It’s a first for the United States: the State of Oregon and City of Portland have granted a building permit for the first Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) high rise over 85 feet. The building is called Framework, an under development 12-story (148 feet tall), 90,000-square-foot mixed-use building in Portland, Oregon designed by LEVER Architecture that will make use of a wood core structure. The building will house a bank and timber exhibit at ground level, offices and affordable housing above, as well as a roof deck and garden. Construction is expected to begin this fall, while the building is slated to open in the winter of 2018.

The design required rigorous fireseismic, and other safety tests to prove its durability compared to typical steel and concrete construction. Testing and research at Portland State University and Oregon State University was funded in part from a $1.5 million U.S. Tall Wood Building award sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture.

While Framework is not the first tall wood building in the U.S.—Michael Green Architecture with DLR Group designed T3, a seven-story mass timber building clad in steel in Minneapolis and completed in November 2016—it is now the tallest permitted mass timber building in the U.S. today.

(Courtesy of KPFF Consulting Engineers)

In the Pacific Northwest, Seattle was the first U.S. city to allow CLT in construction, yet the current building code caps wood office buildings at six stories high and wood residential buildings at five stories. Oregon may have gained an advantage through a convergence of factors: ample resources, performance-based testing, political support, and perhaps even that quirky Portland entrepreneurial spirit.

“Projects like the Framework building present a new opportunity for Oregon that we are perfectly suited to take on,” said Governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, in a statement. “Oregon’s forests are a tried and true resource that may again be the key to economic stability for rural Oregon, expanding opportunity for communities hit hard by the decline of the natural resource economy. The Framework building shows that we can use sustainably harvested timber in a sustainable way to act as a catalyst for economic development through the creation of timber and manufacturing jobs in rural economies.”

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