Posts tagged with "Katerra":

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Engineers describe their most innovative timber projects

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AN surveyed some of the leading practices in timber structure and facade engineering about the most innovative projects they worked on over the past year. Their responses highlight advanced applications of timber, ranging from a hybrid tower underway in Canada to greenhouse domes popping up in China.
Paul Fast  Founding Partner, Fast + Epp
Perhaps the most groundbreaking project we have been working on this year is Moriyama & Teshima Architects and Acton Ostry Architects’ The Arbour, a new ten-story building for George Brown College in Toronto. It features a novel structural system consisting of the slab-band arrangement commonly used in concrete construction but replaces most of the concrete with mass timber. Composite CLT-concrete slab bands with an overall thickness of 15.5 inches span 30 feet between large 1.4-foot- by-3.9-foot timber columns, and infill 6-inch- thick CLT panels clear span 15.5 feet between the slab bands. Central stair and elevator cores consisting of steel columns and diagonal bracing provide lateral resistance for the building. The end result is a primarily timber construction floor system that offers a thickness and flat soffit comparable to concrete construction but with a sharp reduction in both embodied carbon and construction time. The exposed timber flooded by ample daylight will also create a wonderful physical work environment for students and faculty.
Eric McDonnell Principal, Holmes Structures
I have been lucky enough to work on a number of innovative mass timber projects this year. These include Redfox Commons, designed by LEVER, which utilized salvaged timbers to create a connecting building between two refurbished historic warehouses; District Office, a six-story mass timber building designed by Hacker that is the future home of our Portland office; NIR Center, designed by Hennebery Eddy, a proposed ten-story hybrid structure of mass plywood floor panels and steel DELTABEAMs utilizing the new Type IV-B heavy timber build- ing regulation approved for the 2021 International Building Code; and the Adidas North American Headquarters expansion project, also by LEVER, which is using a unique hybrid structure of mass timber floor cassettes and precast concrete beams and columns. The most innovative of all would likely be Katerra’s Catalyst Building in Spokane, Washington, the first project to use CLT panels made in Katerra’s new manufacturing facility. This five-story office and classroom building is constructed almost entirely of mass timber, including CLT ribbed floor panels, glulam beams and columns, and CLT cladding panels, along with the first use of CLT shear walls utilizing buckling-restrained braces as ductile hold-down elements.
Chris Carbone Company Steward and Engineer, Bensonwood
Two projects come to mind: the River Road Barn by Sylvia Richards and Christopher Smith, and Haus Gables by Jennifer Bonner of MALL. Richards and Smith used a cross-laminated timber (CLT) floor plate and shear walls with glulam joists and concrete as the podium for the elevated mainframe, which was built with small black spruce glulams. The barn offers a 34-foot-by-46-foot clear span with 13-foot- 6-inch head height below a stainless tie. A semi-rigid moment-resisting joint was implemented at the rafter eave connection. Behind the elegant diagonal siding and bracing, bronze mesh keeps the bugs out.
Bonner’s house features playful crashing gables to span a narrow building, where the reflected plan of the folded plate roof defines the floor plan below. In places, the CLT roof plates even reach down through interior walls to hold up the second floor. All of the structural components—walls, roof, and second floor— are built with European CLT. The stair stringer and guardrails are also built from structural CLT. Specifications and communication about predrill angles and locations for the crew installing the connections from the roof through to the walls below were challenging, but fun! Andrew Lawrence Associate Director and Global Timber Specialist, ARUP
We enjoy experimenting with new wood-based materials and were lucky to be invited by Matthew Barnett Howland, Dido Milne, and Oliver Wilton to collaborate on their Cork House in which interlocking cork blocks provide structure, insulation, a weather barrier, and finishes. The low density of the cork presented several engineering challenges—we used the weight of the skylights to hold down the cork roof pyramids under strong winds, and we incorporated several layers of timber ring beams to hold the pyramids in shape. Utilizing the same material for both structure and insulation was not without its challenges, as well; the denser the blocks, the stiffer they became, but the less effective they were as insulation. It was always going to be a careful balance between the different performance requirements.
Lucas Epp, Head of Engineering, Structurecraft
One of this year’s most notable projects is the Taiyuan Botanical Garden in the Shanxi province of China, by Delugan Meissl Associated Architects (DMAA), out of Vienna. This project comprises three domes functioning as greenhouses for exotic plants. In each dome, a slender timber lattice grid shell supports the glass-clad enclosures. The largest dome spans almost 300 feet, making it the longest clear-span timber grid shell of its type in the world. StructureCraft is the structural engineer and builder for these three timber grid shells, working closely with DMAA to create a beautiful but efficient design, using the latest in parametric geometry and structural optimization techniques in Grasshopper and Rhino. All three parabolic grid shells comprise double-curved glulam beams, arranged in two or three crossing layers. When viewed from above, the timber structures resemble seashells, with the primary members closely bunched on one side and then fanned out across the surface of the domes. This complex geometrical arrangement means that every one of the members is unique. Digital fabrication techniques were key to realizing these structures, automatically generating the g-codes and assembly information for the more than 250,000 unique pieces and fasteners in them. The engineering team also carried out significant full-scale structural testing on the unique hidden connections used throughout the domes, working with our own structural testing lab as well as Tongji University.
The project is still under construction, with the structure of all three domes now complete.
Anne Monnier Principal, KPFF
While we completed several mass timber buildings over the past five years, the sheer quantity of projects getting to the construction stage last summer was a new record. Two projects in Portland Oregon—the Adidas North American Headquarters, designed by LEVER Architecture, and the District Office, designed by Hacker Architects—saw their structural frames go up this past year. The District Office features an innovative optimized, fiber-count mass timber frame that utilizes a tight colonnade column layout in one direction with long-span glulam beams. Not only does it allow for a clean, fully exposed, one-hour fire-resistance-rated mass timber frame for maximum daylighting, but it also enables organized routing of MEP systems.
frame for maximum daylighting, but it also enables organized routing of MEP systems. This is further developed by providing chases between CLT panels to allow for smaller distribution lines such as conduits and sprinklers. The Adidas expansion encompasses a more traditional column layout with double-glulam girders in the South Building and precast concrete girders in the North Building, both accommodating MEP routing through and/or over the girders coupled with a panelized CLT and glulam beam floor system. The speed of construction and fewer pieces to handle were key drivers on this fast-track project.  
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Los Angeles’s TECH+ Expo brought together innovations in project delivery

