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.

mass-timber-conference-logo

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.

umass-design-building
 (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.

t3-10
(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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t3-7

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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.

wood-stadium-1
(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.

 

Stronger than steel- Building with CLT

What makes cross laminated timber (CLT) such a great material to work with? In the video “Stronger Than Steel,” architect Thomas Robinson explains that it’s about the quality. “The great thing about cross laminated timber is you can actually use what you might call in the industry lower value wood,” Robinson says.

“It’s kind of taking plywood to a new level, but it’s different. It’s very stiff and it’s very strong. Those pieces together create a very stable panel that can be prefabricated off site and then basically shipped to the site and craned into place.”

Robinson has been a longtime proponent for building with wood. A principal architect at LEVEL Architecture, Robinson has been involved in numerous mass timber buildings such as Framework and Albina Yard.

Watch the video below to hear more about cross laminated timber being used in the U.S. and what’s next for the industry.

Testing Mass Timber

On the Build It With Wood blog, we talk about mass timber a lot. We love the potential of the wood products, the climate benefits, the aesthetics, and the durability (just to name a few). And sometimes we get wrapped up in our love for mass timber that we forget that other people haven’t even heard of mass timber or have only recently been introduced.

So when Architects Newspaper published the article “Watch SOM test its latest in timber tower technology,” we thought it was great to share. While we’re looking at new designs for structures or adding another pin to our map of wood buildings, it’s easy to forget about the wood that is used in construction. Products like cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glue laminated timber (glulam) are not new to the market, but researchers are still constantly testing and researching wood products.

As Architects Newspaper highlighted, Oregon State University and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill have been testing wood panels by applying huge amounts of pressure on them. In this latest example, 48 sensors recorded the stress level over the two hour testing period.  In the time-lapse video, 82,000 pounds of pressure was applied to a 36’x8′ span of CLT/concrete composite. That’s 8 times the required design load. With every test, researchers learn more about the best uses for wood so that mass timber buildings will be as safe as possible.

Watch the video below and learn more about research on mass timber.

Forest to Frame

Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) produced a new video called “Forest to Frame.” It focuses on how people in the future will need more buildings as the global population rises, the building technologies that use wood, and the important role forests play.

“The choices we make about the materials used as we develop the built environment have long-term effects on our society and the environment,” OFRI says in the video’s description. “Choose wood. It’s beautiful, strong, versatile and renewable.”

Watch the video below or visit their website WhyBuildWithWood.org to learn more about the benefits of mass wood timber construction.