Despite being one of the most forested nations in Europe, only two thousand wooden houses are built in the Czech Republic each year. This accounts for just 0.5 per cent of the country’s total lumber production. Sustainable forestry company Kloboucká Lesní is on a mission to change that. The organization’s primary goal is to realize the untapped potential of sustainable construction and its new headquarters, designed by Czech firm Mjölk Architekti, leads by example. As today’s construction industry struggles with supply chain disruptions and material shortages, its opening marks a timely shift towards a more sustainable, efficient and economical future.
The new facility is located on the company’s existing manufacturing compound on the outskirts of Brumov-Bylnice, a small town of just 5,500 people in the architecturally renowned region of Zlín. Set against the idyllic backdrop of the Pláňavský ridge, its welcoming northern façade conceals the other industrial buildings on the site, facing the town and visitors’ entrance to draw people into the complex.
The 1,100-square-metre headquarters has been conceived not just as an office, but also as a laboratory for research and innovation, which studies ways to construct buildings more efficiently and minimize their impact throughout their life cycle using cutting-edge technology. Its simple and modest design embodies this same holistic approach.
Though the gable-roofed form draws from its context — mimicking the residential vernacular and reflecting the organization’s reverence for ancestral techniques — the building is decidedly contemporary. Its load-bearing glulam structure (a flagship of Kloboucká Lesní’s portfolio) is supported by a concrete core and steel bracing and made of timber sourced primarily from the surrounding forests and produced on-site. The lumber was meticulously selected for its colour and grain, rendering the wood and glass façade with a pleasing uniformity.
The exterior’s pared-back material palette is carried indoors, imbuing the office with an open and airy feel. In keeping with the company’s ethos of transparency, the structure is left exposed, integrated with timber-concrete ceilings and complemented by polished concrete floors. “It is obvious at first glance how everything works,” the architects explain. Throughout, the wooden skeleton subtly divides the interior into distinct spaces.
Given the continued impact of climate change on the wood industry, the building’s modular structure was key to ensuring it was versatile enough to adapt to future changes in function. As a result, the interior has been kept flexible with contingencies in place for unexpected growth. For now, individual workstations and larger gathering spaces are interspersed throughout the first and second floors. Stools made from tree stumps surround the conference tables, playfully nodding to the forestry industry.
The uppermost level’s open-concept multi-purpose space, however, is where the structure really shines. The A-frame building’s elongated volume, elegantly framed by the repetition of its wooden members, is designed to host lectures, company events and product presentations. Foregrounding the company’s emphasis on employee well-being, the covered terrace makes for a healthy and inspiring working environment.
It is here, too, that sustainability takes centre stage. The roof — a rational grid of glass and PV panels — is carefully arranged to both maximize energy output and let in ample natural light. The solar panels exceed the building’s power requirements, with the surplus being directed to the company’s production facilities. With a battery storage capacity of 72 kW, the majority of the compound’s electronic equipment is solar-powered.
These passive strategies extend beyond the building itself. Rainwater runoff from the roof is stored in open ponds to be used for irrigation and cooling in the summer. These pools, which reflect the diffused daylight, also help to bring light deeper into the office.
Like its products, the design of Kloboucká Lesní’s headquarters considers not just profitability, but circularity from its inception to construction and beyond, always looking for the most sustainable, cost-effective and socially responsible solution. Case in point: the whole compound is heated from a central boiler, fuelled mainly with wood chips from its own production process.
But the company recognizes that sustainable design extends beyond energy requirements, from the manufacturing and transport of building materials to end-of-life. Where we build and how we use the building, they explain, is just as important. “At the beginning there is a seed, at the end a house,” say the architects. “The system cannot be separated into individual parts.”
Local firm Mjölk Architekti designs a sustainable new hub for Kloboucká Lesní.