On February 6, The TECH+ Expo transformed the second floor of Los Angeles’s Line Hotel into a showcase of the latest innovations in architectural technology. But rather than exhibiting 3D printers, robot arms, and brick-laying drones, the conference highlighted products designed to streamline design research, project delivery, and the architect-to-client relationship. Chief creative officer of BQE Software, Steven Burns, FAIA, provided a demonstration of CORE, the company’s latest app designed to consolidate the billing, accounting, and reporting necessary to keep an architecture firm afloat. While CORE can distill a firm’s complex financial information in its easy-to-read web format, the company added artificial intelligence (AI) to enable its users to have human-like conversations with the app to simplify its interface even further. Using a fictional company as an example, Burns presented a 5-minute interaction with the app that elucidated everything from then-current financial progress to unpaid bills and variously categorized expense items. In her keynote lecture, Dr. Upali Nanda, director of research for global architecture firm HKS Inc., demonstrated how her firm has pioneered methods of design research that positively contributes to the mental health of its buildings’ occupants. Her presentation began with a valuable quote from Thomas Fisher, dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota: “Architects have been slow to champion the return on investment that their work can bring, but even a little data can convince clients that spending more can mean saving more.” Dr. Nanda then went on to explain how the data collected at HKS—focused on occupancy outcomes—has improved the performance of its projects while convincing clients to invest in operationally effective and energy-saving technology. “Design is a hypothesis,” Dr. Nanda concluded, “but what happens during occupancy is the outcome.” Several TECH+ participants shared their insights and techniques for improving construction efficiency. Chester Weir, design lead of global construction company Katerra, outlined how his company combined end-to-end integration with technological innovation to produce forward-thinking solutions to global construction issues. The company’s Materials & Supply Chain services, for instance, have aggregated demand across markets to supply building materials for itself and other market sectors. Rudy Armendariz, senior VDC/BIM Manager at Balfour Beatty, elaborated on the challenges his company faced in determining how to construct a people mover at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) without disrupting the airport’s automobile traffic. LAX Integrated Express Solutions (LINXS) developed a system for efficiently working on the project within the 5-hour period the construction team is allotted each night. The next TECH+ Expo will be held in New York City on July 16.
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World's first mass plywood panel approved for 18-story buildings

