Buildings

Buildings

The lower third of the 2150 m² plot is flat, and after a short steep section, a larger area rises slightly. Despite of the higher specific costs, we decided to place the five apartments in two buildings, in accordance with the terrain conditions, because in this way we are able to attach a several hundred sq. meters garden area for exclusive use, to four apartments, well separated from each other. From the living room of the uppermost apartment (A3) opens a large, retracted terrace, on the south-facing side. Each building floor belongs to one apartment. There are no wall neighbors. In the building "B", located on the lower, flat area, above the ground-floor apartment, an internal two-story, four-bedroom, spacious family home (up to two generations, with some modifications) will be built, with large terraces overlooking the opposite wooded hillside and also towards the 400 m2 private garden. The lowest level of building "A" is the indoor garage, sunk into the hillside, where the storage rooms belonging to the apartments are also located. Car chargers assigned to the meter of the given apartment will be installed at the parking spaces. In the stairway, with natural sunlight, an 8-person elevator facilitates access to the upper floors.

Knowing that the construction industry and the operation of built infrastructure are responsible for a significant proportion of global carbon emissions, if an environmentally friendly, easily recyclable structural building material from a renewable source appears, which apparently enjoys explosive popularity, then we feel it is our duty to examine the possibility of use, assess the advantages and possible compromises compared to traditional construction methods.

CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) is an Austrian development. It appeared in the 90s and then spread worldwide. Its progression and rise to prominence in architecture has been unbroken ever since. Nowadays, in addition to more and more residential and public buildings, sports and industrial facilities, skyscrapers approaching hundred meters height are being built from CLT, taking advantage of its extremely favorable properties. Examples include the 24-story HoHo Tower in Vienna or the new building of British Columbia University, in Vancouver.

In Japan, CLT played a significant role in the recovery after the Fukushima earthquake, thanks to its exceptional resistance to seismic forces, in addition to the possibility of fast and precise construction. Due to the crossing of grain directions, the panels have a high degree of structural strength in all directions, preserving the natural flexibility of wood, compared to reinforced concrete or other traditional masonry elements. In Japan, the law now requires that all public buildings that do not exceed three floors must be built with wooden support structure.

When hearing about wood, the first aspects that come to mind are fire protection, the appearance of fungi and other pests, life expectancy, value stability, followed by aspects of personal comfort, acoustic and thermal properties, air quality, and the appearance of natural material in the interior living space.

After getting to know the technology thoroughly, it is clear that we would apply it to our latest building, even if it is abstracted from the environmental protection and sustainability aspects, because despite its many advantages, we do not see any disadvantages. 

Perhaps surprisingly for the first hearing, the certified fire resistance of the wooden support element is similar to, or better than, that of reinforced concrete and brick masonry. Depending on the size, it can be up to 120 minutes. Fire spreads slowly on the surface of the airtight panels, as a result of which a charred outer layer is created, which prevents further burning of the panel towards the other side by blocking the oxygen. This process can be calculated, so it is taken into account in the static calculation of the building. In addition, the use of a flame-retardant glaze coating, specially developed for CLT panels (which can be completely invisible or colored), providing a high degree of security on exposed walls. The internal surfaces covered with plasterboards, the A1 ("non-combustible") rockwool facade insulation - and the fire hydrant located in front of the building - represent additional serious protection against fire risk. It is important to mention that a reinforced concrete structure begins to melt and deform when reaching a certain temperature, after which the continuous structure can no longer be restored. CLT wall panels can be replaced, along with proper sustainment.

The other significant source of danger in a building’s case is a possible ingress of water into the structure, regardless of the type of masonry. Inadequate waterproofing causes a serious problem in a wooden building as well as in a reinforced concrete or brick building. There are plenty of examples in the world (e.g. Alpine ski lodges) showing that a well-constructed wooden building is in excellent condition even after hundreds of years of service, even without any type of coating or transversal gluing. We can state that the technical compliance and lifespan of a building depends much more on the professional construction than on the material of the structure. However, even in this case, it can be said that a possible problem can be identified much easier and repaired more efficiently on a CLT house, such as in the case of an air-celled brick or concrete element that becomes cracked and porous due to the freezing of incoming water. Also, just as in the case of our wooden furniture, inside doors, etc., the appearance of natural pests of wood can be excluded in a closed, dry environment.

