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Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has won permission for the world’s first timber football stadium in Gloucestershire at a second attempt

Forest Green Rovers Football Club’s 5,000-seat stadium was approved by Stroud District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday (18 December).

In June, the same planning committee refused the plans, citing noise, traffic and impact on the environment. The proposals were subsequently altered.

Changes include swapping one grass pitch to an all-weather pitch with access to local clubs, a revised landscaping strategy, increased matchday transport and clarifications regarding noise.

The application also includes landscaped parking and two pitches, one a 4G playing surface with access for the local community.

Zaha Hadid Architects won a competition in 2016 to design a sustainable home for the now League Two side, which is the world’s first UN-certified carbon-neutral football club.

The club, which serves vegan food and is powered by renewable energy, is chaired by environmentalist Dale Vince, owner of green energy firm Ecotricity.

It is claimed the practice’s proposals would have created the first football stadium in the world to be built entirely from wood.

Every seat had been calculated to provide unrestricted sightlines to the entire field of play, maximising matchday atmosphere.

Forest Green Rovers, formerly known as Stroud FC, has been based at the New Lawn stadium in Nailsworth since 2006.

Following Vince’s acquisition of the club at the start of this decade, the venue received a flurry of green upgrades including solar panels, a solar-powered robot grass mower and the world’s first organic football pitch.

Vince said, when choosing the Zaha Hadid Architects proposals three years ago: ‘The really standout thing about this stadium is that it’s going to be entirely made of wood – the first time that will have been done anywhere in the world.

‘The importance of using wood is not only that it’s a naturally occurring material, it has very low carbon content – about as low as it gets for a building material.

‘And when you bear in mind that around three-quarters of the lifetime carbon impact of any stadium comes from its building materials, you can see why that’s so important, and it’s why our new stadium will have the lowest carbon content of any stadium in the world.’
Sidewalk Toronto
North America is on the cusp of a mass timber revolution, and Sidewalk Labs' Waterfront Toronto project is leading the way. But the smart material faces major obstacles.

A building made primarily of wood conjures public fear of fire, but for a growing number of developers, it evokes opportunity. From constructing towering wooden condominiums, to timber college dormitories, to an entire neighborhood built from trees, experts in "mass timber" are creating buildings of the future.

Sidewalk Labs' master plan for a futuristic smart city on the waterfront in Toronto includes an entire neighborhood made of wood, called Quayside, with 10 mixed-use building up to 35 stories.

The plan is audacious, considering that in the U.S., there are only 221 mass timber buildings in the works or fully built, according to the American Wood Council​'s Kenneth Bland.

In most U.S. cities, mass timber buildings, and specifically tall mass timber buildings, are a rarity, if they exist at all.

But architects, city officials and timber advocates across North America are pushing conventional building codes and public perception because of the drastic impact these structures can have on reducing CO2 through carbon sequestration, compared to traditional concrete and steel.

"I think it's a big opportunity for a lot of cities out there ... The impact on reducing carbon emissions on earth could be dramatic," Karim Khalifa, director of buildings innovation at Sidewalk Labs, told Smart Cities Dive. "And that gets me excited."

What is mass timber?

One of the biggest obstacles for city officials is understanding the material. They are more than buildings made of wood — they're defined by their structure. Steel or concrete buildings with wood accents don't count, according to Andrew Tsay Jacobs from architecture firm Perkins and Will.

Mass timber buildings use solid wood panels to frame a building's walls, floors and roofs, creating structures that can reach at least 18 stories, as is the case with the tallest mass timber building in the world in Norway. But these buildings aren't just pure wood. Mass timber construction utilizes engineered wood, or panels glued together, and there are several types: cross-laminated (CLT), glue-laminated and dowel-laminated timber, with CLT being the most common.

While shorter wood buildings have existed for centuries, CLT panel technology is relatively new. It was developed in Europe in the 1990s, the material was only added to the international building code in 2015. Even then, all-wood buildings were capped at six stories, though that will change to allow taller structures in 2021.

Why use mass timber?

A main argument for the use of mass timber is its power to mitigate climate change. The structures can have a lifespan of hundreds of years, and contain the unique ability of effectively sequestering or removing carbon from the atmosphere, which can reverse climate change effects at a large scale.

"Now more than ever, the lens through which we view and imagine ways to redesign and build physical infrastructure, has to be based around sustainability," said Portland, OR Mayor Ted Wheeler during a speech at the International Mass Timber Conference in March.
Danish architectural firm COBE has unveiled designs for a new science museum in the Swedish university city of Lund that will be powered not only with rooftop solar energy but also with pedal power. Museum visitors will be invited to help generate electricity for the carbon-neutral museum by riding “energy bikes” on its concave roof. Constructed primarily from prefabricated cross-laminated timber, the eco-friendly building will be a sustainable landmark and help cement Lund’s position as a science city on the international stage.

Winner of an international competition, COBE’s proposal for the science museum will be located in the heart of the city’s new urban district, Science Villa Scandinavia. The museum will be sandwiched between the high-tech institutions ESS (European Spallation Source) and MAX IV, which are currently under construction and slated to become the world’s most powerful and advanced research facilities within neutron and X-ray research. The science museum’s purpose is to make the institutions’ groundbreaking research more accessible and inviting to both children and adults and to promote general interest in natural science and research.

