Posts tagged with "timber":

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Design collaboration brings mass timber residence halls to the University of Arkansas

A national design collaboration led by Boston-based Leers Weinzapfel Associates and including Arkansas-based Modus Studio, St. Louis–based Mackey Mitchell Architects, and Philadelphia-based OLIN has created America’s first large-scale, mass timber interactive learning project, already under construction at the University of Arkansas. Working off of a “cabin the woods” concept, 708-bed Stadium Drive Residence Halls feature fully exposed, locally harvested wood structural elements. The residence halls are a pair of snaking buildings joined in a central plaza, and include classrooms, dining facilities, maker-spaces, performance spaces, administrative offices, and faculty housing. The five-story buildings, totaling 202,027 square feet, are clad in a zinc-colored paneling, while copper-toned panels are scattered along each floor that appear to float above the heavily planted backdrop. Inside, wooden columns, beams and cross-bracing are all displayed to present a sense of warmth, and to connect students with Arkansas’s local ecology. The halls terminate with large study rooms at the end of each floor, which light up at night and act as beacons for the rest of the campus. The panels were constructed from Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), while the structural columns and beams are made of glulam, where layers of wood all facing the same direction are laminated together under pressure. Each arched building curves around a courtyard or common park area and students enter the complex through a covered “front porch” at the northern building’s main entrance. The central gathering room that connects the hall’s two wings has been dubbed the “cabin,” and despite being relatively small, packs in a hearth, community kitchen, lounge spaces, and a planted green roof. Each hall also features a double-height ground floor lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow uninterrupted views of the surrounding landscape. “The interwoven building and landscaped courtyards, terraces, and lawns; the beauty of timber structure and spaces; and the excitement of performing arts and workshop facilities will make this newest campus residential community a destination and a magnet,” said Andrea P. Leers, principal of Leers Weinzapfel Associates. Leers Weinzapfel is no stranger to working with timber, as its multidisciplinary design building for UMass Amherst wrapped up construction late last year. The project is expected to finish in 2019, and will anchor a new master plan for the University of Arkansas campus.
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Congress gears up for a fight over mass timber legislation

