Magazine
MAGAZIN
Wood with superpowers
#greenbuilding

Wood with superpowers

Architect and biologist Timothée Boitouzet has used nanotechnology to give wood an upgrade. The new material “Woodoo” is translucent, fire-resistant, weatherproof and up to five times stronger than normal wood.

After finishing his degree in architecture, it was clear to Timothée Boitouzet that today’s building materials cannot lead us into the future. Concrete and steel, for example, are responsible for a large proportion of worldwide carbon emissions. If we continue with the same methods, then the climate turnaround will prove impossible. The young Frenchman decided to take matters into his own hands. He studied for a master’s degree in material science at Harvard and began to develop a new building material. The result is called “Woodoo Augmented Wood”. This bio-based material is designed for building the cities of the future.

A patented process

It was easy for Boitouzet to calculate that a renewable building material will be needed to achieve such a turnaround. A forecast by the United Nations estimates that in less than 10 years three billion people will be looking for somewhere to live. This huge construction volume will be inconsistent with climate goals if the building industry continues as before. Boitouzet is convinced: “If the 19th was the century of steel, the 20th the century of concrete, then the 21st century is the era of wood in the building industry and construction technologies.”

Boitouzet wants to use his new supermaterial to build the carbon-neutral cities of tomorrow.

At the deep-tech startup Woodoo founded in 2016, Boitouzet has developed a nanotechnological process that lends wood new characteristics as a building material. “Wood is between 60% and 90% air,” the company founder explains. The lignins in the wood cell walls are responsible for creating rigidity. His patented process removes this biomolecule from the wood together with the air, and replaces it with a biobased polymer.

Up to five times stronger than wood

This retains the structure and grain of the wood, but the result is an entirely new material with its own characteristics. The most obvious of these is its translucency. Describing his product, the architect remarks that it is similar to looking through ice. It is also fire-resident, waterproof and three to five times stronger than the original material.

Timothée Boitouzet, Woodoo
The young Frenchman Timothée Boitouzet discovered the new wood material.

If the 19th was the century of steel, the 20th the century of concrete, then the 21st century is the era of wood in the building industry and construction technologies.

Timothée Boitouzet, architect and biologist

In other words, it is wood with superpowers. Boitouzet wants to use this new building material for the carbon-neutral cities of tomorrow. The architect is convinced that high-rises with up to 36 storeys can be built with the augmented wood. It may be some time before that happens, though. The Woodoo CEO is initially planning to launch his products on the market through the automobile industry. “Our first products will be dashboards and smart wood panelling. Like a touch-sensitive dashboard that becomes interactive.”

Decarbonization in their sights

Low-grade trees such as poplars, aspens and firs are used to manufacture his products. Boitouzet hopes this will reduce the demand for fine woods, which grow more slowly. It is a plan that certainly makes sense due to the huge increase in the price of wood. In line with closed-loop principles where no waste is generated, Woodoo is also working on turning the extracted lignins into biofuel.

Automobile instrument, Woodoo
Woodoo develops interactive wooden instruments for the automobile industry.
Touchscreen, Woodoo
The new wood material could revolutionize the world of touchscreens.

The eco-material developer has a mission that is no less ambitious: “We strive to change the world by enabling its transition to sustainable solutions, to win the fight for decarbonation and against climate change.”

As a result of his invention, in 2016 Boitouzet was named among the “Innovators under 35” by the MIT Technology Review and also a “Global Shaper” by the World Economic Forum.

Text: Gertraud Gerst
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Images: Woodoo

Other articles
that might interest you

A church that stores carbon
#architecture
A church that stores carbon

As the first church to be built in Copenhagen for 30 years, it may well become an icon. Ørestad Church is a sculptural timber construction designed by Henning Larsen. A kind of “Church 2.0”, it is also a modern community centre that reaches out to everybody regardless of their belief.

Wisdome shows pioneering expertise
#greenbuilding
Wisdome shows pioneering expertise

One of the world’s most spectacular timber engineering projects was recently completed in Sweden. Built for Stockholm’s Tekniska Museet, the Wisdome is a free-form structure using 20 kilometres of laminated veneer lumber. The design uses this kind of wood in an entirely new way.