Spanning a total floor space of 3,500 square meters, the two-story science museum will comprise exhibition halls, a gallery, a reception area, workshops, a museum shop, a restaurant, offices and an auditorium. A viewing platform and patio will top the concave 1,600-square-meter roof as will energy bikes and a solar array large enough to meet the museum’s electricity needs. A large, nature-filled atrium will sit at the heart of the museum to help absorb carbon dioxide, boost biodiversity and serve as a water reservoir and overflow canal in case of extreme rainfall. Excess heat from ESS will be used to heat the museum through an ectogrid system. The timber building is expected to reach completion by 2024.

“Ambitions for the design of the museum have been sky-high, and we feel that we have succeeded in designing a unique and inviting building, whose open atrium and concave roof lend it a dramatic and elegant profile that stands out and offers novel and innovative ways of using a museum,” said Dan Stubbergaard, architect and founder of COBE. “Moreover, we have made climate, environment and sustainability integral aspects of the process from the outset. By choosing wood as the main construction material, incorporating solar cells, using excess heat and creating an atrium with a rich biodiversity and a rainwater reservoir, among other features, we have achieved our goal and succeeded in creating a CO2-neutral building, if the design is realized as intended. Our hope, as architects, is that we can continue to increase the focus on and improve our ability to create sustainable architecture and construction for the benefit of future generations and the condition of the planet.”

The first full mass timber structure in the nation to use southern yellow pine cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels is set for completion in September 2019. Designed by Gensler’s Dallas office, the First United Bank in Fredericksburg has the distinction of being the first full mass timber construction project to be completed in Texas as well as the first retail mass timber structure in the state. Designed to achieve net-zero energy usage, the project also opens up the possibility of utilizing this locally sourced structural material in future projects.

First United Bank, a community banking organization founded in Durant, Oklahoma, in 1900, has 38 locations across Texas. The bank encourages staff to volunteer for local civic and charitable organizations and projects. “They do a lot of after-hours programs, where the bank is opened up and used by groups to teach educational classes or to rent out the community space for meetings and events,” says Gensler project architect Taylor Coleman, AIA. The community emphasis is evident in the building’s design: Warm building materials, ample natural light, and an indoor-outdoor connection to the native vegetation surrounding the structure all attest to the building’s aesthetic as a town gathering place, rather than just a financial institution.

“They have such a strong community presence, and they wanted it to feel like a building for the community as well. We wanted to make it a very approachable project,” Coleman adds.

After several years of working on renovation projects for branch locations in Texas and Oklahoma, First United and the firm went in the direction of ground-up construction. Coleman says the client had two primary goals for the Fredericksburg location: to create a distinct structure that would stand out from other bank branches in the area, and to create a highly sustainable building. “During the design phase, First Texas asked for sustainability, and we proposed net-zero energy,” Coleman says. “But they asked us, ‘Well, is there anything more that we can do?’ And that’s how we got to CLT, not only as a design tool, but as a sustainable solution.”

The 8,500-sf project incorporates a range of sustainability measures. Gensler implemented a high-efficiency VRF HVAC system, expansive floor-to-ceiling windows to harvest natural daylight, and large cantilevered overhangs to shade the structure and reduce cooling costs. Coleman says the shape of the sloping roof and large overhangs lend themselves naturally to CLT. In addition, the sloping roof also facilitates rain collection. It’s estimated that the building will direct as much as 250 million gallons of water annually to an adjacent storage system.

Initially, the building was designed to use Douglas fir CLT panels; however, the fabricators — International Beams in Alabama — had a surplus of southern yellow pine, which Gensler elected to move forward with for both time and cost savings. This choice to use regionally sourced materials that require less energy to transport helped to lessen the environmental impact of the building before occupancy even begins. Coleman says that First United was very receptive to this choice and supported the expression of the structural elements, and the warm, rustic appearance the southern yellow pine lends to the fully exposed ceiling beams.

Coleman says First United has “fully embraced” mass timber and will continue to use the material in future bank buildings. An additional 12,500-sf location under construction in Shawnee, Oklahoma, will be the first full mass timber project in that state, and a 37,000-sf project in Sherman, Texas, is expected to be completed in 2020 and will serve as the bank’s North Texas hub office.

While Texas has no CLT fabricator as yet, this project may open the door for such businesses to come to the state and for regional and local mass timber materials to be utilized in future projects. The enthusiasm with which First United has embraced this sustainable design trend bodes well for its acceptance in other project types.
Chun Lai
Craig Hartman and his wife, Jan O’Brien—both architects—spent nearly 10 years visiting their weekend property in Sonoma County, California, before breaking ground. They stayed in a yurt on the rolling 35-acre former cattle ranch and contemplated a gentle architectural intervention. Finally, the first phase, a guest/caretaker cottage, is done, serving as the couple’s own retreat until the main house is built, and embodying key ideas for the whole site.

