Mass Timber Mills Coming to Maine — but where and when?

The mass timber supply chain is coming to New England but where and when, exactly, remains an open question. In February of this year, two companies announced they would be opening cross-laminated timber (CLT) factories in Maine within eighteen to twenty-four months. SmartLam, LLC of Montana committed to announcing a mill site as did North Carolina-based LignaTerra Global. LignaTerra, working closely with the on-the-ground economic development organization Our Katahdin, has indicated it may locate within or near shuttered paper mills in Millinocket, helping to revive the local forest products economy.

Both companies would take advantage of the considerable spruce-fir resource in Maine, found to be suitable for CLT manufacture and construction and already supported by a regional logging and milling industry.

But neither has announced exactly where they will locate these facilities and when they will break ground.

Each indicates that strong demand is driving their decision. SmartLam has considered construction of a second plant in its Columbia Falls, MT location to be able to fill orders for CLT across the country, and says the decision to locate in Maine came as a response to a growing number of inquiries from the U.S. Northeast.

We hope to hear the Maine announcements soon, knowing that the companies will start to generate mass timber expertise and a new supply chain for wood fiber in New England that brings value to our region’s forests. Stay tuned.

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NEFF to Advise MIT Mass Timber Design Project on Affordable Housing

It seems that each month presents an exciting new partnership in service of bringing mass timber construction to New England. This August, NEFF has been invited to advise MIT architect John Klein on a project to bring affordable housing design to developers.

The project, “An Engineering Demonstration for a Mass Timber Affordable Housing Prototype for Large-Scale Urban Deployment,” was awarded a USDA Forest Service 2018 Wood Innovations Grant in May. It will bring the considerable resources of MIT to help streamline the mass timber building design and pricing process. The goal is to scale up mass timber deployment as an affordable housing solution in the Boston area and beyond.

Klein has been working on modular mass timber affordable housing designs for several years. Working in collaboration with MassPort, a state agency with considerable real estate along Boston Harbor, the Spring Studio in the MIT Master’s of Architecture program brought students and faculty together to develop affordable housing designs for Boston’s piers. Through his firm, John Klein Design, Klein has been imagining a range of housing solutions using the material.

Considering the need for more affordable and more sustainable housing in the Boston area, this project could be arriving just in time to make mass timber the new mid-rise, mixed use development solution.

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Affordable housing building prototype; John Klein Design

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Microstudio design; John Klein Design

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Let’s get buildings built

Last summer, when we released our report on the viability of cross-laminated timber in New England, we did not quite imagine how quickly mass timber might begin to take off in our region.

Mass timber supply is coming, with the announcements six months ago of two companies bringing CLT plants to northern Maine and a third entrepreneur actively seeking investors for a site in western Massachusetts. The state of Maine made grants to attract their factories, and just two weeks ago the Massachusetts legislature authorized $3 million for a plant in the Commonwealth in its annual budget bill.

Now we need buildings. Architects, developers, and contractors from Portland to Boston are showing interest in using mass timber in upcoming projects. But they’re daunted by using a new material, and even by figuring out what a mass timber project might cost.

At NEFF, we’re working closely with one construction company and several developers and architects to conduct exercises in how to price a mass timber structure, including estimating the initial costs of supply and reduced costs in time and labor savings. As the costs of concrete and steel continue to rise, the initial differential for materials may be shrinking. NEFF is working with these and other partners in the region to put numbers to projects to help develop short-term financial incentives that may encourage early adopters to get underway.

At the same time, we’re keeping an eye on the forests and on how these projects can truly help mitigate climate change. Our modelers in Maine are conducting a Life Cycle Analysis of the carbon sequestration potential of a mass timber building, focusing – as no one else has done – on the in-forest impacts of harvesting for CLT and other mass timber products. Our intention is to develop industry standards to maximize the carbon benefits, and forest health, for forests used for this new product.

We intend to bring mass timber on a mass scale to New England – to encourage a forests-to-cities carbon sink, and to do it in a way that serves as a model for the rest of the country and the world. Let’s get some buildings built.

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Just south of us, a mixed use office tower to be built of CLT in Newark, NJ was just announced a few months ago. Image credit: The Architect’s Newspaper, archdaily.com.

