beauty of its natural material.
For AHEC, the structure underlines the potential for tulipwood CLT in the construction industry and its legacy could also add to the development of a larger scale engineered hardwood manufacturing sector in the U.S. itself.
“The main ambition of this project is to publicly debate how environmental challenges can be addressed through innovative, affordable construction,” says Andrew Waugh, co-founder of Waugh Thistleton Architects, a studio that has been at the forefront of engineered timber construction for decades. “We are at a crisis point in terms of CO2 emissions and we believe that building in a versatile, sustainable material, such as tulipwood, is an important way of addressing this issue.”
For over 20 years the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) has been at the forefront of wood promotion in Europe, successfully building a distinctive and creative brand for U.S. hardwoods. AHEC’s support for creative design projects such as The Wish List, Endless Stair and The Smile, for the London Design Festival demonstrate the performance potential of these sustainable materials and provide valuable inspiration.
AHEC pioneered the environmental impact assessment (EIA), an approach that has since been adopted by other industries. This measures a number of impacts: primary energy demand (from renewable and non-renewable resources); global warming potential; acidification potential; eutrophication potential; and, photochemical ozone creation potential.
Waugh Thistleton is a research-oriented practice dedicated to designing buildings and places of the highest architectural quality that also acknowledge their impact on the environment. The studio practices sustainability in the widest sense of the word, focusing not solely on energy in use, but on embodied energy and longevity. The team believes passionately that sustainability and world-class design solutions should be one and the same thing.
Its holistic approach is based on the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle. Striving at every point to produce innovative and imaginative design solutions that harness leading technologies, the quality of its buildings and its commitment to the use of timber construction has earned them an international reputation in environmentally sustainable architecture and design.
Arup is the creative force at the heart of many of the world’s most prominent projects in the built environment and across industry. With over 80 offices in 35 countries Arup has more than 13,000 planners, designers, engineers and consultants delivering innovative projects across the world with creativity and passion.
Lighting design goes beyond the distinction between functional lighting and ornamentation; it is about shaping human perception itself, creating atmosphere and defining focus to unlock hidden qualities in architecture and expand its possibilities. From their London-based studio and their outpost in Bangkok, SEAM Design provides independent architectural lighting design services to clients, architects and other design consultants located around the world. Supporting this diverse global portfolio is their experienced team of designers, whose professional and academic backgrounds touch all aspects of design, going beyond core competence via exceptional interests in experimentation, emergent design and technologies. SEAM has been a supporter to The London Design Festival and annual design partner to LDF's talented artists and architects since 2011.
INTERNI is the leading Italian magazine for interiors and contemporary design, reporting on innovative trends and the modern culture of living for an international audience. Human Spaces is the title of the much-anticipated exhibition-event conceived by the Mondadori Group magazine, edited by Gilda Bojardi, that will take place during the FuoriSalone, from 8 to 19 April, in the courtyards of the University of Milan, at the Orto Botanico di Brera and at the Arco della Pace. INTERNI asked leading protagonists of Italian design, as well as international designers and architects to address the issue of Human Spaces, in collaboration with companies, multinationals, start-ups and institutions. The result is an extraordinary collection of installations and design islands, micro-architecture and macro-objects, all site-specific, that interpret the places, landscapes contexts and, by extension, media and objects that place at the centre of their vision the wellbeing of people.
Stage One are a creative construction and manufacture company working within the architecture, theatre and events industries. Collaborating with some of the world’s most creative minds, they have constructed each of the Serpentine pavilions since 2009; worked with RSH+P on a Prouvé House; manufactured complex façade panels for Zaha Hadid’s Chanel pavilion; and built Thomas Heatherwick’s iconic London 2012 Olympic cauldron. they combine innovative design, engineering and technology to deliver astonishing impact on a global platform.
The London Design Festival is a key constituent of London’s autumn creative season, alongside London Fashion Week, Frieze Art Fair and the London Film Festival. Established in 2003 its role is to celebrate and promote London as the world’s design capital and gateway to the international design community and it has now established a reputation as one of the largest and most exciting design events in the world. This year the Festival will run from 15-23 September and over 400 events and installations will be on offer across the capital, from an exciting programme at the V&A to plus over 300 partners who will participate in the nine-day Festival.
Glenalmond Timber Company is a third generation family run business with over 90 years of experience; employing a team of professionals, highly experienced across all disciplines within the timber industry. Their Methven factory houses the latest finger jointing technology, CNC detailing and moulding lines. They can engineer and detail large section glulam and CLT projects, modular building components, feature trusses and bespoke prototyping. They also operate a quay and distribution facility on Perth harbour with the largest low-pressure treatment facility in the UK where their in-house stevedoring team can accommodate vessels of over 4000m3.
