LCT ONE – the world’s first Lifecycle Tower

LCT ONE – the world’s first Lifecycle Tower

The world’s first timber-hybrid high-rise building is setting new standards for sustainability, resource efficiency and quality of life. Building automation specialists Beckhoff have played an important role in this respect.

There’s a good reason why the LifeCycle Tower (LCT) in Dornbirn bears the number one. It is the very first building of its type. The LCT ONE caused and is still causing quite a stir around the world and is setting new standards in every respect. “In future, we have to build for the way we want to live – healthier, greener, with a greater focus on conserving resources and energy efficiency”, says Hubert Rhomberg, CEO of Cree GmbH. Cree – the name is borrowed from the native Americans of the same name in recognition of how they live their lives in harmony with nature. Standing for Creative Resource & Energy Efficiency, the company seeks to use innovative strategies to provide impetus and generate ideas for better ways of working with nature. Its new approaches are designed to cut down on the resources and energy used in buildings throughout their lifecycle and in this way help to meet the challenges of climate change.

Sustainable development is vital

With its traditional building methods, the construction industry accounts for 30-40% of current resource and energy consumption and around 40% of waste and CO2 emissions. This makes the building industry one of the world’s biggest polluters. The scarcity of resources; the global trend towards urbanisation; the threat of global warming, which we are accelerating daily with our careless CO2 emissions; and imminent digitalisation, which is already making itself felt in the form of the Internet of Things (IoT), are all presenting our industry with a whole new set of challenges. The aim must be to use considerably fewer resources and significantly reduce CO2 emissions throughout the entire building lifecycle – from planning and design to construction, maintenance, use and re-use – while improving comfort, functionality and safety. Hubert Rhomberg explains why he has focused on this issue for many years: “We have to respond to these conditions, in view of the fact that three quarters of energy consumption is accounted for by cities and that the energy requirements of the construction industry are growing steadily. We clearly see the future of the construction and real estate industry as being in green building and the development of resource and energy-efficient concepts that look at the entire lifecycle of a building. It is vital to change how we use natural resources if we are to achieve sustainable development.” We have to rethink our current concept of “building”. Cree first addressed this topic more than ten years ago. It began by creating the LCT, a building system that combines two key components of a resource-saving, holistic building style: timber construction and modular construction.

Wood has so many advantages

Components made of wood can be processed with absolute precision and industrially prefabricated. Other key properties of wood are its good thermal insulation, high strength, excellent durability and fire resistance. Fire tests have shown that a layer of charcoal forms at temperatures above 200°C. By isolating the wood layers underneath, it has a lower risk of collapse than steel. This means that wood as a building material meets the very latest safety requirements. A further advantage is the low dead weight in relation to volume and the potential to reduce the total weight of the building by up to 50%. In the case of LifeCycle Tower ONE, the world’s first building constructed using the LCT system, this is one third lighter than a comparable reinforced concrete structure. Another important aspect is the fact that wood is available on every continent and the use of locally grown timber creates regional and national self-sufficiency in raw materials, which provides protection against high raw materials prices.

Aiming to maximise resource productivity

Cree’s LCT system is a standardised, universally applicable modular system. Compared to other timber construction projects, Cree uses a “top-down” approach where all components are planned in such a way that they can be adapted to the requirements and regulations of different countries when expanding the system across the globe. In addition, the LCT system components can be manufactured by local companies, offering opportunities for resident craftsmen and the regional timber industry. While other timber construction projects aim to use as much wood as possible, the goal of the LCT concept is to achieve the highest possible level of resource productivity. Although wood as a building material makes up most of the LifeCycle Tower system, it is only used where it makes sense. Therefore the right amount of wood is used to achieve optimum resource efficiency combined with appropriate functionality. One example is the hybrid ceilings, where, in addition to wood, reinforced concrete is also used to achieve optimum sound insulation and fire protection. “After close collaboration with various research institutes and authorities and thorough fire testing, the timber and reinforced concrete construction is now just how we hoped it would be. In future, we plan to continue pooling the expertise of a wide range of experts and involving more development partners in our projects”, says Hubert Rhomberg.