Located in Lyons, Oregon, Freres Lumber has been in business for nearly a century. After starting out producing standard lumber projects, the company moved into wood veneers some 60 years ago and in 1998 purchased a plywood plant. Now, it's made another step: getting U.S. and Canadian patents on its mass plywood panel (MPP), the first veneer-based mass timber panel in the world, and fire approvals to build up to 18 stories high with the panel. The mass plywood panel has already been put to the test on a smaller scale—this past year Freres worked with design-build startup BuildHouse to construct an A-frame house with the panel in Snoqualmie, Washington. The company has also seen its product used in larger projects. Oregon State University’s new Peavy Hall, a forestry science center designed by Michael Green Architecture (a Katerra partner), featured Freres Lumber’s product on the roof, while the nearby A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory shows off the panels on its interior and exterior walls. Both buildings are part of OSU’s forestry complex, which is designed to display an array of new mass timber technologies. Freres also maintains a relationship with the TallWood Design Institute, a partnership between OSU and the University of Oregon, working with the institute to test its products. The company claims that MPPs have a number of benefits when compared to the cross-laminated timber products that have taken off in recent years—it was a CLT product that collapsed this past summer in the Peavy Hall Project, not Freres’s. Freres noted that MPPs offer better structural support and design flexibility. CLT can only be built out in orthogonal layers and is generally confined to standard lumber dimensions and shapes, whereas MPPs have greater flexibility in form and dimension (the panels and their thin veneer layers can be very small, but they can also scale up to as much as 48 feet long and 1 foot thick), giving designers and builders a greater range to work and experiment with. Prefab plywood panels are also an option, but they can easily be cut by a CNC machine to spec. Mass plywood panels also use less material; they take 20 percent less wood fiber to meet the same structural specifications as CLT. They're also more eco-friendly in terms of what trees they can use. MPP can be built with smaller diameter trees, as small as 5.5 inches, though normally trees with 9-inch diameters are used. Using small trees means relying on second-growth trees, like local Oregon Douglas fir, and ones that are likely to be “choked out” under the shadow of larger growth.  Things are getting easier, according to Freres, and while he pointed out that the “mass timber movement is so new,” many projects and possibilities are on the horizon for MPP, including tornado-resistant structures, highway barriers, as well as buildings both tall and small. “People are constantly coming up with new ideas and new ways to use this material,” said Freres, “[mass timber] is going to be an enormous benefit to the construction industry going forward.”
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Facades+ Seattle will trace the rise of Pacific Northwest design