CSIC supports Scotland’s construction related businesses to innovate, collaborate and grow by matching innovation requirements with business support and academic specialists. Focusing on Business, Product, Process and Service forms of innovation, CSIC offers advice, funding, facilitation and access to the appropriate expertise, improving Scotland’s global competitiveness and growing economic impact. CSIC facilitates collaboration with Scottish businesses, academia (through 13 partner universities) and public sector organisations, enabling businesses to benefit from Scotland’s world-renowned skills, expertise and fair approach to business in areas such as Infrastructure Delivery, Offsite Construction, Low Carbon Solutions, Architecture and Retrofit.
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is the world’s leading museum of art and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity. The Museum holds many of the UK's national collections and houses some of the greatest resources for the study of architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, Asian art and design, theatre and performance.
Established in 1972, Atrium is the UK’s largest independent lighting specialist. With a reputation for enhancing clients’ projects through the skilful application of artificial light, they add value through outstanding service, support and a unique portfolio of products enabling them to create complete and diverse lighting solutions across different market sectors including retail, commercial, hospitality, residential and public buildings.
Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is an engineered timber that can be used to build walls and floors making up the structure of entire buildings. It has a layered construction with the wooden planks turned at right angles in each successive layer, creating a panel with equal strength in both directions, similar to plywood. Weight for weight, CLT is stronger than steel and concrete and can be machined to incredibly high tolerances. This makes it ideal for prefabrication and rapid assembly, reducing construction times by around 30%.
CLT is usually made of a softwood trees. Together with Arup, AHEC has started a process of experimenting with CLT made from fast-grown North American tulipwood. The planks will be imported from the USA but the panels themselves will be manufactured in the UK’s own fledging CLT factory in Scotland. Testing has shown that the tulipwood is considerably stronger than spruce; it also has a superior appearance.
American tulipwood is one of the most prolific hardwood species from the U.S. hardwood forests and is unique to North America. Tulipwood trees grow exclusively in North America and are widely distributed throughout most of the eastern United States in mixed hardwood forests. It is a single species and is not a poplar (Populus) being a Magnoliacae producing wood that is superior to the many poplar species. The trees are huge and identified by their tulip-like flowers giving rise to the name. FIA data shows U.S. tulipwood growing stock is 1.02 billion m3, 7.7% of total U.S. hardwood growing stock. American tulipwood is growing 32.5 million m3 per year while the harvest is 12.8 million m3 per year. The net volume (after harvest) is increasing 19.7 million m3 each year. U.S. tulipwood growth exceeds harvest in all states.
Thermally modified timber is wood that has been heated in a controlled setting to 180oC. This baking process effectively crystallises the wood’s cambium which in turn provides enhanced stability and durability and reduces shrinking and swelling over time. The process changes the appearance of the wood, giving it deeper brown tones throughout. Thermo treating significantly increases timber’s water resistance and is already proven in hardwood cladding. But this the first time it has been incorporated as a protective layer in cross-laminated timber.
“The main ambition of this project is to publicly debate how environmental challenges can be addressed through innovative, affordable construction. We are at a crisis point in terms of both housing and CO2 emissions and we believe that building in a versatile, sustainable material such as tulipwood is an important way of addressing these issues.” Andrew Waugh, co-founder of Waugh Thistleton.
AHEC have been involved in a series of structural timber projects for London Design Festival; Timber Wave, Endless Stair and The Smile, each an experiment to further our knowledge of the structural potential of timber. Following on from The Smile, AHEC wanted to delve further into the cost efficiency and market potential for tulipwood CLT and, combined with the rising movement of pre-fabricated and modular housing, linking the two together felt like a natural progression.
Waugh Thistleton Architects have been pioneering innovative uses of wood in construction for decades. MultiPly seeks to explore a new, more sustainable way of building, bringing together a readily available carbon-negative material – American tulipwood – with modular design.
Andrew Waugh, together with his partner Anthony Thistleton, first started designing in CLT in 2003 and since then have gone on to complete 20 CLT projects. The level of precision that was achieved using CLT, as well as less construction time, reduced building site noise and the huge environmental benefits, became very exciting to them. Up until now, they have only build with softwood but following the opening of the Maggie’s Centre in Oldham in 2017 – the first tulipwood CLT building in the world – they were keen to explore the potential of hardwoods in construction.
Structurally tulipwood has a phenomenal strength to weight ratio compared to other timbers meaning you can do a lot more with a lot less. Although not intended to compete with the softwood CLT industry, there’s no reason why engineered hardwood could not also be a significant industry accounting for the increasing global pressure to build sustainably.