This is an article from our special November timber issue. The battle over the 2017 Timber Innovation Act is gaining momentum in Washington, D.C., where two new Senate sponsors and four new Congress members have signed on to it since this past May. The pending legislation would provide funding for research into innovative wood materials and mass timber structures above 85 feet. The bill’s proponents are hoping that it will be an impetus for transforming cities and towns across the country with a bevy of mid-rise and high-rise mass timber buildings. “I am very impressed with the large cross-aisle support,” Chadwick Oliver, director of Yale University’s Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry, said. “You have Bruce Westerman, a Republican congressman from Arkansas and Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon who has been on the side of environmental groups. This looks like a bill that is quite serious about moving forward.” However, the concrete and steel industries are vigorously lobbying to derail the legislation, and have established a website called Build with Strength that contains a detailed critique of the new generation of wood buildings. “It is a piece of legislation that props up one industry over another and we think that it is misguided and dangerous,” Kevin Lawlor, a spokesperson from Build with Strength, said. “We don’t think that it is safe in three-to-five story buildings, and we don’t think that it is safer in taller buildings.” The wood products industry, the U.S. Forest Service, and other advocates claim that technological advances make the new generation of tall timber buildings more fire resistant. In fact, according to Dr. Patricia A. Layton, director of the Wood Utilization + Design Institute at Clemson University, that is because of the way it chars in a fire: By insulating its interior, an exposed wood beam can actually be structurally stronger than a steel one. “Steel loses its strength at a lower temperature than does wood,” she explained. “If you expose concrete or steel it is combustible, and it does feel the effects of fire.” Many of the act’s supporters say that allowing buildings to be built from wood technologies such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) will result in a host of economic and environmental benefits. Most of the Timber Innovation Act’s sponsors hail from states where the wood industry is struggling to recoup from the recent housing downturn and also suffering from the decrease in demand for paper that is a result of the increasing digitalization of the economy. “A big part of the innovation act is having the U.S. Forest Service work to expand markets and attract business to heavily forested states, particularly those that have a major timber industry,” said Andrew Dodson, vice president of the American Wood Council, who notes that the U.S. Timber Innovation Act is a way to help jumpstart a sagging wood-products industry. “Mills are running at much lower capacity,” he said, “two shifts versus three or four—we want to put more mill jobs back in place.” However, some in the mass timber industry say that the Timber Innovation Act will be of limited utility until building codes are changed to allow for the use of CLT. “The code issue is more critical than the Timber Innovation Act,” Jean-Marc Dubois, director of business development for the Montreal-based Nordic Structures, said. He believes that New York City’s restrictive building codes have helped stall progress on tall timber, pointing to the wooden skyscraper designed by SHoP architects that was killed earlier this year as an example. Even though the 2015 International Building Code (IBC), which New York City has not adopted, allows for the use of CLT, Dubois said that building departments throughout the country haven’t updated their codes to allow for the use of CLT. Having the SHoP project, which received a lot of publicity, fail to get built was a major setback for the industry, according to Dubois. “New York City had the ability to be a real-world leader with timber innovation,” he said. “It was disappointing.” A $250,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service’s Wood Innovations Grant program helped Yugon Kim of Boston-based IKD develop what he believes is the first hardwood CLT structure in the U.S.: An outdoor sculpture in Columbus, Indiana, which consists of a series of ascending arcing forms. Congress is not the only place in Washington where the merits of tall mass timber are being explored. Steve Marshall, assistant director at the U.S. Forest Service, has been working with the International Code Council to develop standards for the use of CLT. In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense has been conducting blast tests with CLT to determine whether it is an appropriate material to use on its bases. Marshall said there are other potential sources for government support for CLT projects aside from direct funding from the Timber Innovation Act. In the third week of October, his agency will be releasing a new round of grants of up to $250,000 under its Wood Innovations Grants program. Next year, the Forest Service is planning on making $8 million available under the same program, and applications will be due by mid-January. One of the most notable examples of how government funding can play a difference is with LEVER Architecture's innovative design of the 12-story (148-foot-tall) Framework building under construction in Portland, Oregon, which will be the first wood high-rise in the U.S. A $1.5 million U.S. Tall Building Award sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture helped fund the seismic and fire-safety tests that enabled it to pass muster with Portland building department officials. Thomas Robinson, principal of LEVER Architecture said that the concrete and steel industries shouldn’t be worried about losing market share because in the future most tall timber structures will be hybrids that include concrete and steel as well as wood. “We need to look at each material for its appropriate purpose,” he said.
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The lumber industry responds to the rise of mass timber

This is an article from our special November timber issue. North America’s lumber industry helped define what it means to build in the modern era. With the invention of the light balloon–frame, lumber became an indispensable resource to the quickly expanding United States in the 19th century. Over the past 150 years, the process and politics of wood have shaped a highly efficient industry that still provides the vast majority of the U.S.’s house-building material. With new technology, wood is pushing into new territories, and the lumber industry is bracing to respond to these demands. The process of harvesting lumber has dramatically changed since the industry began to standardize and organize in the late 1800s. No longer will you find any teams of two-person saws felling ancient trees or a Paul Bunyan-esque worker swinging an axe. Most of the industry became highly mechanized in the 1970s with the invention of the harvester. Harvesters, invented in Scandinavia, are tree cutting, moving, and trimming vehicles that have drastically reduced the danger and time involved in lumber work. Crawling through the forest, harvesters reach out with an articulated arm, grab a tree by the base with its nimble claw, then cut, trim, and lift the bare log onto the back of a transport vehicle. This can all be done by one operator, and during the process the tree is measured and catalogued. This entire process has added efficiency and sustainability to an industry that carefully balances a fine line of production and conservation. In North America and Europe, long gone are the days of clear-cutting forests and destroying an entire region’s ecology. While clear-cutting “slash and burn” operations still happen in parts of South America and Africa, they are due to the expanding, unregulated livestock and agriculture industries, not the timber industry. The careful regulation and scientific study of the lumber industry in the United States and Canada have led to a net increase of 1 percent of forested land over the last 50 years. That means the forests of North America are stable, with a slight increase, even as roughly 45.5 billion board feet of lumber are harvested in the United States in a single year. This is thanks to precise tree selection, sometimes using satellite imagery and GPS, and aggressive tree-growing programs. While much of the harvesting techniques have been streamlined, the politics behind harvesting have been anything but. Most notably, the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute is considered one of the greatest points of trade tension between the two countries. The disagreement is directly linked to how and where lumber is coming from. In the United States, most lumber comes from the property of 11 million private U.S. landowners. In Canada, most land dedicated to lumber harvesting is owned by the government. In the interest of maintaining a healthy economy, Canadian provincial governments subsidize the industry, effectively keeping the price of lumber low and stable. This is in direct conflict with the private-market-driven prices U.S. companies charge. Over the past 40 years, a number of lawsuits and agreements have been filed and disputed between the two countries over Canada’s subsidies and the movement of lumber over the border. While this dispute is currently at an uneasy truce, the potential of new wood technologies is promising to drive the demand for lumber to new heights. Roughly 80 percent of all lumber harvested in the world is softwood. Despite its name, softwood, as opposed to hardwood, is not defined by its softness, but rather by the species of tree it comes from. Softwoods are generally conifers, such as pines, firs, and cedars, while hardwoods come from broad-leaved trees, such as oaks, maples, and hickories. Softwoods have long been used for light-frame construction, while hardwoods have been traditionally used for heavy timber construction, as well as fine woodworking due to its often-fine grain. Although the lumber industry is confident it can handle an increase in demand, there are factors that will need to be addressed. As of yet, there are few standards for producing heavy timber, CLT in particular, and legal definitions are also lacking. The industry is developing so fast that local fire codes have not been established for the material. At the same time, architects, lumber producers, and manufacturers across North America are looking to Canada and Europe for a way forward, while innovating in their own right.
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Is mass timber really sustainable?

