EXPO2020 - In The Forest, wood takes centre stage - Briab - Brand, Risk & Säkerhet


EXPO2020 - In The Forest, wood takes centre stage

Termites, 7392.1 km, lots of sand and a ban on building in wood were just some of the conditions facing Therese and Briab when they took on the assignment of ensuring the fire safety of Sweden’s pavilion at the World Expo 2020 in Dubai. After more than a years delay for known reasons EXPO2020 is now open and under way until march 2022, and in our first article we told you all about the exhibition and the beautiful and super-exciting Swedish Pavilion (see on the right). Now we’re following up with a closer look at the details of the fire safety work in a conversation with Therese Samuelsson, who, together with Fredrik Hiort, is responsible for Briab’s work on The Forest.

The Forest, Sveriges paviljong på EXPO2020 Dubai

Photo: Alessandro Ripellino
Architects/Studio Adrien Gardère/Luigi Pardo Architetti   

Therese, can you describe The Forest, i.e. the building and its conditions

The architecture and construction can be seen as an exciting meeting between the Swedish forest and the building’s environment. Elements of Arabic culture and geometry are evident in the mashrabiya, an Arabic patterned screen made from wood with decorative holes that provide coolness, light and privacy. In the harmony between the local area and the feel of the Swedish forest, the building emphasises the theme for the pavilion: co-creation, i.e. creating something together. But I also think it represents ‘co-existence’: the feeling of living and working together where two worlds merge. It’s truly exciting and beautiful!

Inside the building, you get to experience the world and rooms of the forest with ‘tree trunks’ and ‘tree houses’. The ground floor is an open space, and the tree houses overhead contain creative meeting spaces. In The Forest, wood takes center stage as a sustainable and innovative material, and at Briab we have had the opportunity to show how we can protect the environment with effective fire safety. This is particularly important with regard to wood’s undeserved reputation as a poor material when it comes to a technical fire safety perspective. This is something we want, and need, to change if we are to open the way for the sustainable buildings of the future. Finally, for all the engineers and those familiar with this subject, it’s probably worth mentioning that sprinklers were an important part of solving this rather complicated fire safety equation.

What were the biggest fire-engineering challenges you faced during the project?

Since the local regulatory framework essentially doesn’t allow wood constructions (everything normally needs to be incombustible), it was a significant task to come up with a way of explaining and demonstrating that we could achieve an excellent and comprehensive fire protection solution. It was also a demanding, but in many ways exciting and educational, task for those of us in the Swedish project group to work in an entirely new regulatory and governmental culture. That, together with unusual choices of both construction methods and building materials, obviously created a number of challenges for us to make progress and reach our goal.

The technical building challenge was to do with the overall understanding of wood, which required extra efforts for solutions to allow us to use exposed wood. This was important for creating the feeling of a Swedish forest. In addition to the purely legal challenges, there were others presented by related fields that affected our own. Amongst them, an interesting question arose about the risk of an attack by termites, in response to which the fire proofing of the wood material was eventually shown to work in conjunction with the protection against them.

Questions related to a comfortable indoor climate and digging foundations for a wooden building on sand were also unusual challenges. Even if these issues aren’t directly connected to fire protection, as an engineer it’s hard, or rather impossible, not to be curious!



The Forest

Photo: Alessandro Ripellino
Architects/Studio Adrien Gardère/Luigi Pardo Architetti   

What are the critical elements of The Forest’s fire protection?

• Sprinklers for the building and wood façades

Since the building is open with high ceilings, it placed particular demands on the sprinkler design. The foundations are equipped with an aspirating alarm system as an extra precaution.

• Fire-proofed wood and wood as an internal surface layer

This has put significant demands on the testing and documentation of the fire proofing. In some parts, new fire testing has been conducted. Here we’ve had good collaboration with our suppliers, and together we’ve been able to present the right documentation to prove a sufficient level of protection.

• Lace technology for fire alarms and emergency lighting

Through Kenneth and the Product & Solutions team at Briab, we have sponsored both new products and expertise. In a building such as The Forest, a little extra feel was required to balance aesthetics with excellent evacuation safety.

• Effective evacuation strategy

An important part of the design has been ensuring the effective evacuation of a large number of visitors, whilst not having too much of an impact on the design. Something we had in mind with the pavilion is that visitors should have the feeling of strolling in the forest, so the placing of ‘tree trunks’ was important for evacuation requirements and providing open spaces, as well as retaining the feeling of the Nordic forest.

The theme for Sweden’s pavilion is Co-Creation; how has this been reflected in the building project?

The entire character and construction of the building is to do with creating interesting meeting places, for example the construction offers ‘forest glades’ where people can meet and work together. Innovative technology helps to facilitate physical meeting and technical solutions for other types of meetings. And, of course, as we discussed at the beginning, the basic architectural and conceptual idea of weaving together the Swedish forest with Arabic and Muslim influences. In that sense the final result – The Forest – has been incredibly successful in every respect!

For mine and our part, I think that co-creation has become a reality rather than just empty rhetoric; as together with the other project members we’ve managed to realise The Forest – it has really required co-creation throughout the process. Briab’s mantra and outlook #tillsammansframåt (forwards together) has clearly shown the way in a project that, while not always easy, has always been challenging and provided opportunities for growth.

We thank Therese for this conversation and look forward to EXPO 2020 in Dubai finally opening its doors October 1’st. Until then, we hope to bring you more about our work there, not least showing wood as one of the future’s renewable, sustainable and in many ways untapped building materials.


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