First permanent building made of hardwood CLT opens in UK

This summer, Maggie’s Oldham, a cancer support centre, became the first permanent building made from hardwood CLT (cross-laminated timber), designed by architectural firm dRMM Architects.

Maggie’s Centres offer free practical and emotional support for people affected by cancer. Keeping this function in mind, dRMM designed the opposite of hospital architecture, using nearly exclusively wood for a warm character combined with a lot of natural light thanks to the many windows.

Maggie’s Oldham is the first permanent building constructed from hardwood CLT, made from sustainably sourced American tulipwood. The material was first pioneered by dRMM, American Hardwood Export Council and Arup for the 2013 London Design Festival with the project Endless Stair.

American tulipwood is the fourth most abundant timber in the U.S. hardwood forests, representing 7 per cent of the total growth. Tulipwood in particular is a fast growing timber and regenerates by natural reseeding and by re-growing from the stumps of harvested trees. According to the American Hardwood Export Council, “American tulipwood CLT is unparalleled in its strength, lightness, speed of construction and sustainability.”

The centre is constructed from 20 CLT panels. The slatted ceiling is made from wood left over from the CLT fabrication process, ensuring no waste.

Aside from hardwood CLT, Maggie’s Oldham is also the first building in the UK to be completely clad in thermally modified timber (TMT). TMT is wood that has been modified by heating it to more than 180 degrees Celsius (356 degrees Fahrenheit). This baking process crystalises the wood’s cambium, which in turn enhances the stability and durability, as well as reduces shrinking and swelling. The process changes the appearance of the wood, giving it deeper brown tones throughout.

The whole building is built on slender columns, floating above a garden. In the middle of the centre, a tree grows up through the building, bringing nature inside.

Watch a video about the project here.

Photos: Alex de Rijke / Jasmin Sohi / Tony Barwell
Drawings: dRMM Architects