This is an article from our special November timber issue. We like to blame a lot of things for climate change—namely coal and cow farts—but if we were to search for a worthy scapegoat, architects might end up looking in the mirror. The building sector is responsible for 44.6 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. And, with an estimated 1.9 trillion billion square feet to be built in the next 33 years, those emissions will not subside without significant intervention. On the flip side, for architects anyway, this means the power to reduce carbon emissions is quite literally in your hands. “No designer—I think—wakes up and says, ‘I want to make the world worse today,’” William McDonough, architect, designer, and sustainable development leader said. “To make the world better, that’s our job.” Identifying successful ways to build sustainably can be difficult in a haze of greenwashing and checklist-style certifications, but many environmental experts, architects, and scientists are looking to mass-built timber as a reliable way to reduce carbon and fossil fuel output. A recent study, “Carbon, Fossil Fuel, and Biodiversity Mitigation with Wood and Forests,” stated that using wood as a building-material substitute could save “14 to 31 percent of global CO2 emissions and 12 to 19 percent of global FF [fossil fuel] consumption by using 34 to 100 percent of the world’s sustainable wood growth.” Building with timber reduces the overall carbon footprint in several ways. First, wood is a renewable resource, and growing a tree is a low-impact method of production (i.e. it uses photosynthesis rather than a plethora of machines). Second, trees are grown in abundance all over the United States and don’t need to be imported from abroad, reducing the amount of energy expended on shipping. “Right now we harvest less than half of what we could and still be well within the threshold of sustainability,” Kathryn Fernholz, the executive director at Dovetail Partners, an environmental nonprofit, explained. “That’s not the same in every single scenario, but in general in the U.S., we have an abundance of wood.” Third, and perhaps counter-intuitively, many environmentalists believe that harvesting trees allows forests to become more efficient at carbon sequestration. The logic is simple: When a tree is harvested, it stores carbon, then when another tree is planted in its place, it also will store carbon, making that plot of land’s carbon sequestration infinitely multipliable as trees are planted, grown, and harvested. “There is a widely held belief that cutting down trees is bad and causes loss of forest, but a strong market for wood products would cause us to grow more forests,” Fernholz said. “The vast majority of deforestation is land conversion, using the land for something else like development or agriculture. We know what resources we have and we monitor them and adjust. Forestry is not in the same place it was a hundred or even fifty years ago when deforestation was an issue.” While that stance of de-and reforestation is under debate among environmental experts, across the board, timber is generally a more sustainable building material because it is a renewable resource (provided that responsible forest practices are used). This includes the energy consumed to produce cross-laminated timber (CLT) in factories, which have a carbon emissions advantage over steel because the wood does not need to be heated over 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit like steel or concrete—in fact, unless the wood is kiln dried, heat isn’t need at all. Although embodied carbon is typically measured per building, because different amounts of each material are used in different scenarios, Wood for Good, a campaign by the timber industry to promote the material, claims that a ton of bricks requires four times the amount of energy to produce as a ton of sawn softwood (wood used for CLT); concrete requires five times, steel 24 times, and aluminum 126 times. “Reporting carbon emissions for wood includes a range of different assumptions and methods,” explained Kathrina Simonen, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Washington and director of the Carbon Leadership Forum. “So sometimes it ends up negative and sometimes it ends up positive. It can be confusing.” She is optimistic, however, that research is close to resolving the differences. Responsible forestry practices are already underway, with harvest occurring on long rotations so that the forest has time to regenerate itself and care can be taken to avoid removing other plants, roots, and branches in the process. Lastly, “Wood can be a durable good, as we've seen in ancient wooden buildings like the Temple at Nara, Japan [originally built in 745 AD and rebuilt in 1709],” McDonough said. “In [wood’s] history, it is often put into a cycle of use and reuse that can take it from large numbers to smaller and smaller [components].” Its ability to withstand centuries and to be disassembled and then reassembled into other buildings and furnishings keeps it out of the landfill and in a perpetual cycle of use until it can ultimately be returned to the environment in some form. Although well over 90 percent of one-to-three-story residential buildings are already wood-built, there are only a handful of mid-rise and tall timber buildings across the United States, a result of building codes that often prohibit timber-built structures larger than four to six stories. However, thanks in part to innovative wood products, including CLT, nail laminated timber (NLT), and glue laminated timber (glulam), wood construction can be used in buildings as tall as 40 stories. A study by consulting and engineering company Poyry and the New England Forestry Foundation shows that the greatest potential for timber-built is in mid-rise (six to 14 story) buildings, as it also tends to be more economical to build with timber at that scale. According to the Soft-wood Lumber Board, over two-thirds of the square footage in the mid-rise sector could be made with mass timber. These statistics combined, in addition to the taller structures that mass timber can create, have the potential to make a sizable dent in our CO2 and fossil fuel emissions. Like virtually everything in architecture, though, it is all in the details; for timber to be sustainable it has to be done correctly, from responsible forestry practices to environmentally safe glues and binders to craftsmanship and the design itself. “It is tremendously exciting. Building with wood creates diverse opportunities—there are different species and materials that all can work,” Fernholz said. “However, it is important to recognize that some things can come from wood, but nothing replaces good design and planning.”
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Studio Ma designs net-zero timber building for Arizona State

