March 26, 2023

New Museum Project Helps Demonstrate Mass Timber’s Potential | SLB March 2023 Newsletter


Program Updates

Texas A&M Events Help Students Explore Wood Construction

In February, the SLB funded two events at Texas A&M to engage students from its architecture and engineering programs and generate interest and enthusiasm around wood construction. On February 13, Jennifer Bonner, a well-regarded Associate Professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, gave a guest lecture to a packed auditorium about how her practice specifies mass timber in the design of different building typologies.

Later in the week, the Think Wood Mobile Tour visited Rudder Plaza, a bustling gathering place adjacent to the architecture and engineering buildings on the College Station, Texas, campus. In addition to the exhibit attracting passers-by, professors brought groups of students to the Mobile Tour to see firsthand the economic and environmental benefits of building with wood. By offering a deeper understanding of the properties and potential of wood, both events allowed students to explore new ways to design and build sustainable, beautiful, and cost-effective structures—so that when they enter the workforce, wood will be one of the first material choices they consider in the design process. Check out video highlights of the tour here.

Both Texas A&M events were coordinated by architecture professor James Tate, who has emerged as a strong proponent of mass timber education at the school as well as throughout the Texas academic community. SLB Education first worked with Tate at the SLB-sponsored 2022 faculty development workshop held at Clemson University. He is a member of SLB Education’s faculty advisory committee and is scheduled to speak at the next SLB Board of Directors meeting in Denver on May 17.


The AWC Educates State Officials on Tall Mass Timber

As more states adopt the 2021 International Building Code, state building and fire officials are looking to the AWC as a trusted resource to help them get up to speed on the tall mass timber provisions included in the code. The AWC is meeting the need by providing training sessions for code officials across the country. In recent months, it has completed training sessions at annual conferences for the Missouri Association of Building and Fire Officials, the Ohio Building Officials Association, and the Iowa Association of Building Officials, as well as at other events in St. Louis, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.

A dozen training sessions are already scheduled for upcoming months, including a session for the Code Officials Association of Alabama, which requested AWC training on tall mass timber after seeing the Think Wood Mobile Tour display at the 2022 ICC Annual Business Meeting. The AWC’s work to help building officials across the country become more comfortable with mass timber is critical as states either consider adoption of the tall mass timber provisions in the 2021 IBC or prepare to begin plan reviews under its provisions.

Tradition and Timber Come Together at Nesika Illahee

In a recent project profile, Think Wood highlighted Nesika Illahee, an affordable housing project in Portland, Oregon, tailored to Native American families in need. The inspiring project showcases the use of wood in biophilic design, as the architect used exposed wood as one of several ways to support the building’s residents recovering from past trauma and addictions.

“We are increasingly approaching projects with what we call trauma-informed design, particularly when it comes to affordable housing projects like Nesika Illahee,” says Brian Carleton, AIA, co-founder and principal of Carleton Hart, the project’s architect. “And biophilic design, the use of natural materials like wood and a connection to nature, is an important part of our approach.”

The project is just one example of the growing opportunity for wood products in the design and construction industry’s efforts to make housing more affordable. It’s also a compelling example of a hybrid design approach that incorporates both a light-frame wood structure and mass timber components such as glulam beams.



For California Mass Timber Civic Project, Sustainability Is a Hook—With Plenty of Side Benefits

For a civic building in a sustainability-minded state, environmental performance can help a building stand out as much as eye-catching design. That was the case in San Mateo County’s Office Building 3 (COB3) in Redwood City, California. In Engineering News-Record, reporter Tim Newcomb writes that turning to timber helped the project’s design team create an iconic, low-carbon building with a host of other project benefits—including helping it stay on budget.

Designed to be net-zero energy and LEED Platinum, COB3 was designed using CLT and glulam, demonstrating the financial advantages of building with wood, according to Mark Whiley, a project executive for Truebeck Construction. “Inherently with timber buildings, you don’t want to cover it up,” Whiley told Newcomb. “Probably 75% of our building is exposed to accentuate [the timber] in the end build, which reduces build-out costs and tenant improvement costs.”

Wood construction’s speed and light weight were also important project benefits: With poor soil conditions on site, timber’s lighter weight as a building material permitted the addition of a fifth floor, bringing the building to 72 feet tall. Architect and engineer Skidmore, Owings & Merrill created a bespoke steel bucket connection for the project’s components that made them quick and easy to assemble, saving time and money.

A model of COB3, which is on track for completion in Q3 2023, will be on display as a featured project in REFRAMED, an exhibition opening next month at the Chicago Architecture Center showcasing how mass timber technologies are redefining community and city building. The SLB continued its partnership with the Center for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats as a primary funder of the exhibit, which will run from April through October, and will help to showcase the benefits of climate-smart development with mass timber for the design community and the general public.


Industry Resources

FEA’s Housing Dashboard

This housing dashboard is provided compliments of Forest Economic Advisors (FEA).

Virginia Tech's Monthly Housing Report

This monthly housing commentary report is a free service of Virginia Tech and is intended to help one gauge future business activity in the U.S. housing market.

January 2023 Reports (released in March 2023)
Part A: January Housing Commentary
Part B: January Economic Conditions