And finally… Plans for world’s tallest wooden skyscraper

A wooden skyscraper that Austrian architects say will be the tallest of its kind in the world is to be built in Vienna next year– but the city’s fire brigade has concerns.

The 84-metre (276ft) HoHo project in the Seestadt Aspern area, one of Europe’s largest urban development sites, will house a hotel, apartments, restaurant, wellness centre and offices, and is expected to cost about €60m (£44m).

Project developer Caroline Palfy, of Kerbler, which is behind the building, said the firm chose wood because of its environmental benefits.

“I think it is important everyone now in 2014 thinks in different ways. We have wood, which is a perfect construction material for building,” she told the Guardian. “It was used 200 years ago and it was perfect then and is perfect now.”

With 76 per cent of the building expected to be made from wood, architects say it will save 2,800 tonnes of CO2 emissions when compared with a similar concrete structure, the equivalent of driving a car 25 miles every day for 1,300 years.

Compared with wood, which absorbs CO2 from the air while a tree is growing, the production of concrete causes high levels of carbon emissions.

The Vienna fire service has concerns about the wooden structure, however, and is working with the architects to test their plans.

“The main factor is that everyone wants to build higher and higher buildings. An 84-metre-high building in Europe is not usual and there are a lot of necessities that have to be realised,” said fire service spokesman Christian Wegner. “A few of us were upset because it was crazy to present an idea like this that has not been discussed with everyone yet.

“They have to carry out special tests on the correct combination of concrete and wood. We also want to develop a more fail-safe sprinkler system. I expect they will pass the tests but if they develop the building as they say they will, it will be a serious project.”

Other high-rise buildings in Vienna have attracted concerns from politicians, who have described their height as “exorbitant” and complained they were not being filled.

But Katrina Riedl, spokeswoman for the ÖVP, the Austrian People’s party, defended the latest project. “Vienna is not a skyscraper city but innovation is part of our city and why not try new things,” she said.

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