05 London Design Festival – Could this building save the planet and solve the world’s housing crisis?

By Tara Crean, Writer and Media Consultant










Many people won’t be aware that the building and construction industry is responsible for more than a third of global energy consumption.

Team that staggering statistic with the fact that we have an ever-more pressing need for housing all over the world, and climate change is an issue that isn’t going to go away on its own, and you’ve got a big problem.

It’s a dilemma that Shoreditch-based architect firm Waugh Thistleton has set out to address with its ingenious and innovative project, MultiPly, which is being showcased in the Sackler Courtyard at the Victoria & Albert Museum as part of the London Design Festival until 1st October.

MultiPly, a nine-metre tall pavilion, aims to show how cross-laminated timber (CLT) could address the housing crisis in an affordable and practical way, and remove climate-damaging greenhouse gases from the atmosphere at the same time.

Created with sustainable American tulip wood, MultiPly is a super-durable maze-like structure of interconnecting cubes. The whole structure can be flat-packed, moved and reassembled with ease, and emissions released during processing, transportation and installation are offset by the carbon that the CLT absorbs from the atmosphere. Plus, growing the trees in the first place has a positive impact.

The exhibition gives V&A visitors an opportunity to experience what life might be like in a structure like this. It showcases the beauty of the material and invites you to explore the potential of wood in architecture. You’re led a merry dance along corridors and up and down stairs, moving from room to room taking in the space and light. The potential uses are myriad. Affordable housing, disaster relief, self-build projects…

Waugh Thistleton, well-known within the industry as an advocate of sustainable timber building, has been producing thoughtful projects in its own East London neighbourhood and beyond since university pals Andrew Waugh and Anthony Thistleton founded the practice in 1997. Now the company is regarded as a world leader in engineered timber and pioneer in the field of tall timber buildings. MultiPly is a great opportunity to see up close the amazing advances that are being made in this sector.

Ultimately, the argument for increasing the use of sustainable CLT in construction, together with a focus on affordability, modularity and efficiency, is hard to dispute.

Share This