“Beyond sustainability,” says Hartman, “we wanted land we could make environmentally even better than we’d found it.” Removing the cattle dramatically helped restore native ecosystems, allowing oak seedlings to proliferate and mature (instead of becoming grazing fodder), and protecting on-site creeks from contaminated pasture runoff. But without client pressure, the project became “like a hobby,” he recalls. “I worked on it here and there during weekends.” He savored the leisurely pace and modest scale—a welcome change from the vast structures he’s handled as a partner in SOM’s San Francisco office, where he designed, notably, California’s Oakland Cathedral and the U.S. Courthouse in L.A.. “With this house, my wife indulged me,” he says. “Though she’d built her entire practice on smaller-scale work and interiors, she generously let me design it.” (A young associate, Anesta Iwan, is collaborating on the compound, while O’Brien, as project architect, is overseeing it all.)

Nestled within a hillside oak grove, the net zero carbon cottage is composed of a “day” and “night” pavilion, joined by a canopy. Each of these volumes, totaling 840 square feet, is a rectangular tube, structured with renewable, heavy timbers and partially cantilevered to reduce the footprint. The exterior recycled-steel cladding is dark-colored to recede visually. The day pavilion contains a double-height living/dining/kitchen area, while its nighttime counterpart houses the master bedroom and art studio/guest room.

As in the future main house, the fenestration is oriented for passive cooling, privacy, and long, sweeping landscape views, as well as contemplative near ones. Heat-venting skylights with subtly colored baffles and LED components temper the interior illumination, in tandem with the changing qualities of daylight. A ground-mounted PV array, elsewhere on-site, covers the property’s energy needs while feeding excess power back into the grid.

The owners hope to make their cabin available for visiting artists, once the main house is built. When will that happen? “We were going to begin construction this spring,” says Hartman, “but now we’re putting it off another year.” Stay tuned.
JCB Architects
Jackson Clements Burrows Architects has designed two student accommodation buildings for La Trobe University in Melbourne that will be made of mass timber.

The two buildings, to be constructed at a cost of $100 million, will hold 624 beds in one, four, five and six bed apartments, with common spaces joining the two buildings together.

The project is thought to be the largest mass timber project in Victoria.

Graham Burrows, JCB Architects director, said, “The design of the new buildings is very much inspired by the extraordinary landscape in which they sit.

“As the largest mass timber project in Victoria, the buildings will not only offer huge environmental benefits, but they will also provide calm and beautiful spaces in and around which both resident students and the wider La Trobe community can interact.”

Ross Snowball, director of developer Multiplex, said the project would make use of a number of emerging sustainable design and construction techniques, including the prefabrication of most of the structure.

“We are particularly passionate about emerging design technologies which respond to environmental and sustainability needs, and we love working with universities – so this project perfectly marries the two and I’m really looking forward to seeing the outcome next year.”

The building is part of La Trobe University’s 10-year, $5 billion “University City of the Future” campus redevelopment plan.
Anti Hamar
Mass timber construction is on the rise, with advocates saying it could revolutionize the building industry and be part of a climate change solution. But some are questioning whether the logging and manufacturing required to produce the new material outweigh any benefits.

The eight-story Carbon 12 building in Portland, Oregon is the tallest commercial structure in the United States to be built from something called mass timber.

If the many fervent boosters of this new construction material are right, however, it is only one of the first mass timber buildings among many, the beginning of a construction revolution. “The design community in Portland is enthralled with the material,” said Emily Dawson, an architect at Kaiser + Path, the locally-based firm that designed Carbon 12.

The move to mass timber is even farther along in Europe. That’s because mass timber – large structural panels, posts, and beams glued under pressure or nailed together in layers, with the wood’s grain stacked perpendicular for extra strength – is not only prized as an innovative building material, superior to concrete and steel in many ways, it is also hoped it will come into its own as a significant part of a climate change solution.

Among architects, manufacturers, and environmentalists, many want nothing less than to turn the coming decades of global commercial construction from a giant source of carbon emissions into a giant carbon sink by replacing concrete and steel construction with mass timber. That, they say, would avoid the CO2 generated in the production of those building materials and sequester massive amounts of carbon by tying up the wood in buildings for decades or even longer, perhaps in perpetuity.

There are new mass timber buildings in London, Atlanta, and Minneapolis, and an 80-story high-rise is proposed for Chicago.

“Say the typical steel and concrete building has an emissions profile of 2,000 metric tons of CO2,” said Andrew Ruff, of Connecticut-based Gray Organschi Architecture, a leading proponent of the laminated wood revolution. “With mass timber you can easily invert so you are sequestering 2,000 tons of CO2. Instead of adding to climate change you are mitigating climate change. That’s the goal.”

And it is taking off. Mass timber has a two-decade track record in Europe. The 18-story Mjösa Tower just opened last month in Norway. An 18-story mass timber building was recently built in Vancouver as well, and an 80-story high-rise is proposed for Chicago. There are new commercial mass timber buildings in London, Atlanta, and Minneapolis. Some 21 timber buildings over 50 meters (164 feet) tall will be completed in Europe by the end of the year, according to one report.

But there are big questions being asked about just how sustainable the new building material is –especially about how forests that produce mass timber are managed, and how much CO2 would be emitted in the logging, manufacture, and transport of the wood products used in the construction. So far, critics say, there aren’t good answers to these questions.
Ennead Architects
Ennead Architects and Andropogon Landscape Architects have won an international competition for the Shanghai Yangtze River Estuary Chinese Sturgeon Nature Preserve. The proposed design takes the shape of an undulating sculpture mimicking the curves of Asia’s longest river while referencing “biomorphic anatomy.” The building will be clad in translucent PTFE panels and engineered with sustainable, energy-efficient technologies such as geothermal heating and cooling loops.