This is an article from our special November timber issue. Phoenix–based Studio Ma has unveiled a radically sustainable master plan and conceptual design for Arizona State University’s Interdisciplinary Science & Technology Building—a science and research complex that will be centered around a vast atrium filled with plants and water. The scheme will literally embody what its professors will be teaching—achieving triple net-zero performance by consuming zero net energy, and producing zero waste and zero net greenhouse gas emissions. “Beyond the field of architecture, we need to be working with scientists,” said Studio Ma principal Christiana Moss. Much of the technology for the building was, in fact, developed by ASU scientists. The green elements inside and out are many. A light-rail station will run right up to the edge of the structure, offsetting carbon usage, while wetlands and bioswales along the periphery will absorb and clean runoff. Not only will the complex’s cross-laminated timber (CLT) frame sequester carbon much more effectively than steel, ASU developed carbon-collection panels that will trap carbon dioxide, which can then be employed to enrich the soil. Sunshades will keep the interiors cool; and rooftop solar photovoltaics will help power the building. “This represents a closing of the energy loop,” said Moss. “We’re collecting as much as we use. The building, in a way, becomes living.” Inside the massive day-lit atrium, the biome’s thick diversity of plants will purify waste air, while its wetlands landscape will recycle rainwater, which will be stored in tanks under the biome. An adjacent water-treatment portion of the complex will also treat and recycle sewage (perhaps for the entire campus) for use as gray water using low-energy, bio-based systems. The final phase of that treatment will be moving the water through a hydroponic reactor inside the atrium. The interior will also be a centerpiece for farming, with grassy areas and even a canal entering the heart of the building. “These things have been done,” said Moss. “But they haven’t been done at this scale, in the same place.” The project’s delivery date is fall 2020. ASU recently issued an RFP, and another architect (still to be selected) will be brought in to oversee the design. But whatever happens, “the function needs to drive the form; and it will require a much broader team of researchers to pull off,” said Moss. “There’s a whole field of research that needs to be opened up to what this is proposing,” Moss added. “This is the beginning of a whole future I see for architecture. This is where we all need to go.”
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How mass timber could transform our cities (really)