NPR interviews leader in mass timber building design

Last fall, Here and Now’s Jeremy Hobson spoke with Michael Green, the Vancouver-based architect who has received international attention for both his support of wood construction and the wood buildings his firm has designed.

Michael Green has been a longstanding proponent of building with wood. His TED Talk “Why we should build wooden skyscrapers” has been viewed over a million times and he spoke passionately during New England Forestry Foundation’s Climate Week NYC event.

michael-green  (Michael Green speaking at a TED Talk in February 2013. Photo credit: TED.com)

His firm, Michael Green Architecture, recently finished construction on the first tall timber building in the U.S. — a seven-story office building in Minneapolis called T3. The firm also has plans to construction a 35-story tower in Paris, which would be the world’s tallest residential building made out of wood if completed.

Read some highlights below or listen to the whole interview at Here and Now.

On the safety of a skyscraper made out of wood
“It is always the first question and with any building you have to worry about fire, and of course with a wood building there are some special conditions that we work with. And so the analogy I often use is, little pieces of wood catch fire, big pieces of wood are very difficult to catch fire. So we all know that in our fireplace…And so the premise is we use huge-scale wood that resists fire naturally and burns very predictably in a very similar way to control a fire as it would be in a steel or a concrete building.”

On the limits of skyscraper construction with wood
“So, what’s interesting about this is the sky is almost the limit. About a year ago we were asked to do an exercise to see, could we have built the Empire State Building in wood? And the Empire State, being 102 stories, we thought well that should be a challenge. But we did some schematic engineering, and sure enough we could’ve. So, it really is, the capacity of wood to carry its weight over these huge heights is absolutely there. And I sort of again point out that if you take three of the trees that grow in our forest out here in western North America and stack them end to end on top of each other, three trees equal the height of the Empire State. So, of course wood can carry that weight and go that high.”

On the advantages of building with wood
“There’s so many reasons to that, and I think the first reason for me is that we should build out of natural materials. We should build out of materials, wood, that has the capacity to sequester carbon dioxide and help us address issues of climate change. We should build out of renewable materials rather than these high-carbon materials of steel and concrete that together represent 8 or 9 percent of our manmade greenhouse gas emissions just for the making of those materials. We need to move to these organic materials, and so wood, if harvested from very responsible forest practices, gives us incredible capacity to build more environmentally and more climate-sensitive buildings.”

“We are using a lot of what’s called mountain pine beetle wood, which is trees that have been killed off by a pine beetle that’s unfortunately ravaging the forests of Canada and now into the United States. And those trees stand and can be harvested and quite effectively turned into the products that build these big buildings.”

 

Second Mass Timber Conference

Portland, Oregon is preparing for the second annual International Mass Timber Conference and it’s shaping up to be even bigger than last year.

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Produced again by Forest Business Network, the conference is attracting professionals from around the world to discuss innovative building products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), nail-laminated timber (nail lam), glue laminated timber (glulam), and other mass timber products. Hundreds of attendees from 15 countries have registered so far and many more are expected before the event from March 28-30. For year two, the conference has moved to the Oregon Convention Center to account for the growing number of attendees and speakers.

Back by popular demand, a mass timber building tour will precede two days of educational panels, an expo, and networking events. NEFF staff participated in the 2016 tour and visited five mass timber buildings in and around downtown Portland. This year, new buildings have been added to the tour and include Carbon12, Ankrom Moisan Headquarters, and Fire Station 76. Participants in 2016 visited Albina Yard while it was still under constructions, but this year will be able to see it completed.

carbon12  (Carbon12, the tallest timber and CLT building in the United States, will be a stop on the 2017 mass timber building tour. Photo credit: Baumber Studio)

The conference will also be led by keynote speakers including Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for The Rolling Stones and a conservationist tree farmer. The educational tracks have also doubled in size and now features 80 global speakers addressing topics such as the environment, sustainability, developing, building, architecture, engineering, manufacturing, and research.

Craig Rawlings, President & CEO of Forest Business Network, said of the upcoming conference, “A dedicated mass timber event was needed when we launched the inaugural Mass Timber Conference in 2016 and yet the fever pitch excitement for these products and our 2017 event only reaffirms that mass timber is the new sustainable choice for greener buildings and growing cities.”