The purpose of the Shanghai Yangtze River Estuary Chinese Sturgeon Nature Preserve is to rescue critically endangered species and to restore the natural ecology of Yangtze River, which has been plagued by pollution and construction. The project also aims to engage the public and raise environmental awareness with immersive exhibit experiences. To achieve these goals, the 427,000-square-foot nature reserve building, which will sit on a 17.5-hectare site on an island at the mouth of the Yangtze River, will consist of a dual-function aquarium and research facility, bringing together efforts to repopulate the endangered Chinese Sturgeon and Finless Porpoise.

Ennead Architects and Andropogon Landscape Architects proposed a dramatic design for the building that takes cues from nature. Split into three wings united around a central spine, the structure will be built with a cross-laminated timber structural system wrapped in a lightweight PTFE skin, which will fill the interior with daylight.

Inside, constructed wetlands landscaped with local flora and aquatic plants provide a beautiful connection with the outdoors, sequester carbon and serve as a biofiltration system for aquarium water, “resulting in a new paradigm of environmental equilibrium,” the designers said in their press release.

The landscape design in and around the buildings mimics the natural shoreline ecosystems found throughout the Yangtze River basin and provides opportunities for breeding and raising Chinese Sturgeons and Finless Porpoises. Visitors will be able to view these pools from suspended walkways that weave throughout the campus grounds.

Danish firm 3XN is designing the 10-story, cross-laminated timber structure in Toronto for global real estate firm Hines.

When global real estate, development, and management firm Hines unveiled the $24.5 million T3 building in Minneapolis designed by local firm Michael Green Architecture (now owned by Katerra) in 2016, the seven-story, 220,000-square-foot structure became the tallest mass timber tower in the United States. Three years on, the company is again pushing the boundaries of timber construction, unveiling plans for T3 Bayside, a 10-story building in Toronto that will become North America's tallest timber office building. (The record for the overall tallest timber structure on the continent is still held by the 18-story Brock Commons building in Vancouver.)

With Danish architecture firm 3XN leading the design, T3 Bayside will be located along Lake Ontario as part of a new 2,000-acre residential and commercial community.

"With 3XN’s world-class design and the building’s unrivaled amenity offering, T3 Bayside will truly set a new benchmark for creative office space and will ultimately be responsible for creating more than 3,000 jobs at Bayside," said Hines senior managing director Avi Tesciuba in a press release.

According to the same release, T3 Bayside will be constructed using cross-laminated timber and serve as the entrance to the new waterfront community, featuring various co-working, retail, and event spaces. Oriented around a central plaza, the tower is designed with stepped roof terraces leading to the surrounding community space.

"The wooden structure will be a prominent part of the design and provide a warm tactile environment for the tenants that doesn’t compromise sustainability," said 3XN partner and T3 leader designer Jens Holm in the release. "The flexible layout will be able to meet the diverse needs of the users and bring people together.”
Seagate Structures
B.C. has obtained permission from the National Research Council to use the encapsulated mass-timber construction provisions from the 2020 National Building Code through a jurisdiction-specific regulation.

“Changes to the national building code that allow for taller wood buildings take effect next year, but we’re not waiting to get started,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan on March 13th during a press event held at BC-based mass timber manufacturing company Structurlam’s flagship shop in Penticton.

The province has let is be known that local governments are invited to become early adopters of mass-timber technology for construction of buildings up to 12 storeys—up from the current allowance of six storeys.

B.C. has obtained permission from the National Research Council to use the encapsulated mass-timber construction provisions from the 2020 National Building Code through a jurisdiction-specific regulation.

A mass timber building uses either solid or engineered wood for the primary load-bearing structure. Encapsulated mass timber is where the mass timber components are surrounded by fire-resistant materials like drywall.

“Mass timber technology allows faster construction where large sections of a building can be manufactured in a plant and then assembled on site,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in a release following the event.

The release from the province observes that mass timber buildings can be one-fifth the weight of comparable concrete buildings, while still meeting performance standards for safety, structural resilience and fire protection.

It also notes the environmental benefits of mass timber. Using the 18-storey UBC Brock Commons building as an example, it cites the estimated carbon benefit from the wood used was equivalent to taking 511 cars off the road for a year.

The federal 2020 National Building Code is expected to allow mass timber construction up to 12 storeys. The technology has been reviewed by the National Building Code committees, as well as by experts such as fire safety specialists, structural engineers, architects, scientists and builders.

“B.C. firefighters are pleased to welcome the great potential that mass engineered timber construction will bring to our province,” said Gord Ditchburn, president, B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association (BCPFFA). “We support a building code process that balances the efficiencies and progress of industry with the needs of public safety and first responders. Wise decision-making means having everyone at the table and the BCPFFA has appreciated being involved. Including firefighter safety as an objective of the 2020 National Building Code is imperative to maintaining this balance.”
Nina Rundsveen for Moelven
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has dubbed the 85.4-meter Mjøstårnet, in Brumunddal, Norway, as the world's tallest timber building.

At the same time, the group amended the CTBUH height criteria – the official guidelines to measure and rank building height – to recognize timber as a structural material. The update was prompted by the recent uptick of tall timber buildings currently under construction or in planning around the world, and the interest of involved stakeholders and the general public in defining what truly constitutes a “timber” structural system, says CTBUH.