This is a preview of our special November timber issue. Mass timber is having its Maison Dom-Ino moment. At the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, a curious structure sat on the grass near the international pavilion in the Giardini. It was an engineered timber version of Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-Ino, the seminal, prototypical reinforced concrete project, which was celebrating its 100th birthday. As a manifesto of sorts for modernism, the original Maison Dom-
Ino sent shockwaves through the 
architecture world and the built environment at large. It was a replicable, scalable building system made from simple columns and floor slabs, which could be stacked vertically and horizontally like dominoes. The 2014 version was commissioned by Brett Steele, then dean at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. He described the “afterlife” of the 1914 Dom-Ino as “a set of guiding, abstract, and idealized principles” that have shaped the world as we know it today. The choice of timber in this case is an interesting one, as mass timber seems to be today’s material that looks promising for the future, much like steel and concrete did in the 20th century. As outlined in this issue, timber has a litany of benefits including carbon sequestration, lower embodied energy than steel and concrete, psychological benefits for inhabitants, less construction noise in tight urban sites, easier on-site construction in general, and many other positive aspects. It would reorient wood from light-frame suburban development toward mid-rise dense urban development. Taller and taller timber towers serve as the “Eiffel Tower” moments for the rapidly expanding timber industry, as pointed out by Jimmy Stamp in the Smithsonian Magazine article, "Is Timber the Future of Urban Construction?" And these important projects have brought attention to an otherwise niche building trade. Alongside these "Wow!" projects, there is another, less sexy side of the timber revolution that could help to change the way we build in America. New technologies abroad are already making mid-rise construction cheaper and more viable at larger scales. This incremental progress is taking place among manufacturers, architects, engineers, and designers as we speak in places like the nearly 600,000-square-foot Arbora complex in Montreal, Quebec. And companies, such as Nordic Engineered Wood, are expanding in the U.S. market, a place known for innovation that makes things cheaper and more market-ready. Once the market can produce mass timber structures more cheaply than steel and concrete, there could be a seismic shift. And as timber becomes more viable for safety concerns, and more legal through local codes adapting ("The State of the Art of Timber"), we could see timber proliferate at the same rate as the early-20th century saw the Maison Dom-Ino’s system spread across the world over the next 100 years. But of course we are speculating a bit in this issue. The future is not so clear. A fight is brewing in Congress ("What Wood You Do?") over the bipartisan Timber Innovation Act (and along with it, lobbying antics from the steel, concrete, and sand industries). If U.S. governmental agencies and private companies—namely manufacturers—come together, the costs could come down. It is possible that architectural knowledge-research and development could bend the markets so as to impact both economic and environmental resource allocation networks toward a lower-carbon future, as architect and timber expert Alan Organschi told AN in a conversation. The arms race is already on, and the National Forest Service has awarded $250,000 to Boston-based IKD to develop a hardwood-based cross-laminated timber (CLT), which is an important incremental step in the process. This issue speculates on a future where entire blocks might be built with green technologies including mass timber, and whole cities could be filled with beautiful wood buildings layered onto the stone, brick, steel, glass, and concrete urban fabric. How this revolution might play out is unclear, but we are seeing glimpses of what might be to come, such as Framework by LEVER Architecture in Portland, which will be the tallest timber building in the U.S., or the work of Michael Green Architecture in Vancouver, or Gray Organschi Architecture out of New Haven, Connecticut, which has been researching mass timber at the Yale School of Architecture. We also look to Europe and Canada for success stories that might be examples for the future of mass timber in the U.S. As Steele said of his 2014 Maison Dom-Ino, “This initial installation will remind visitors not only of modern architecture's most foundational project, but of an architectural instinct made even more apparent today than it was at the time of its original conception; namely that architecture always operates in the space created by a contrast between architecture as already known, and what it might yet become.” Can we imagine a partially wooden future? This article will be updated with links to other articles from the November timber issue.
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Boston’s emerging designers get spotlight in design biennial