The wood comes from nearby European forests. Strict regulations ensure that cut trees are replaced at an appropriate pace. The layers are attached to each other under pressure, using environmentally friendly glue. The preparation, based on the plans, is carried out with digital control (CNC), so that the elements arriving to the site are perfectly accurate in every detail and arranged in the order of installation. Unlike traditional masonry materials, no water is used for production, nor for the construction of the panels, furthermore no significant waste is generated. All parts of the processed wood are utilized. 

The small carbon footprint of the purchased apartment - compared to traditional construction - can mean a serious tax discount at a future sale, contributing to maintaining the property's value.

In the Central European region, it is typical that the wooden surfaces are not, or only at small parts left unexposed, The walls of the living rooms are mostly (..on request completely) homogeneous, light surfaces. Typically, we planned to leave the wooden panels uncovered on one wall of the living room and on some of the connecting walls.

Each apartment is cooled and heated by its own external air heat pump system, the outdoor units of which are located further from the apartments. The discounted consumption (tariff „H”) can be measured individually, on a separate electricity meter. In order to ensure efficient availability, hot water is produced by a central heat pump, which is connected to a 1000-liter storage tank. Water consumption is also measured individualy.

To ensure a pleasant feeling of warmth, indoor units are installed, typically above doorways, or in case of living rooms, recessed into the ceiling. They don't bother furnituring. Unlike air conditioners, they do not blow the air of desired temperature, but circulate it practically without sound, avoiding people in the room, thanks to the built-in presence sensors. Mitsubishi's residential products have already proven in several of our buildings that their extremely economical operation is unobtrusive, we only feel the desired temperature, evenly. Its significant advantage over surface cooling and heating is that it can quickly restore the temperature of the interior air space if the doors and windows are open, or if the apartment cools down or heats up for any reason, and also performs effective dehumidification beside draining the resulting drip water into the sewer system, sparing residents from dampness feeling in the summer heats.

Efficient air exchange and clean indoor air is ensured by an apartment central ventilation system, with separate inlets and outlets in each living units. Both the ventilation and the cooling-heating systems contain modern plasma filters, which completely filter out allergens, viruses and other harmful contaminants from the supplied, and from the other ways entered air. Operatring and maintenance of the devices is extremely simple.

The temperature of the cold floor coverings is ensured by an electric heating mat, the task of which – beside discreet consumption - is to keep the walking surface warm and not to heat the room. Electric, wall-mounted, towel drying radiators are placed in the bathrooms.

Every apartment has an outdoor water tap, sockets, and electrical outlet for operating shades or other devices (e.g. infrared terrace heating). The garden is watered by a central system, with a discounted tariff (without sewage charges).

Shutters of the bedroom windows provide the option of a complete blackout, while the partial or full shading of the living rooms and other rooms is ensured by aluminum lamella blinds, with electrical control in all cases. Some doors and windows are equipped with retractable insect net.

Remote access and management of the shading devices, car chargers, lights, cooling and heating, intercom and access system is solved through the apartment automation (smart home) system, which can be expanded with additional functions according to individual needs (e.g.: audio, solar panel control, mood and direction lights, etc.). Weather data is provided by the meteorological station located on the roof. Although the alarm functions of the apartment automation systems work reliably and safely, they do not have a MABISZ (Hungarian Insurance Companies Association) certification, so we build alarm system with GSM transmission, that operates integrated into the automation system.

The fence towards the public space is made of steel rods (like the balkony railings), with natural stone plinths and inlays. The trash cans storage is located away from the buildings, at an easily accessible but unobtrusive location. Driveway and sidewalks are made of flagstone elements for proper drainage, with discreet, automatic lighting.

We plan to hand over the apartments in the firs half of 2025.

 CLT panel
 CLT structure
 HoHo Tower

 

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