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Over the last three decades, Seattle has experienced explosive population and economic growth, that has fundamentally reshaped the city’s architectural makeup as well as its AEC community’s relationship to national and international trends. On December 7, Facades+ Seattle will bring together local practitioners in an in-depth conversation around recent projects and innovative facade materials and design. Consider architecture and design practice Olson Kundig. Founded in 1966, the firm has established an international reputation for blending high-performance enclosure systems with the craftsmanship of local artists and artisans. Principal Blair Payson will serve as co-chair for the conference, with other principals of the practice moderating the three panels.
  • Co-Chair Blair Payson, Principal Olson Kundig
  • Firms Olson Kundig Gensler Katerra PAE Front Inc. Werner Sobek Thornton Tomasetti Eckersley O'Callaghan
  • Panels Integrated Envelopes: New Project Delivery Workflows Envelope Performance: Current Trends in Codes, Energy and Comfort Envelope Design: Innovations in Facade Materials and Design
  • Location Seattle
  • Date December 7, 2018
One such project is the recently completed Kirkland Museum in Denver, which features an array of glazed terracotta baguettes produced by NBK Terracotta arranged in a unique alternating pattern, and amber-colored glass inserts produced by small-scale manufacturer John Lewis Glass Studio based out of Oakland, California. The firm collaborated with local sculptor Bob Vangold to embed a sculptural form within the facade. To achieve this effect, the sculpture is anchored along the horizontal roof edge with a series of base plates. On a larger scale, the Olson Kundig-led renovation of Seattle’s Space Needle recently wrapped up after 11 months of sky-high construction. The project entailed the removal of decades of haphazardly designed additions in favor of an open-air viewing area. Working with facade consultants Front Inc., the design team converted floors within the top of the Space Needle to transparent glass panels providing revolving views on the city below, and wrapped the observation deck with 11-by-7-foot, 2.5-inch-thick glass panels produced by Thiele Glas and installed by a team of robots designed by Breedt Production. Just south of Seattle’s Space Needle, the trio of Amazon Spheres consists of approximately 2,500 glass panels suspended over a complex steel truss system. Collaborating with NBBJ Architects, Front Inc. led exhaustive case studies, with the help of custom-built software tools, to develop a glass tiling scheme matching visibility requirements for occupants and light exposure for the greenhouse within. Following the creation of multiple digital models, Front Inc. led the fabrication of full-scale mockups of the design to test the computer-generated models. Representatives of these two firms, as well as Gensler, Katerra, Werner Sobek, Thornton Tomasetti, and Eckersley O'Callaghan, will be on hand to dive deeper into the architectural resources and trends present in both Seattle and the rest of the country. Further information regarding Facades+AM Seattle may be found here.
 
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Katerra acquires Lord Aeck Sargent as expansion continues

Fresh on the heels of design/build company Katerra’s acquisition of timber-oriented West Coast firm Michael Green Architecture (MGA) less than two weeks ago, the $3 billion construction company has now added the Atlanta-based Lord Aeck Sargent (LAS) to its impressive portfolio. The additions of MGA and LAS, a studio founded in 1989 that offers a full suite of landscape architecture, interior design, architecture, and urban planning services with an emphasis on sustainability, has doubled Katerra’s design staff. The move is a prudent one for Katerra as it expands its architecture licenses to 31 states, along with British Columbia and Alberta in Canada. LAS has experience working in nearly every type of project, from academic to mixed-use to multi-family housing; as Katerra expands the types of modular, kit-of-parts buildings it offers (and with $1.3 billion in projects already under development), this expertise will likely help production move along more smoothly.

“By aligning ourselves with a company that is disrupting the design and construction industry, Lord Aeck Sargent will help deliver high-quality design to more people throughout a broader geographic range,” said LAS president Joe Greco in a press release. “We look forward to breaking new ground with a company that is poised to transform and optimize the industry. Katerra shares our vision of the power of design, innovation and technology, and a desire to deliver high-quality projects.”

Interestingly enough, LAS is the second advisory firm from Katerra's design consortium, formed in 2017, to be purchased by the technology company. It remains to be seen if Katerra will also try to acquire Lake|Flato or Leers Weinzapfel Associates in the future.  
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Katerra acquires Michael Green Architecture as it expands into the timber market

Unicorn design/build company Katerra is continuing its impressive expansion from start-up to $3 billion tech-and-construction giant with the recent acquisition of Vancouver’s Michael Green Architecture (MGA). The Canadian architecture studio is known for pushing the boundaries of timber construction (including some of the largest mass timber buildings in the U.S.), and Katerra reportedly wants to use their expertise to bring down construction costs as well as better understand the material. The key to Katerra’s success lies in its vertically integrated business model; the company moves its projects through a single pipeline and handles everything from design, to engineering, to construction, using prefabricated modules to standardize the process. With $1.3 billion in projects under various stages of development–many of which are already framed with mass timber–the company is constantly searching for ways to optimize its production. Before acquiring MGA, Katerra was already hard at work building out their 250,000-square-foot cross-laminated timber (CLT) panel factory in Spokane, Washington. MGA had been an early adopter in the mass timber construction game, and the firm, jointly based in Portland, Oregon, as well as British Columbia, has continued to push timber towers taller. Joining Katerra, was for the 25-person studio, a natural progression according to founder Michael Green. It also happens to align the weight and financing of a major Silicon Valley player behind the studio. “Two values convinced me to join with Katerra,” Green told Vancouver magazine, “addressing our impact on the climate and making good architecture affordable. This acquisition gives us the opportunity to address both of those issues at scale.” Through the use of mass customization (using a kit of parts to design distinct buildings instead of a “one size fits all” modular approach) and mass timber, Katerra is hoping to lower its construction costs by up to 30 percent. While land prices are typically the largest slice of the development cost pie, Katerra is bringing down both its material as well as labor costs. But the choice was about more than that, according to Katerra's head of architecture, Craig Curtis. In order for the company to continue expanding, it would need to bring aboard more design talent, and MGA has had experience with timber buildings of all scales. On MGA's side, Katerra won't be fully consuming their practice, and the firm will still handle a stable of its own projects independently.
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Katerra's approach could make factory construction a model for the future