Winners of the fifth Design Biennial Boston can be viewed on The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy in Boston. Aimed to celebrate and give exposure to up-and-coming architects and designers from the New England region, the Biennial is on view until October 18th. This year, it consists of four installations which vary in themes, materials and artistic style. In order to bring their ideas to life, Design Biennial Boston has provided each winning team with $10,000 and access to cutting-edge fabrication equipment provided by sponsor Autodesk BUILD Space. The four winning teams, selected among a pool of designers from New England, were called upon to create installations echoing the region’s unique qualities and reflecting on the Greenway’s Playful Perspectives theme. The works by Jennifer Bonner of MALL, Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy of DESIGN EARTH, Daniel Ibañez of Margen-Lab, and Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest of ULTRAMODERNE entertain ideas of rigid to free-flowing forms, local materials, economic trends, and global impacts all representative of the region. Another Axon by Jennifer Bonner of MALL (pictured above) is an installation comprised of a colorful array of twelve minimalist trees. A play on traditional architecture and design rendering, the installation uses common building materials such as vinyl siding, stucco, and artificial turf to challenge perceived building ideas. Primitive by Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest of ULTRAMODERNE is a geometric disposition of lines juxtaposed with rough materials: rugged cedar columns canopied with a thin aluminum shroud. The relationship between the shapes create an experience of existence within an abstracted, delicate grove. Blue Marble Circus by Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy of DESIGN EARTH is a spherical, plastic monument highlighting the correlation between humanity's actions and the degradation of the ecosystem. The installation, as the name suggests, is a deep-blue plastic sphere which through form, color and material refers to the iconic symbol of environmental awareness. Ways of Wood by Daniel Ibañez of MARGEN-LAB is a compilation of logs that serve as public seating. The logs draw a visual connection between different states in timber's industrial process, from raw material to its highly polished state as a designed object. The installation aims to initiate a conversation on North America’s timber extraction industry and serve as a reminder of the often forgotten natural source of timber.
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Largest mass timber building in U.S. opens tomorrow in Minneapolis

The seven-story, 220,000-square-foot T3 office building in Minneapolis’s North Loop district will become the tallest modern wood building in the U.S. when it opens tomorrow. Designed by Michael Green Architecture and the DLR Group, the T3—which stands for Timber, Technology, Transit—features nail-laminated timber (NLT) clad in weathering steel. While the building resembles the nearby historic warehouses in the district, its efficient structural system is about one-fifth the weight of a similarly sized concrete building, according to StructureCraft, which worked on the project. Leaving the interiors bare also eliminated costly coverings. StructureCraft fabricated T3's NLT panels in nearby Winnipeg, Manitoba, and was able to build 180,000 square feet of timber framing in less than 10 weeks. Typically, the estimated time of construction in a timber building is an average of nine days per floor. The NLT panels were combined with a spruce glulam post-and-beam frame and a concrete slab. 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. The result is a simple massing with an airy brightness, thanks to the exposed wood. “This will have the ambiance of the old warehouses with timber beams that everyone wants, but solves all the problems of energy efficiency and light,” real estate firm Hines director Bob Pfefferle told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Timber frame construction has been praised as an environmentally responsible choice. In addition to being made from sustainable lumber, which is less energy-intensive to extract, the building will sequester about 3,200 tons of carbon. However, mass timber construction has been slow to take off—T3, for example, was supposed to break ground back in November 2015. Thankfully, a slew of timber-framed buildings is set to open in the next year—perhaps ushering in a new era of downtown towers.
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Watch SOM test its latest in timber tower technology