Alpine lodges redeveloped
#hotel
Alpine lodges redeveloped

MoDus Architects have restructured a hotel complex that has decades of growth behind it. The external space created by a new layer of timber on the outside of the Icaro Hotel brings together the existing buildings to form a uniform whole. On the inside, guests encounter plenty of affectionate references to Alpine clichés.

Inspired design for heavenly wines
#architecture
Inspired design for heavenly wines

The fine wines from Château Angélus winery are now also produced in Libourne, France. Its new wine cellar designed by Eric Castagnotto looks like a church nave, which is probably no coincidence.

Glamping in hilltop chalets
#hotel
Glamping in hilltop chalets

A luxury campsite at the foot of Vorarlberg’s Rätikon mountain range has been enlarged, with the addition of ten timber tiny houses. These hilltop chalets are a reinterpretation of the Alpine hut, and their design has won several awards.

Timber construction by star architect
#hotel
Timber construction by star architect

The first five-storey hotel in mass timber design is located in Zillertal, Austria, created by celebrated Italian architect Matteo Thun. It is no coincidence that one of the leading players in structural timber construction is based only a stone’s throw away.

The transformer hotel
#hotel
The transformer hotel

VALO is the name of a complex on the outskirts of Helsinki that combines hotel accommodation with office facilities. With a dual use that is both efficient and viable, the beds are folded away during the day, making way for fold-out desks.

Timber showcase for Volvo
#greenbuilding
Timber showcase for Volvo

A special kind of discovery world is taking shape in Gothenburg, where Swedish vehicle manufacturer Volvo is using timber construction and nature to create its World of Volvo. The components and engineering for Henning Larsen’s design are being provided by Austrian firm Wiehag.

Wave of the future
#greenbuilding
Wave of the future

The Klimatorium in Lemvig, Denmark, devises strategies to counteract global climate change. Situated on the coast of Jutland, the building designed by architects 3XN has already achieved iconic status.

A bridge to the future
#greenbuilding
A bridge to the future

As Dusseldorf’s Theodor Heuss Bridge needs a complete overhaul, the team at RKW Architektur + put their heads together – and produced a spectacular new design. It is literally packed with potential.

Yes to Jess!
#city planning
Yes to Jess!

The town of Jessheim is getting an impressive new centre. Designed by Norwegian firm Mad arkitekter, it promises to combine sustainable urban development with attractive indoor and outdoor areas.

New life among the mushrooms
#architecture
New life among the mushrooms

Metropol Parasol has achieved a phenomenal rejuvenation of a neglected square in Seville. The iconic timber construction by J.MAYER.H architects is a prime example of successful intervention in public space.

Blueprint for forests in urban living
#city planning
Blueprint for forests in urban living

The Forestias is one of the largest property development projects in Thailand. The highlight of this project by Foster + Partners is a 48,000 m² urban forest designed by TK Studio.

Timber high-rise with guaranteed recycling
#greenbuilding
Timber high-rise with guaranteed recycling

The Kajstaden Tall Timber Building in Sweden marks the beginning of a new generation of mass timber blocks. Using this building material saves around 500 tonnes of CO₂, and it also facilitates deconstruction later on.

Now that’s rocket science
#greenbuilding
Now that’s rocket science

There’s a rocket preparing to launch in Switzerland. The residential timber high-rise named Rocket in Winterthur’s Lokstadt neighbourhood will reach a height of 100 metres. The tower’s residents will be part of the 2000-watt society.

It’s time for Carl
#greenbuilding
It’s time for Carl

May we introduce Carl? Using timber for its facade besides the supporting structure, the apartment block is currently under construction in Pforzheim. Architect Peter W. Schmidt explains how this is being done.

A school with the hygge factor
#greenbuilding
A school with the hygge factor

Kautokeino skole in northern Norway is a project that seeks to embrace the uniqueness of Sami culture and educational style. The mass wood building is so hygge, you’ll want to check in for a few nights.