Some of the most fruitful innovation in the AEC industry right now lies in the realm of factory-built buildings. Whether they include experiments with prefabrication, mass-timber construction, or modular components, architects are increasingly working with building assemblies that are fabricated off-site and under controlled conditions. And while some designers work in these modes on a one-off basis, a new crop of technology-focused, end-to-end construction service firms have sprung up that can take a project from idea to finished building all on their own, including construction and fabrication. Established in 2015, Katerra is one of the firms that are shifting how buildings get designed and built in the United States by pioneering a hybrid business model that combines prefabrication with mass-customization. The Menlo Park, California–based company is a relative newcomer in the field, but with over $1.3 billion in projects and an expanding nationwide presence, Katerra is poised to make factory construction a thing for the future. AN’s West editor Antonio Pacheco spoke to Craig Curtis, president of Katerra Architecture, to discuss its business model, examine how the company integrates technology into its workflow, and delve into the firm’s new project types. The Architect’s Newspaper: Can you tell us what Katerra does? Craig Curtis: Katerra is an end-to-end construction and technology service company that applies systemic approaches to remove unnecessary time and costs from building design and construction. Our services include architecture and engineering, interior design, materials supply, construction management and general contracting, and renovation. What are some of Katerra’s short- and long-term goals? Since the company’s founding three years ago, Katerra has accomplished a significant amount: We have more than $1.3 billion in bookings for new construction spanning the multifamily, student and senior housing, hospitality, and commercial office sectors. [During this time] our global team has grown to more than 1,400 employees and we also opened a manufacturing facility in Phoenix and started construction on a mass timber factory in Spokane, Washington. Going forward, we are focused on delivering the projects in our pipeline, bringing our Spokane factory online in early 2019, and continuing to build out additional domestic factories like the one in Phoenix, where we fabricate building components. We will also continue to expand and improve Katerra’s technology platform, which underpins our vertically integrated model. What does it mean to use a “systems approach” with regard to building design and project delivery? Katerra’s model uses technology and end-to-end control throughout all levels of design, development, and construction. By moving from individual project thinking to a systems approach, we deliver greater precision, higher productivity, and improved quality control. With design, we combine product standardization with customization. This provides the efficiency of manufacturing without sacrificing design freedom. Through our global supply chain of curated, high-quality products, we eliminate middlemen, passing savings directly to our clients. We also integrate Building Information Modeling (BIM) tools and computational design with our global supply chain infrastructure. So, plans go directly from design to the factory floor and to the construction site. Materials and products arrive at our construction sites on time and ready to install. As a result, the activity at a Katerra construction site more closely resembles a process of precision-sequenced product assembly than traditional construction. Speaking generally, how much time does Katerra’s business model shave off a project timeline compared to traditional project delivery? In 2018, we are beginning construction on the first series of fully optimized buildings designed by Katerra. This particular building type is a three-story suburban product for workforce housing. We anticipate being able to achieve up to a 40 percent reduction in project schedule for these projects, providing significant benefits to our customers. As we develop similar tools for other market sectors, we anticipate significant schedule reductions, with the percentage dependent on the complexity of the building type. What are some of the innovative technologies Katerra employs from a design, fabrication, or construction point of view? A great example is our use of Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID). We add RFID tags to all the components fabricated in our manufacturing factory. These tags are accessible from mobile devices either on the production floor or in the final assembled product at the job site. Each RFID is linked to an archived file showing the entire assembly of the selected component, including video of each step in the manufacturing process. With this RFID technology, enclosed wall panels can be delivered to the job site, allowing local building inspectors and third-party verifiers to perform virtual framing and air sealing inspections. Application of RFID is just one of many ways Katerra is using technology to drive down costs, improve quality, and deliver a superior customer experience.
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Can mass timber help California build its way out of the housing crisis?