Working with Oregon State University (OSU), Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has been busy testing its design for a timber tower. The time-lapse video below shows a section of the wood tower being submitted to 82,000 pounds of pressure. SOM has been working on the Timber Tower Research Project, funded by the Softwood Lumber Board (SLB) since 2013. The goal of the project is to develop safe, sustainable building technologies using mass-timber. Using timber may reduce a building’s embedded carbon footprint by as much as 60% to 70% compared to benchmark concrete building. The Timber Tower Research Project has developed a structural system called the Concrete Jointed Timber Frame that employs mass-timber elements with reinforced concrete connections. Since 2014, SOM and OSU have developed a comprehensive physical testing program, which recently completed a full-scale test to prove the system’s ability to satisfy code requirements. The 36-foot by 8-foot specimen is comprised of a Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) deck topped with a thin layer of reinforced concrete. The concrete is used to improve structural, acoustic, and fire performance. The composite allows for long spans with a relatively thin cross-section. The 82,000 pounds tested is roughly eight times the required design load. Forty-eight sensors recorded stresses as a hydraulic actuator loaded the specimen over two hours. Timber Tower Research Project: Successful Test at Oregon State University from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP on Vimeo.
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White Arkitekter wins bid to design tallest timber tower in Nordic nations

Out of 55 entries in an international design competition for a mixed-use cultural center and hotel, Swedish firm White Arkitekter’s 19-story “Sida vid sida” (“Side-by-side”) design won the bid, according to a press release from the firm. When built, the Kulturhus i Skellefteå will be the tallest timber tower in the Nordic countries. The city of Skellefteå, Sweden, is surrounded by forests which will provide the wood for the construction. The city has a reputation for its abundance of timber and its applications, both in buildings and building techniques. One of the lead architects, Oskar Norelius, stated, “A cultural centre in Skellefteå just has to be built with wood! We’re paying homage to the region’s rich tradition and we’re hoping to collaborate with the local timber industry. Together we will create a beautiful venue, open for everyone, which will both have a contemporary expression and timeless quality,” according to the press release. The tower will be built with prefabricated glue-laminated timber modules reinforced with concrete slabs and steel trusses. The facade will be fully glazed while interior retractable walls will allow for versatile rooms. A green roof will top the building, “providing thermal insulation, sound insulation, biodiversity and rain water absorption.” The county theater, city library, Anna Nordlander Museum, and Skellefteå’s art gallery will be located on the lower floors of the building, accessible to the public. The top sixteen floors will comprise the building’s hotel. White Arkitekter is working with structural engineering firm Dipl.-Ing. Florian Kosche AS (DIFK) for construction detailing and specifications. Completion of building is slated for 2019.
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Leers Weinzapfel Associates designs timber multidisciplinary design building for UMass Amherst

