Credit: Toyo Ito & Associates Architects

Brown is the new green

31 March 2020 

The architectural vision for Asia’s largest wooden building is taking shape in Singapore.

By 2021, Singapore will have a new supershed that also holds the title of Asia’s largest wooden building. Academic Building South in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will be a six-storey, 40,000-sqm base for its globally-recognised business school.

The design for Academic Building South serves to advance NTU’s aspiration to become the greenest university campus in the world. With 95% of its campus buildings already certified ‘Green Mark Platinum’ by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority, the idea of creating a school entirely out of mass-engineered timber (MET) was conceived. RSP is the project architect, in association with Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects, for this new development.

From a design perspective, timber adds organic warmth to a space, which helps create a conducive learning environment. MET, in particular, combines liveability with sustainability as the material is drawn from renewable forests and prefabricated for installation on-site. This method is greener as the dust, debris and noise that is typically generated during construction is contained within the prefabrication factory. On site, manpower needs are also reduced.

Credit: Toyo Ito & Associates Architects

Architecturally, the building is designed with short-span corridors branching into long-span lecture theatres. This allows the use of shallower beam depths for short spans, which has the dual benefit of creating more space below and ensuring that the building stays within its height restrictions.

Also, as the design calls for fully exposed MET without any cladding to hide its natural aesthetic, it was important that we worked with the engineering team to ensure that mechanical, electrical, and plumbing building services could be well concealed. We made provisions for the steel connections between load-bearing beams and columns to be embedded within the timber, which also adds to fire safety design as the building’s critical components are protected by an outer layer.

Construction on Academic Building South is currently underway. When complete, it will stand as a model of urban sustainability and a testament of human ingenuity.