Revised Criteria
According to the revised criteria for timber structures, “both the main vertical/lateral structural elements and the floor spanning system must be constructed from timber." An "all-timber" structure may include the use of localized non-timber connections between timber elements.

A hybrid building of timber construction with a floor system of concrete planks, or concrete slab on top of timber beams, is still considered a timber structure, because the concrete elements are not acting as the primary structure.

Mjøstårnet is located in an area of Norway known for its forestry and wood processing industry. Moelven Limitre, the project’s structural engineer, supplied glue-laminated-timber columns, beams and diagonals, cross-laminated-timber elevator shafts, stairs and floor slabs. Moelven was also responsible for installing the mass timber structure.
Leonardo Finotti
Architect Sol Camacho has designed a curvy wooden summer pavilion for the lush garden surrounding Brazilian modernist Lina Bo Bardi's jungle house.

Camacho, whose firm RADDAR is based in São Paulo and Mexico City, completed the Summer House among the 7,000-square-metre gardens that surround Bo Bardi's Casa de Vidro, or Glass House.

Located in São Paulo's Morumbi neighbourhood, the property was completed in 1950 as the architect's first built work. It provided the home for her and her husband, the Italian writer, curator and collector Pietro Maria Bardi.

With its simple concrete and glass form, and slender pilotis, it is celebrated today a key example of Brazilian modernism, and regularly visited by tourists.

Camacho's temporary structure provides a shelter for these visitors to enjoy coffee, lunch and the surrounding gardens during Brazil's warmer months. It opened on 15 December 2018 and will remain on site until 3 March 2019.

Following the principles of its revered modernist neighbour, and with no outer walls so it remains open to the outdoors, the design comprises slender columns that support a slim flat roof.

The main structure is wooden, blending in with the forested backdrop, and is shaped in curves to manoeuvre around the gardens.

Originally the remnants of Mata Atlantica – the rainforest that once surrounded São Paulo – the site was transformed by Bo Bardi over the years to feature tropical greenery, and stone and ceramic paths – all forming key parts of the property. A pocket of the forest grows straight up through the interior of Glass House.
On the eve of the NAHB International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas, the design-build and technology firm Katerra announced a broad series of products aimed at improving the quality and lowering the cost and delivery time of design and construction projects.

The Silicon Valley company’s new offerings will be launched throughout 2019. They include a building platform tool that allows for design and mass customization, manufacturing, and construction of market-rate, garden-style and affordable multifamily housing. Also in this panoply of goods and services are Apollo, a software platform that manages design, cost, material, and schedule data for the lifecycle of any building type; structural and panel systems made from cross-laminated timber (CLT) that can be flat-packed for shipping and field assembly; proprietary energy and HVAC systems known as KES and KTAC, respectively; a bathroom kit designed for rapid field assembly; windows; and two series of interior fixtures and finishes, KOVA and KOVA Select, which include lighting, plumbing fixtures, flooring, and tile.

Katerra will also open two new high-tech manufacturing facilities in 2019—one in Spokane, WA that will make CLT, and another in Tracy, CA that will produce building components such as utility walls, cabinets, and truss assemblies. The company plans to establish similar facilities on the east coast in future years, though it declined to discuss specifics. “Down the line, for cost efficiency, we aim to have 80 percent of our projects located within 500 miles of one of our factories,” says Trevor Schick, president of Katerra Materials and a former manufacturing executive at Hewlett-Packard.

By adding a portfolio of products to its existing design-build services, Katerra is doubling down on its ambition to become a fully integrated one-stop shop for buildings—the Amazon of design and construction, if you will. With more than 5,000 employees worldwide, “the company has taken a collaborative and inclusive approach to working with builders, architects, and others to inform its strategy,” says Craig Curtis, president of Katerra Architecture, who was previously a partner at The Miller Hull Partnership.

The firm’s investment in CLT is a bet that mass timber, more commonly used in Europe and Canada, will gain broader acceptance in the U.S. due to its durability and smaller environmental footprint relative to steel and concrete. Recent proposals to update U.S. building codes for mass timber structures have paved the way for approval of timber-framed buildings up to 18 stories tall, far higher than its current limit of five stories. That being said, Katerra’s new multifamily housing building tool can be used for both timber- and lightweight steel-framed structures, giving it broader application in today’s U.S. market.

Curtis wouldn’t name the number of architects Katerra currently employs on a full-time or contractual basis, but points to its acquisitions and partnerships to indicate the importance of architecture to the company’s mission. Since 2017, Katerra has acquired Nystrom Olson Architecture in Spokane as well as Michael Green Architecture of Vancouver and the multi-based office of Lord Aeck Sargent. The Texas architects Lake|Flato and Boston-based Leers Weinzapfel Associates are listed as collaborators. “Right now we can’t be in all markets at all times, so having strong relationships with firms that offer expertise in needed areas will be crucial to our long-term success,” he says.

Over time, Katerra plans to roll out platforms similar to its multifamily tool for all types of buildings, enabling designs based on kits of parts that are tailored to the needs of the client, program, site, and climate. Curtis says its system offers architects “the best of both worlds, enabling designers to spend time on the details that matter rather than reinventing the wheel with every project.”