The University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst, about 100 miles west of Boston, will get a new multidisciplinary addition this fall. Boston-based Leers Weinzapfel Associates designed the UMass Design Building, set to open November 2016 in time for winter classes. It will unite the architecture, landscape architecture, regional planning, and building technology departments into one facility. The building is currently under construction. See our slideshow above and images below for exclusive construction photos (we've included a few renderings, too). When the project opens, it will be one of the largest mass timber structures in the United States. The building's interior will feature Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), an engineered wood known for its durability and lightness. Projects can use CLT to replace materials with higher embodied energy such as steel, concrete, and masonry. While it has been popular in Europe and Canada for some time, CLT is gaining traction in the United States, mostly on the west coast (one notable project is the Bullitt Center in Seattle). The 87,000 square foot Design Building will also rely on a glue-laminated wood frame, a wood composite floor, and a copper anodized aluminum building envelope. The facility will bring together over 500 students and 50 faculty across the four departments into a space that is transparent, open, and light-filled. The design features a lowered atrium with a zipper truss, an upper courtyard, and offices and classrooms rising in a coil, explained Andrea Leers, principal and co-founder of Leers Weinzapfel Associates. A major goal of the design was to help facilitate greater interaction between student and faculty. The firm put studios and offices on each floor, said Tom Chung, principal at Leers Weinzapfel. Yet there is also an element of independence, as studios on each level are at one end, while offices are at the other. The studios will be medium-sized, able to fit up to 5 sections. “UMass did not want a lecture hall,” Leers said. Instead, the ground floor—which has no predefined programming—includes stairs that double as seating for presentations and a flat floor for absorbing activities and other events. Also planned is a cafe, exhibit space, and libraries. The Design Building site is a sloped area on the southern part of the UMass campus between Stockbridge Way and Kevin Roche’s 1975 Haigis Mall. “It is a challenging site,” said Leers. The building will rise to four stories on one end and three stories on the uphill. The landscape design by Stephen Stimson Associates relies on a bioswale for water filtration. Leers Weinzapfel stressed the close connections between the exterior and interior, with the concept of building-as-landscape and landscape-as-building. In separate conversations with both Leers Weinzapfel architects and UMass building technology specialists, both emphasized the educational component of the Design Building—how the building itself would serve as a living instructional example. “We wanted this building from the early stages to be a teaching tool for advanced timber construction,” said Peggi Clouston, associate professor of building and construction technology at UMass Amherst. “The project uses CNC milled wood,” said Alex Schreyer, building construction and technology program director at UMass Amherst. “There are extremely tight tolerances. It’s innovative with these spans of 25, 26 feet.” But there are challenges to building in timber in the U.S. “The forests are in a state of decline. They are not properly managed, and weed species [smaller species] are choking out larger ones," said Clouston. These weed species are easy fuel for forest fires. The use of mass timber reflects the university’s roots in agriculture—the university was founded under the President Abraham Lincoln-signed 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act. The university was first called the Massachusetts Agricultural College. “It was a public process,” said Josiah Stevenson, principal at Leers Weinzapfel of the design. The total cost of the project is $52 million, with $36 million going toward construction. When it came to obtaining funding, the UMass's efforts were partially an “activist intervention,” Leers explained. UMass faculty went to the state legislature for funding, and spoke with former Massachusetts Congressman John Olver. He was taken with timber, said Clouston. Currently down the hill from the Design Building site is Wood on the Plaza, a white ash timber bridge shell installation at the Fine Arts Center Plaza. The architecture department will be moving out of its home in a Brutalist Kevin Roche building. The university will reuse the current architecture and building technology spaces, while razing the landscape department building, originally built as a dorm. You can find more Design Building information, construction photos and time-lapse videos online. The construction manager for the project is Suffolk Construction.
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An expanse of sustainable timber just clinched the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s Lakefront Kiosk Competition

Officials with the Chicago Architecture Biennial today announced the winners of the Lakefront Kiosk Competition, choosing a team whose stated goal was “to build the largest flat wood roof possible.” Dubbed Chicago Horizon, the design is by Rhode Island–based Ultramoderne, a collaboration between architects Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest and structural engineer Brett Schneider. Their pavilion uses cross-laminated timber, a new lumber product that some structural engineers call carbon-negative for its ability to displace virgin steel and concrete while sequester the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide during its growth. Ultramoderne's long, flat roof “aims to provide an excess of public space for the Architecture Biennial and Chicago beach-goers,” according to the project description. Their design rose above 420 other entries from designers in more than 40 countries, and will receive a $10,000 honorarium, as well as a $75,000 production budget to realize the kiosk. BP is providing those funds as part of a $2.5 million grant to the inaugural biennial. Three teams—Lekker Architects, Tru Architekten, and Kelley, Palider, Paros—were finalists for the top honor. Fala Atelier, Kollectiv Atelier, and Guillame Mazars all received an honorable mention. The Biennial has posted a selection of submissions to the Lakefront Kiosk Competition on its Pinterest page.

After the biennial, Chicago Horizon "will find a permanent home in Spring 2016, operating as a food and beverage vendor, as well as a new public space along the lakefront.

During the Biennial three other kiosks will be installed along the lakefront. Details on those are due to be announced next week, but here are the preliminary project descriptions:
The Cent Pavilion, designed by Pezo von Ellrichshausen in collaboration with the Illinois Institute of Technology, is a forty-foot tower meant to convey silent and convoluted simplicity. Rock, the kiosk designed by Kunlé Adeyemi in collaboration with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is a pop-up pavilion a public sculpture composed from the raw and historic limestone blocks that once protected the city’s shoreline. Summer Vault, designed by Paul Andersen of Independent Architecture and Paul Preissner of Paul Preissner Architects, in collaboration with the University of Illinois, Chicago, is a lakefront kiosk that consists of basic geometric shapes combined to create a freestanding hangout within the park.
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