Cabins in the Lyngen Alps
#architecture
Cabins in the Lyngen Alps

If you love the far north, you’ll love the Lyngen Alps. And if you love the Lyngen Alps, you’ll love the bungalows by architect Snorre Stinessen.

Superblock designed with mass timber
#city planning
Superblock designed with mass timber

Canada’s megaproject Waterfront Toronto includes a new district called Quayside, an all-electric and climate-neutral community. Its highlights are a two-acre urban forest and the residential Timber House by architect David Adjaye.

Where the future is radically car-free
#city planning
Where the future is radically car-free

The city of San Diego in Southern California has plans for a new district, one that will be entirely void of cars. Known as Neighborhood Next, it must be one of the most radical projects in the USA.

Climate neutral and affordable
#city planning
Climate neutral and affordable

The new urban quarter Zwhatt near Zurich is designed to enable climate-neutral living at affordable prices. One of its buildings is a 75-metre-high timber hybrid tower known as Redwood, whose facade generates solar power.

High-tech timber for Norwegian banking
#smart office
High-tech timber for Norwegian banking

Timber construction can be decidedly high-tech, as illustrated by the head office built for SR Bank in Stavanger, Norway. Bjergsted Financial Park offers workplaces that are fit for the future, and it is among Europe’s largest engineered timber buildings.

In harmony with nature
#greenbuilding
In harmony with nature

So, what does "Noom" actually mean? While Sanzpont [arquitectura] and Pedrajo + Pedrajo Arquitectos don't exactly reveal this, their "Living the Noom" concept is pretty clear: it’s all about a fresh take on housing. With environmental protection and quality of life as a top priority.

Hamburg sets a new benchmark
#greenbuilding
Hamburg sets a new benchmark

HafenCity Hamburg is an urban quarter fit for the future. Its eco cherry on the top is the “Null-Emissionshaus” (Zero Emissions Building), which is completely carbon-neutral – and can be dismantled like a Lego house.

The oblique cabins of Tungestølen
#hotel
The oblique cabins of Tungestølen

Snøhetta creates high-calibre architecture, including accommodation at high altitudes amidst Norway’s glaciers. The architects have enriched the Tungestølen mountain cabins with a special feeling of hygge.

Urban apartments off the peg
#greenbuilding
Urban apartments off the peg

Apple’s former design head BJ Siegel has developed a concept for a timber modular house. The urban prefab named Juno is designed for mass production – and hopes for success on the scale of the iPhone.

Village life in the city
#greenbuilding
Village life in the city

Communal vegetable patches, car sharing and a timber building that overtops many others. Sweden’s largest housing cooperative is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a project called Västerbroplan that shows how people will live in the future.

A superlative tree house
#greenbuilding
A superlative tree house

Bearing the name Tree House Rotterdam, Holland’s new landmark-to-be looks like a gigantic stack of wooden shelves with glass lofts added on top. It aims to take the sustainability of timber high-rises to a new level.

Co-housing 2.0
#living
Co-housing 2.0

Three tonnes of lettuce and vegetables annually will be farmed on top of the We-House, a timber construction project in Hamburg’s HafenCity. The on-site restaurant serves meals for residents of this sophisticated eco-house at cost price.

The parametric office
#smart office
The parametric office

The design for the urban office building Saint Denis in Paris shows the potential of parametric design in timber construction. Architect Arthur Mamou-Mani is a luminary in this new discipline, and we were able to meet him online.

Wood on London’s skyline
#greenbuilding
Wood on London’s skyline

Researchers at Cambridge University are helping to turn London’s spectacular vision of a wooden skyscraper into reality. The Oakwood Timber Tower is to rise 300 metres into the sky, almost level with the tallest building in the city.

Vertical allotments for urban farming
#city planning
Vertical allotments for urban farming

Self-sufficiency is no longer a dream reserved for downshifters. The modular building system named The Farmhouse designed by Studio Precht allows residents to grow food in big cities.

This site is registered on wpml.org as a development site. Switch to a production site key to remove this banner.