If California’s gubernatorial candidates are to fulfill their ambituous goal of adding up to 3.5 million new housing units across the state over the next eight years, new efforts will need to be undertaken to streamline and reform the state’s sagging construction industry—Could this effort create an opening for mass timber construction to take hold in the Golden State? It might, and here are a few reasons why. For one, there’s a growing push for new urban housing in California that could soon make the mid-rise apartment the state’s quintessential dwelling type. There’s strong reason to believe that if proposed regulatory changes go as planned, cities in the state could see a flowering of the kinds of four- to eight-story multi-family structures mass timber excels at delivering. With construction times running 15 to 20 percent faster than conventional building, there’s a potential mass timber technologies could help bring new units online very quickly, especially if minimum dwelling standards are set and municipalities streamline permitting and approval. Secondly, mass timber is becoming more widely-accepted as a building approach, reflecting a growing awareness of its inherent structural and fire-safety benefits. The nascent industry is cheering recent changes to the 2021 version of the International Building Code that will allow mass timber construction for structures up to 18-stories high. The shift could bring down the cost of building dense housing in the medium-sized city centers—downtown Long Beach, Glendale, San Diego, San Jose, and Oakland, for example—where lots of growth could happen but has so far been lacking. At these heights, it’s possible mass timber buildings could be more affordable to build than conventional structures while still delivering the height and structural resilience formerly only possible through concrete and steel frame construction. With San Francisco and L.A. building out larger transit systems and the state’s high-speed trail line on the way, it will be important to add high density nodes throughout the state to meet climate and housing goals. Cory Scrivner, a mass timber specialist with Structurlam, explained via email that with the coming changes to IBC and looming reforms to local zoning, “The market for mass timber will be growing significantly over the next few years.” With disruptive and new tariffs on foreign-grown softwood and imported steel and aluminum, its possible there could be further financial incentives to build structures made from regionally-grown timber, as well. Katerra, a Menlo Park, California-based construction technology and services start-up, is busy constructing a 250,000-square-foot factory in Spokane, Washington where it will produce mass timber products including cross laminated timber (CLT) panels. The company, which seeks to bring many aspects of the construction process—design, engineering, materials, manufacturing, and assembly—under one name while also modernizing the construction trades, is well-poised to play a role in California’s housing recovery. The company—which already has a functioning factory in Arizona—is growing, having just received a boost of $865 million in investment capital as it seeks to build out its network of regional manufacturing facilities Furthermore, because mass timber manufacturing is typically performed indoors with fewer workers and in advance of job site installation, mass timber construction also potentially holds the promise of side-stepping the state’s vexing shortage of skilled construction workers, one of the many unsolved structural repercussions of the Great Recession. According to Craig Curtis, president of Katerra’s architecture unit, the company’s factory-focused business model means that fewer—and differently-trained—workers are required on site. Instead of hammering nail to wood on a desolate job site, Katerra’s equipment operators and workers produce interior and exterior wall panels, roof truss assemblies, floor systems and countertops, among other building components in a factory. On-site, a crane and a well-trained team of workers assemble each new building in a fraction of the time compared to normative building practices. Curtis said over telephone, “[Addressing California’s housing crisis] is exactly the type of problem we are trying to solve—everyone deserves to live in a well-designed home delivered at an affordable price point.” And lastly, because each mass timber assembly is made to order, the so-called “mass-customization” potential of mass timber construction could also be a boon for the urban character of cities and residents alike, potentially resulting in a rich variety of building approaches and unit types. Might this variable approach even do away with the dreaded “stucco box?” Only time will tell. California’s housing shortage is a watershed event several generations in the making that will require proportional measures if it is to be adequately addressed. Given current understanding of what the mass timber industry is capable of producing, a rising wave of zoning reform, and growing funding sources for affordable housing construction, it might be time for municipalities and developers alike to take a look at this new building technology.