From office building to hotel, from hotel to apartment block – and back again

Every building has a specific purpose. But what happens when this purpose changes? Nothing in our world stands still. At Cree, that’s a good reason to rethink what we know about architecture and enrich it with an important concept: dynamic individuality. Up to now, most buildings have been static structures. But Cree’s dynamic building technology is changing the rules with its intelligent modular construction. The Cree system makes it possible for the building to be converted or dismantled, ensuring that a LifeCycle Tower can adapt to changing requirements over the course of its lifetime, including with regard to the necessary building management systems. More and more elements of our daily lives adapt flexibly to people’s specific needs and can be customised and expanded. Of course, compared to the digital world, it is not possible for a building to adapt to circumstances on a daily basis. But as a central element in our lives, it is important for architecture to offer greater flexibility moving forward. Or perhaps even now – the Cree system means that individual building units can be adapted to the changing needs of residents in terms of energy consumption, building management systems and security. The result is a completely new way of thinking about site planning and building design.

Ready for occupation in 6 months – from 0 to 100 metres

Cree’s modular construction method means that high-rise buildings up to 100 metres high and with as many as 30 storeys can be completed in just six months. Thanks to serial prefabrication, the patented component technology not only revolutionises the top-quality yet cost-effective construction itself, but also how we think about building sites. With the Cree system, the erection of every building produces much lower levels of dust and emissions on the site compared to conventional brick-by-brick layering.

Digitalisation and the Internet of Things

In the near future, billions of things will be connected to the internet – not just our wristwatches. Every lamp, every element of building management will be linked to the cloud. The devices will independently draw the energy that they need to function from their environment. We have to rethink our current concept of “building”. Digitalisation and the IoT will not stop with the construction industry. Components will be intelligent in their own right and redefine architecture in a new and different way. This is why it is important to decide what demands will be placed upon the building early on in the planning process. In future, a team of architects, urban planners, engineers and interior designers will be sitting around the cybernetic table. Then they will design and construct the customer’s smart building on the basis of BIM (building information modelling) without any coordination problems or delays. Systematic planning, flat cooperation structures, thinking in life cycles and connection to the Internet of Things will turn the building of the future into an intelligent, energy self-sufficient organism.

A built-in advantage – integrated building automation from Beckhoff

The demands on the intelligence of a building have steadily increased in recent years, with the focus on energy efficiency and an optimal return on investment. Intelligent automation that controls all the building’s systems supports the idea of sustainable, energy-efficient architecture and living. Beckhoff supplies building automation systems that network the different systems in a construction (such as heating, ventilation, lighting, entry systems, etc.) and makes it possible to record and analyse all the data in the building. In the LCT One Tower project, Beckhoff partner Stiwa installed an integrated building automation system that provides the following benefits:

  • Networking of all building management systems
  • Clear, user-friendly interface
  • Energy measurement and recording of main energy flows
  • Complete energy monitoring for all building technology

The overall building management system coordinates the following:

  • Lighting
  • Shading
  • Entry system
  • Overall concept and use of space
  • Ventilation
  • Heating
  • Energy management

Short interview with Hubert Rhomberg, CEO of Cree GmbH.

Mr Rhomberg, what defines the quality of a building? Quite simply, it’s timeless. In terms of technology, the property must be easy to keep up to date. It must promote and support wellbeing and, of course, be economical. For 10 years we have been saying that if you invest more you will save more later on. To be precise, if you invest more, you have bought more so you have more to maintain. The best materials, expert knowledge and the right technology – these three factors will be at the heart of future construction projects.

What tools are needed to create buildings that meet environmental criteria but are still economically viable? You just have to leave out the most expensive things. The most expensive thing in industry and among businesspeople has just 3 letters – ego. Once we set aside the ego, we automatically end up sharing knowledge and operating on open platforms. The projects take on a very different tempo and energy. The future will be about scaling ideas, sharing concepts and processes, working together.

How important is building quality in the real estate market? At the moment, customers don’t really know what they want. I think they will increasingly be looking for quality. However, there will also be a growing desire for natural, more sustainable solutions and building materials. Public awareness has really increased in this respect. With energy and resource efficiency, a massively reduced carbon footprint, construction times cut by almost 50%, low life cycle costs and state-of-the-art safety requirements, we have created a milestone with our Cree platform.