A detailed agenda, building tour information, interactive exhibit hall floorplan, and more can be found at MassTimberConference.com.

We hope to see you there!

UMass Amherst Design Building opens its doors to students

University of Massachusetts Amherst has officially opened the doors to the new Design Building! The four-story, 87,200 square foot Design Building is home to three academic programs; Building and Construction Technology, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, and Department of Architecture.

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 (The UMass Amherst Design Building is open for the spring semester for students and staff. Photo credit: UMass Amherst)

Thanks to a grant through the 2014 Environmental Bond Bill, the Design Building serves as a demonstration of new and innovative wood construction technologies. The building integrates a structural system consisting of exposed heavy engineered timber and cross-laminated timber (CLT) decking and shear walls. A zipper truss spans the two-story high building common space. Exterior landscape includes active rainwater detention basins and local stone elements extended into the building. Overall, the project exemplifies the University’s commitment to sustainable and innovative design.

umass-design-building-2(Students sit inside the new UMass Amherst Design Building. Photo credit: Building and Construction Technology Program at UMass Amherst)

The design provides a centrally located two-story commons for group activities, and is surrounded by studios, classrooms, workshops, and offices. The first floor also contains a large meeting room, fabrication and materials testing shops, dining, classroom and research space. The second and third floors contain studios, classrooms and offices, and a smaller fourth floor contains studios. The two-story commons area features the open zipper truss and large skylight. The program space also includes a material testing lab.

The designers of the project were Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects of Boston, Stephen Stimson Associates Landscape Architects, BVH Integrated Service for Mechanical and Electrical engineering, and Equilibrium Consulting from Vancouver B.C. Canada as the structural designers.

You can read about the construction process in previous posts at A first look at UMass Amherst’s Integrated Design BuildingFirst shipment of wood at UMass Amherst, and Tour of UMass building construction site.

The skyline of the future is made of wood

HAUT 2Cities will soon see more wood buildings in the skyline

NPR’s Marketplace host Lizzie O’Leary sat down with Justin Davidson on Wednesday to discuss skyscrapers built from wood in “The skyline of the future is made of wood.” Davidson, the architecture critic for the New York Magazine, wrote about these wooden skyscrapers in his December 28th article, “Imagining a Wooden Skyline.” Below is an excerpt from the interview.

Justin Davidson: It’s really about taking relatively small units of wood when they’re sawn boards, but you’re then gluing them together into these massive units. So the general term for this is mass timber…The great advantage to it is that you can manipulate it in a factory using a computer controlled milling and do all the openings that you need, cut out the windows, cut channels and pre-designed and then pre-manufacture these units that can then be quickly assembled on site. This is a simplified way of putting it, but you’re essentially clipping it together like a kit.

O’Leary: You came here to our office on Third Avenue in New York City walking through a canyon of steel and glass buildings. Why build out of wood when you could do it that way?

Davidson: So one reason is environmental. So essentially for a ton of steel, you are producing something like a ton and a half of carbon. For a ton of wood, you are warehousing carbon, so the difference in carbon emissions is actually much bigger.

O’Leary: And the cutting down of trees?

Davidson: You’re not cutting old growth forest, you’re not deforesting the Amazon. These are managed forest, so you’re planting the trees, you’re letting them grow 10, 15 years and then you harvest them. And actually one theory is that essentially this is self-sustaining and self capitalizing because if there’s a demand for construction grade wood in the United States and in Europe and around the world, what you’re doing is pumping money into the forestry business.

O’Leary: What’s the biggest barrier to this becoming widespread?

Davidson: Habit. I mean, the construction industry is very routinized. So when you’re talking about changing the way you do it, there’s a startup cost that’s significant. But you also have to kind of vertically integrate the whole thing so that you are bringing the logs or the boards into a manufacturing center that is going to put in raw lumber in one end, maybe even just like tree trunks, and produce building components out the other.

Listen to this story in its entirety on Marketplace at “The skyline of the future is made of wood.”