Jake Christiansen
Great use of recycled and repurposed materials, too.

We love cross-laminated timber (CLT) because building with wood stores carbon. But there is more to it than that – there is an elegance and simplicity to the way CLT panels go together. That's one of the reasons to love this new house in Fernie, BC, built by Jake Christiansen.

Fernie is ski country, and ski chalets have often been lined with wood; it just feels warm and cozy. I have sometimes questioned whether CLT is the most appropriate way to build with wood on houses and low-rise buildings; it uses a lot more lumber. But it uses a lot less of other stuff, particularly drywall. It is both a structure and a finished wall. And a bonus is the biophilia effect:

A Canadian study showed that wood in interiors was perceived by a majority of subjects as more “warm,” “inviting,” “homey,” and “relaxing” than all other tested materials (Rice et al, 2006). The top-rated rooms in the study were “completely wood dominated, containing little to no artificial materials and having large windows with views of nature, while the bottom five rooms were characterized by a marked lack of anything natural,” and the lowest-rated room of all, a modern living room, was perceived as “cold” and “uncomfortable” by most respondents.

But there is more than just biophilia going on here; there is also a serious attempt to get away from plastics. On the outside of the CLT the house is wrapped with Rockwool comfort board insulation, with the various cladding materials framed over that. And much of that cladding is recycled, old boards and even old rusty siding. I wonder what the neighbours thought when that went up.

It can be applied to many human endeavours, denoting a principle of action having speed or economy and purpose or utility. Basically it involves using an available system or dealing with an existing situation in a new way to solve a problem quickly and effectively. It is a method of creation relying particularly on resources which are already at hand.

2018 CTBUH Tall Building Year in Review
A record demand for tall and supertall buildings appears to be alive and well. But the big question is whether it will stay that way.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, in its 2018 CTBUH Tall Building Year in Review, found that 18 supertall buildings 300 meters or taller completed construction last year—a record number that beats 2017, but only by three. The number of completed buildings in 2018, at least 200 m and including at least 300-m-plus buildings, is 143. That is four fewer high-rises than in 2017.

The 10-page report, primarily authored by CTBUH's editor Daniel Safarik, is full of data on tall buildings completed and under way. For example, the group predicts between 120 and 150 buildings 200 m or taller to wrap up construction this year.

“This range takes into consideration the total number of projects currently underway, but it is common for a substantial percentage of projects anticipated for completion to be delayed into the next year or later,” says the report.

There are currently 99 buildings 300 m or taller under construction, according to the Skyscraper Center, CTBUH’s interactive database for tall building information. But the report and the Skyscraper Center, which also contains data on proposed buildings, contain no predictions for the number of 2019 construction starts for tall buildings.

“Sites push dirt around for often indeterminable amounts of time before a piece of structure goes into the ground,” which is when CTBUH considers a building under construction, “so our ability to predict true construction starts is hampered,” says Jason Gabel, a spokesman for the group.


Still, there are predictions. Gabel says only Europe and South America will likely not have a supertall building construction start this year. “I would anticipate a slowdown of supertall construction starts in China, but still, the number may outpace the rest of the world,” he says.

The 1-kilometer-tall Jeddah Tower is expected to finish up in 2021, according to the Skyscraper Center. If completed, the building would surpass the current height record holder, the 828-m Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which was completed in 2010. The projected completion of the 644-m Merdeka PNB118 in Kuala Lumpur also is 2021.

In April, the 462-m Lakhta Center is expected to open, making it officially Europe’s tallest. The building in St. Petersburg, Russia, was
Michelstock via Adobe Stock
Contributor Blaine Brownell weighs the costs of unlimited tree harvesting for construction.

In The Overstory: A Novel (W. W. Norton & Co., 2018), author Richard Powers explores the problematic relationship between people and trees. Although humans generally appreciate trees—as material resources and natural ornamentation—we do not fully appreciate their value as part of complex forest ecosystems. This ignorance serves as the seemingly indomitable antagonist in Powers’ work, against which a collection of ill-fated characters fight to preserve the last few acres of virgin woodlands.

The character Patricia Westerford, a scientist who advances the knowledge of the sensory and communicative capacities of trees, takes a particularly heroic stand against this adversary. As a university student taking classes in forestry, Westerford quickly became disillusioned with the traditional model of silviculture, the science of forest management. Denouncing an approach that she believes has benefited resource extraction at the cost of ecological resilience, she questions why forests—which first appeared between 300 and 400 million years ago—would ever require the management of humans? For her, silviculture has facilitated the destruction, not sustenance, of forest ecosystems.

In one scene, Westerford gives testimony during a courtroom trial concerning lumber companies’ logging of old growth forests. After the scientist makes the case for the intrinsic worth of untouched woodlands, the judge inquires: “Young, straight, faster-growing trees aren’t better than older, rotting trees?” To which Westerfeld replies, “Better for us. Not for the forest. In fact, young, managed, homogeneous stands can’t really be called forests.”

In this stark reminder that tree plantations are not forests—sylvan communities that are vanishing at a rapid pace—Powers anticipates the growing environmental conflict concerning the use of wood in building construction. Encouraged by the knowledge that lumber produces lower carbon emissions than steel or concrete, many architects have embraced the pursuit of mass timber construction, which in turn has increased demand for harvested material. Yet this motivation to counter global warming could, if unchecked, result in a different ecological catastrophe.

