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.”

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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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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.

 

Timber City exhibit opens in D.C.

The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. is opening their newest exhibit, Timber City, on Saturday, September 17th.

The exhibit focuses on the advantages of timber construction such as strength, fire resistance, sustainability, and aesthetics. Timber City will highlight the recent expansion of tall wood buildings in the U.S., such as the two winners of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Competition.

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Timber City was made possible by Yugon Kim and Tomomi Itakura, founding partners of the Boston-based architectural design firm ikd. Kim and Itakura curated and designed the exhibition which combines architectural models, prefabricated wood walls, and large examples of mass timber. There is also a focus on the newest timber technologies, such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), and a look at how timber manufacturing can stimulate other manufacturing communities.

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Two events  related to tall timber construction will also be occurring this fall at the museum. The talk “Murray Grove: A Case Study In Tall Timber Construction” by building designer Andrew Waugh will take place on September 20th and “Spotlight on Design: SHoP, LEVER Architecture, Arup” will focus on the benefits of tall timber construction on October 13th.

Timber City is funded in part by the U.S. Forest Service, the Softwood Lumber Board, and Nixon Peabody. Timber City has been adapted from an exhibition organized by ikd for BSAspace at the Boston Society of Architects. Timber City will be on display until May 21, 2017.

To read the full description of Timber City and for more information, visit The National Building Museum’s exhibit site.

 

Construction on UBC dorm continues

Back in June, we wrote about construction beginning on University of British Columbia’s new timber dormitory. Pictures of the construction process have just been made available and the frame is quickly taking shape.

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(Construction is underway on July 18th for the new 18 story dormitory at UBC. Photo credit: Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia)

Brock Commons
(More than half of the floors have started to become assembled. Photo credit: Acton Ostry Architects Inc. & University of British Columbia)

Canadian Architect reports that a new floor is being built every 3 days and is expected to increase. The dormitory is made out of a combination of glue laminated timber (glulam) and cross laminated timber (CLT). The building is scheduled to be complete by Spring 2017.

France plans to build first wooden towers in Bordeaux

France is gearing up to make the country’s first tall timber construction in the form of two towers. The pair of wooden towers are planned to be 50 and 57 meters high (164 and 187 feet) and will built in the center of the city by Bordeaux Euratlantique.

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(Artistic design of Hypérion, a planned 18-story wooden tower in Bordeaux. Photo credit: Jean-Paul Viguier & Associés)

Global Construction Review details the plans which include multiple design teams. The taller of the two towers, “Hypérion”, will be an 18-story residential tower with 82 apartments. The project team includes Eiffage, specialist wood contractor Woodeum, landlord Clairsienne and architect Jean-Paul Viguier & Associés. The other tower, nicknamed “Silva,” will be an office building. The project team includes developer Kaufman & Broad and is designed by architect Art & Build. 80% of Silva will be made with locally sourced cross-laminated timber with glulam plywood bracing.

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(Rendering of the 50 meter tall wooden building, Silva, in France. Photo credit: Art & Build)

Both of the designs were chosen in a competition held by the city. Global Construction Review reports that construction on Hypérion is expected to begin in September 2017 with both towers completed by 2020.

Read more about the timber towers and learn about other wooden buildings in France.

Modern Tall Wood Buildings: Opportunities for Innovation

Dr. Jim Bowyer at Dovetail Partners, Inc. has published a report focusing on tall wood buildings. “Modern Tall Wood Buildings: Opportunities for Innovation” covers the history of CLT, examples of tall wood buildings globally, wood building initiatives across the globe, tall wood building potential, costs, and cautions.

The report states, “Tall wood buildings offer an opportunity to connect rural resources with urban communities in a manner that has the potential to support forest restoration, drive green building, and address carbon emission reduction objectives. However, the use of engineered wood products and new building technologies requires thoughtful consideration of questions about durability, performance, and long-term impact. The continued evaluation, testing, and reporting on tall-wood building research is a key component to ensure the safe and responsible realization of this innovation and its full suite of potential benefits.”

Read the full report from Dovetail Partners, Inc.

America’s first modern tall timber building on its way

Minneapolis will soon be the home to the T3 building- America’s first modern tall timber building. T3, which stands for Timber, Technology and Transit, will be a 7 story office building made with nail laminated timber panels (NLT). Michael Green Architecture and DLR Group  designed the building and it is being developed by Hines.

T3 1.22.2016(Construction is underway for the T3 building and significant progress has been made as of January 22. Photo credit: Work Zone Cam)

As you can see in the picture of the building, not everything in T3 will be wood. The elevator core, parking level, and foundation are all concrete. Crews recently began to erect the wooden panels on the glue laminated (glulam) post and beam frame.

Read more about this momentous building in MinnPost’s Into the wood: America’s first modern tall timber building rises in Minneapolis. As a bonus, you can even view a work zone construction cam and watch a time-lapse of the progress!

 

Opinion: Support tall wood buildings in Maine

Portland Press Herald just published an opinion column focused on why more tall wood buildings should be built in Maine. In “Maine Voices: It’s time to build ‘plyscrapers’ here,” author Lee Burnett explains that Maine is the most heavily forested state in the country, with forests in over 85% of the land. Burnett describes Maine’s working forests as “…the engines in this story. They inhale carbon from the air and store it benignly in trunks, branches and roots.”

The article goes on to clarify that large amounts of carbon in the atmosphere is not good, but carbon stored in trees and wood products are the best solution. Emphasizing the role of forests, Burnett states, “Forests can become climate-benefit multipliers when the harvest is shifted toward lumber and other long-lived products that displace energy-intensive building materials such as aluminum, concrete and steel.” The article concedes other countries are building tall wooden buildings with ease and Portland could be the next supporter.

Read the full article at the Portland Press Herald.