Largest mass timber building in U.S. opens today in Minneapolis

T3, a seven-story wood office building, opened today in Minneapolis. The building, located in the North Loop district, has become the tallest modern wood building in the U.S.

t3-1(T3, the tallest wood building in the U.S. Photo credit: Ema Peter)

T3 stands for Timber, Technology, Transit and was designed by Michael Green Architecture. The 220,000 square foot building features cross-laminated timber (CLT) as well as nail-laminated timber (NLT).

t3-4(The exterior of T3 in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Ema Peter)

StructureCraft fabricated T3’s NLT panels in Winnipeg and was also able to build 180,000 square feet of timber framing in less than 10 weeks. The interior was left bare, which emphasizes the natural timber framing while saving on cost.

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(The interior of T3. Photo credit: Ema Peter)

The CLT and NLT panels were combined with a spruce glue laminated (glulam) post-and-beam frame and a concrete slab. According to The Architects Newspaper, most of the wood used came from the Pacific Northwest region, sustainably harvested after being killed by the mountain pine beetle, and all of the wood was certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Guidelines.

See more photos of the new T3 building below! (Photo credit for all: Ema Peter)

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World’s first all wood stadium to be built in England

A 5,000 seat soccer stadium has been commissioned to be built in England entirely from wood. Fans of the Forest Green Rovers soccer club will be able to watch the game in  the world’s greenest soccer stadium. It will be constructed completely from timber and powered by sustainable energy sources.

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(Designs for the world’s first all wood stadium. Photo credit: ZHA)

The new stadium will be located in Nailsworth and will be part of a $124 million “Eco Park” development, Woodworking Network reports. The design for the stadium was chosen at the end of a seven-month-long international competition with over 50 entries submitted. The winning design will be commissioned by the London-based architectural firm Zaha Hadid (ZHA).

 


(Designs for the stadium’s interior which will seat 5,000 soccer fans. Photo credit: ZHA)


(The wave ceiling. Photo credit: ZHA)

The interior is designed to act as an acoustic device to contain crowd noise and seats have been positioned to give spectators completely unobstructed views of the field.

In addition to the world’s first all wood building, ZHA is also known on its designs of previous stadiums, like the London 2012 Olympics Aquatics Centre and its upcoming arena for the 2022 World Cup.

 

The Economist and Forbes: Let’s build with wood

Both Forbes and The Economist recently touted the opportunities in building with wood, advocating the new way to build is with mass timber products. The Economist article “Top of the trees” opens with a description of a pagoda in Japan, a building that has withstood natural elements such as storms and earthquakes for over 1,400 years. This remains the inspiration for many of today’s modern wood buildings. How can we build with wood in a way that will withstand rain, fire, and earthquakes? And will it be safe?

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(Design for the 21-story high Haut building in Amsterdam. Photo credit: Team V Architectuur)

The answer is to build with mass timber, a term which applies to wood products that are engineered to be strong, durable, fire-resistant, and safe. These engineered wood products have been used for decades and research continues to be done on ways to improve them. The architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill along with Oregon State University recently showed how strong engineered wood can be. The researchers used cross-laminated timber (CLT) with a thin layer of reinforced concrete spread across the surface in a hybrid form known as concrete-jointed timber. Pressure was applied to the CLT panel to test its weight capacity. The floor began to crack once 8 times the designed load was applied. (Read more about this experiment in Testing Mass Timber)

In Forbes’ Tree Houses: Is Wood Really The Future Of Skyscrapers?, Laurie Winkless dives further into the future of mass timber. Winkless describes the potential shift of building with wood instead of steel and concrete and what that means for the environment. The production process for steel and concrete are energy-intensive and highly-polluting, putting wood above them in terms of environmentally friendly materials. But it is quickly pointed out that in order to be truly ecofriendly, this wood should be sourced from regulated, certified forests that are managed carefully with a larger number of new trees growing than harvested. (Read more about the connection between sustainable forestry and building with wood on New England Forestry Foundation’s blog Into the Woods)

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(The newly built Brock Common at University of British Columbia. Photo credit: Unknown)

So what does this mean for the future of tall buildings? The number of mass timber buildings around the world is growing, as is the height. Brock Commons, the 18 story tall dormitory at University of British Columbia recently reached a milestone in construction. It currently holds the title of tallest wood building in the world, but will soon be beat out by the 21-story HAUT in Amsterdam. One thing is sure: mass timber buildings are here to stay.