Deforestation and deficient forest management are responsible for as much as 20 percent of climate change–related emissions according to Jonathan Jelen, old-growth campaign coordinator for Oregon Wild, in a 2009 Scientific American i
Jeremy Bitterman
The process for mass-timber-construction permitting is about to become streamlined, thanks to changes to the International Building Code (IBC) set to take effect in 2020. In December, the International Code Council passed 14 code changes relating to mass timber construction that, pending validation of the vote, would be included in the 2021 IBC. (The code is revised every three years.) Among the changes is the creation of three types of construction that set new allowable heights and fire-safety ratings for wood buildings.

The current code sees buildings in mass timber, including cross-laminated timber, as outliers from existing categories, and requires performance-based design for permitting processes. The proposed changes would both define mass timber construction and create three new categories for it, dealing with mass timber that is protected with noncombustible materials, partially exposed, and unprotected, with maximum heights of 18, 12, and nine stories, respectively. Allowable areas for mass timber structures would also be increased over current allowances for heavy timber construction.

Thomas Robinson, founder of Portland, Oregon–based LEVER Architecture, explains the potential of these code changes from his office in a mass-timber building his firm designed, Albina Yard: “With this new code, you could say, ‘If I follow these guidelines, I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to get a permit.’ That has a huge impact on how owners will think about investing in these types of buildings,” he says, “and on strengthening the national supply chain, because people will be comfortable investing in technology and in building new [mass-timber] plants.”

Robinson and his team at LEVER are well versed in timber construction, as co-winners of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize for their 12-story project, Framework. (The other winner was 475 West 18th by SHoP Architects; both are currently on hold for financial reasons.) The LEVER team conducted around 40 tests for fire safety, acoustic performance, and structural performance to gain permitting for Framework, which was the first wood high-rise to win such approval in the United States. Robinson says his firm’s work highlights the opportunity that code changes present to architects, who will no longer face the same rigors of testing his team encountered.

Tentative approval of the code-change proposals in the spring is likely. Final approvals will occur in Oc
tor even mathisen
for hikers journeying into the arctic circle, this small mountain cabin in norway provides much needed warmth and shelter. the project is the first of two warming huts designed to promote hiking in the town of hammerfest. the brief called for a small mountaintop structure that aligned with the existing landscape. the cabin includes a wood burning stove, simple seating, and views of the arctic terrain below.

the project was commissioned by the hammerfest chapter of the norwegian trekking association (DNT), who tasked norwegian firm SPINN arkitekter with designing the cabin. to translate their sketches of an organic wooden shell into reality, the architects at SPINN contacted FORMAT engineers to help them produce a structure that could be manufactured precisely enough to be built on top of a mountain by a group of local volunteers.

the site was mapped in 3D using a drone and photogrammetry software to give a detailed map of the surface, which was then used as a baseline for form-finding. the result was a wooden cross-laminated timber shell with 77 unique panels that fit together like a 3D puzzle. the design was then tested against simulated wind conditions to make sure that it would withstand winter arctic storms and extreme wind conditions, while remaining snow-free. 3D printing was used extensively to test out how the construction would fit together, and to test cladding options for the exterior.

as the design had a higher budget than the client expected, a visualization and animation were made as part of a crowdfunding effort to raise the money necessary to realize the project. local businesses volunteered materials and services, while kebony donated materials for the exterior cladding. according to the plan, the hiking association members would be responsible for raising the structure and transporting it to site.

Lever Architecture
President Donald Trump’s tariffs, enacted in November 2017, have not yet made a significant impact on the U.S. mass timber industry. But if Trump chooses to take more aggressive action in the next two years of his administration, this could dramatically change. This urgency, coupled with the recent global obsession with building tall wood structures, newly motivates American wood manufacturers to become independent of foreign suppliers. This would entail American manufacturers catching up in machine technology and production capacity to bolster domestic trade and support innovative architecture sourced from home.

What’s clear is that U.S. demand for wood buildings is there. The country’s largest producer of cross-laminated timber (CLT), SmartLam, has experienced such rapid growth since opening six years ago that it is building a new headquarters in Columbia Falls, Montana, and planning a second facility in Maine to supply what the industry thinks will be an influx of midrise construction in New York and other cities along the Eastern seaboard.

“The expansion here is simply driven by need,” said SmartLam CEO Casey Malmquist. “There’s always been a grassroots support for CLT in the U.S. and a recently increased interest in research and testing. But now we’re no longer speculating about whether it will work—it’s going mainstream.”

While similar Pacific Northwest companies like DR Johnson and Katerra, as well as firms such as LEVER Architecture and Michael Green Architecture, have long led the field, production is growing in uncharted territories. South Carolina–based LignaTerra is adding another plant in Maine, while Canadian leaders like Nordic Structures in Montreal and Structure Fusion in Québec City, which already supplied CLT to projects across the country, are now focusing more attention on supplying the eastern U.S. market. Production is even swelling in the South with Texas CLT LLC, which is reopening a mill in southwest Arkansas.

