AHEC collaborates with Waugh Thistleton & Arup to re-think the way we build our cities

AHEC collaborates with Waugh Thistleton & Arup to re-think the way we build our cities

As part of this year's London Design Festival, AHEC, Waugh Thistleton and Arup present MultiPly - an interactive, modular maze made from tulipwood CLT. The installation confronts two of the current age’s biggest challenges – the pressing need for housing and the urgency to fight climate change and presents the fusion of modular systems and sustainable construction materials as a solution. 

Vision

MultiPly confronts two of the current age’s biggest challenges – the pressing need for housing and the urgency to fight climate change and presents the fusion of modular systems and sustainable construction materials as a solution. 

“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. The three-dimensional structure will be built out of a flexible system, made of 17 modules of American tulipwood cross-laminated timber (CLT) with digitally fabricated joints. Like a piece of flat-packed furniture, it will arrive as a kit of parts and will be simply and quietly assembled in under a week. Because it is built out of modules, the pavilion can be taken apart and reassembled in a new home after the London Design Festival. During the day, the 9-metre high American tulipwood installation promises to be fun and playful. The labyrinthine spaces will 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 will become a quiet and contemplative space, allowing visitors to reflect on the beauty of its natural material.

“Waugh Thistleton Architects has been pioneering innovative uses of wood in construction for decades. MultiPly explores a new, more sustainable way of building, bringing together a readily available carbon-negative material – American tulipwood – with modular design. AHEC has worked with many great architects – David Adjaye, Amanda Levete, Alex de Rijke, Alison Brooks, and now Waugh Thistleton – to demonstrate the structural, aesthetic and environmental properties of American tulipwood CLT.” David Venables, AHEC's European Director.

Materials

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.