But pioneering European companies, which have historically dominated the market and supplied American developers, are now putting down roots in the U.S. Austrian giant KLH is partnering with International Beams’ new factory in Dothan, Alabama, by supplying it with glulam blanks. Having opened this past September, it is the first plant east of the Rocky Mountains to produce CLT in the country and will primarily utilize the unique Southern Yellow Pine native to the
Andrew Pogue
After over two years of testing and several rounds of deliberation, the International Code Council (ICC) has settled on a batch of modest code changes that will embrace tall timber buildings in the United States.

The changes are due to take effect in 2021, after approval from ICC’s Ad Hoc Committee on Tall Wood Buildings (TWB) in December 2018. The 18-member TWB group is made up of fire, concrete, steel, gypsum, and wood specialists as well as architects, engineers, and code officials from around the country who have been working to craft the new codes and prove that tall wood structures can be built safely. Current regulations allow mass timber construction for only six-story structures and under, although a handful of taller mass timber buildings have been built internationally, including the 18-story Brock Commons Tallwood House in Vancouver, Canada, among others.

The officials conducted research and performed multiple fire tests—including controlled burns of five two-story CLT structures at the National Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in Baltimore—to back the safety of their proposed changes.

The new regulations, aside from officially defining mass timber construction types and specifying minimum dimensions for timber elements, will also include three additional construction types in the “heavy timber” (Type IV) category—dubbed “IVA,” “IVB,” and “IVC”—that establish building codes for 18-, 12-, and 9-story mass timber buildings, respectively. In 2018, Washington State became took the lead by incorporating tall timber codes into its building codes.

Seattle-based architect and mass timber specialist Susan Jones of atelierjones spent two and a half years crafting these new standards with the TWB committee. As an architect who has spent ample time proving the safety of mass timber construction on a project-by-project basis, Jones welcomes the new regulations as a potential jumping-off point that might allow for even taller timber structures in the future. “The codes are solid and very conservative, given the performance the material showed,” Jones said. “But we had to start somewhere.”
Alison Brooks Architects
During her visit to the Melbourne School of Design for the Dean’s Lecture Series in October, Alison Brooks, principal and creative director of Alison Brooks Architects, sat down with Donald Bates to discuss her career beginnings, philosophy, and her award-winning projects.

Donald Bates: You’re Canadian and attended the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo, but you have lived in the UK for some time. How did this journey take place?

Alison Brooks: I left Canada immediately after graduating from Waterloo. After seven years at Waterloo and working in many practices around Ontario through Waterloo’s co-op programme, I needed to escape from a place of familiarity. Britain seemed an obvious choice because I felt an affinity to the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA). I knew their publications and the work of AA alumni, such as Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid. I had a working holiday visa from Canada so I went for two years and never came back.

DB: Did you think about going to New York?

As a Canadian, I couldn’t work in New York without a green card. I flew to London with my portfolio, five hundred pounds and my working holiday visa so I knew I could stay for two years. But I had to get a job pretty quickly.

DB: When you got to London, you immediately started working as opposed to going to school. Was this the plan?

My plan was to work for two years then to do a masters at Cambridge, but after two years of working in London I was completely broke and there was no way I could afford it. I managed to extend my visa as I was right in the middle of projects with Ron Arad who I joined when I first worked in London.

DB: Ron Arad is a very different kind of designer, not a conventional architect at all.

Exactly, totally uncommon!

Kaiser Group
Until recently, buildings taller than five stories had to be constructed of steel or reinforced concrete, both of which require about 80 percent more energy to produce and represent about 200 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than cross-laminated timber (CLT), a new engineered wood product.

Portland developer Ben Kaiser of the Kaiser Group recently completed the tallest American CLT mass timber building—an eight-story, 16-unit condominium/retail tower on an 8,470-square-foot (787 sq m) lot. (Another tower rising in Portland will soon surpass that height.) Residents enter the building—designed with only two units per floor—directly from an elevator into their own units. Light and ventilation from three directions around the condo units give them more the feeling of a house than of an apartment. The combination of exposed CLT wooden ceilings and exposed glulam posts and beams on a 12-by-12-foot (3.7 sq m) and 12-by-15-foot (3.7 by 4.6 m) grid, along with oak floors, lends a warm wooden patina to the units offset by vertical white drywall panels between the windows around the unit and in the kitchens and the bathrooms.

With two retail units on the ground floor for lease to a café and a credit union, and an 85-foot (26 m) zoning height limit, only 14 residential units could be included in the tower. Therefore, they needed to be large enough to attract an exclusive market, yet small enough to be affordable to that new market for Portland’s east side. Kaiser settled on 1,551-square-foot (144 sq m) two-bedroom, two-bathroom units in which one of the bedrooms could enlarge the central great room. Each unit has a 16.5-by-11.3-foot (5 by 3.5 m) deck facing north or south.

The building is called Carbon 12 for the most common carbon isotope the engineered wood sequesters, and for the building’s address at 12 NE Fremont Street in Portland. Typically, CLT panels are made of five layers of wood glued at right angles to one another under high pressure to form solid panels usually measuring about 12 feet wide and up to 60 feet long (3.7 by 18 m) and two to 24 inches (5 to 60 cm) thick. CLT enables developers to create tall, strong, energy-efficient, and earthquake- and fire-resistant buildings. CLT is made from sustainably managed forests from logs under nine inches (23 cm) in diameter. An acre (0.4 ha) of forest can absorb and sequester twice the carbon dioxide produced by the average car driven for a year.