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December 13, 2019

Could wooden buildings be a solution to climate change?

Timber structures would allow us to draw carbon from the air and store it in our homes and offices – leading some to believe that wooden buildings are the future of architecture.

I’m standing in a seemingly ordinary construction site of an unremarkable office block in east London. The seven-storey building is about two-thirds complete – the basic structure and staircases are in place, with plastering and wiring just beginning. But as I walk around, something different slowly reveals itself. The construction site is quiet and clean – it even smells good. And there’s an awful lot of wood. Building sites typically feature wood as the mould to pour the concrete into. But here, the wood is the concrete.

“Because a timber building weighs 20% of a concrete building, the gravitational load is vastly reduced, ” enthuses Andrew Waugh, the architect, who shows me around. “That means we need minimal foundations, we don’t need massive amounts of concrete in the ground. We have a timber core, timber walls and timber floor slabs – so we reduce the amount of steel down to a bare minimum.” Steel is typically used to form the main internal supports or to reinforce concrete in…

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September 30, 2019

How Mass Timber Can Cut Your Construction Costs

In recent years, we’ve seen a growing interest in a centuries-old building material: wood. Mass timber’s growing popularity is often attributed to its sustainability benefits and inviting, warm aesthetic. Naturally renewable, engineered wood products (EWP), such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), can be produced using smaller, fast-growing trees that are then replenished through the planting of new trees. And once constructed, mass timber can be left exposed to give a building a unique look and feel reminiscent of hundred-year-old historic heavy timber architecture.

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August 16, 2019

New report shows that the modular construction business is booming

According to the recently released Commercial Construction Index (CCI), an economic indicator that tracks trends in the commercial construction industry, demand for modular construction is on the rise, and general contractors expect the trend to continue.

Modular construction uses prefabricated and preassembled building components that are built in a factory and shipped to the job site for assembly. They meet the same standards and use the same materials as a traditional building but, advocates say, they offer a range of additional benefits. 

As reported by The National Real Estate Investor, over the last five years, the modular construction business has doubled in size to become an $8 billion industry. What amounts for the new interest? Previous studies have shown that increased productivity and lower costs are driving contractors to embrace modular construction. Now, with materials costs continuing to rise around the world, these potential savings have become even more critical. But they’re not the only issue. The CCI study found that more than 70 percent of surveyed contractors reported eight clear benefits of modular construction: increases in efficiency, productivity, safety, and quality; reductions in risk, cost, material waste, and construction times—an particularly important benefit for revenue-earning buildings whose owners want to start collecting rent as soon as possible.

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August 5, 2019

CLT calling – a 1% increase in annual demand for industrial wood products could drive 20 million hectares of new sustainably managed tree farms. The Nature Conservancy and Bain & Company explain the importance of a ‘forest economy’

Making the case for the “forest economy”

The surface temperature of the earth is rising. The Arctic sea ice is receding. Catastrophic storms are becoming commonplace. Governments, NGOs, companies and individuals are trying to mitigate climate change with a variety of approaches to decrease carbon emissions and increase carbon sequestration. So far, our collective efforts have not been enough.

Over the past year, The Nature Conservancy and Bain & Company have worked together to assess how reforestation might help address climate change. The result is a new vision for a forest economy that harnesses the power and scale of markets, and has the potential to increase reforestation at a fast enough rate that it might help slow climate change.
A 1% increase in annual demand for industrial wood products
could drive 20 million hectares of new sustainably managed tree farms

Forestry, and reforestation in particular, has significant potential for both carbon sequestration and reducing emissions. Reforesting at a rate to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature increase to 2°C through the end of this century could mitigate up to three billion additional tons of CO2 on an annual basis. In addition, wood-based products can substitute for…

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July 15, 2019

Tall Timber Trends Higher Across North America

With recent changes in building codes on the horizon—and a quest to find more sustainable ways to build up—we are seeing a marked rise in the number of taller mass timber buildings popping up across North America.

The most recent of this growing stock of taller wood projects is George Brown College’s The Arbour, an innovative 10-story mass timber building poised to transform Toronto’s skyline.

The $134-million project at the college’s Waterfront Campus will use an estimated 3, 000 cubic meters (1050 tons) of wood and will include a mass timber research hub, helping to further advance the very technology driving the building’s construction and design. Its environmentally friendly stand-out design, created by Moriyama and Teshima Architects and Acton Ostry Architects, targets net zero emissions, with construction set to begin in 2021.

The building is the first project funded through Canada’s Green Construction through Wood (GCWood) program that encourages the use of wood in non-traditional construction projects, such as tall buildings. Natural Resources Canada spearheads the initiative and issued a news release announcing the project.

The Arbour is just one of several wood buildings reaching new heights, with several completed or underway in both Canada and the U.S.—a trend that is only expected to climb.

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January 14, 2019

The U.S. mass timber industry is maturing while it branches out

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…

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January 9, 2019

Wood on the Rise: Top 5 Trends in 2019 for Building with Wood

From soaring new heights to smarter cities, here are some of the top trends ushering wood into 2019…

Wood construction and innovation continues to soar in the U.S., where taller wood buildings are about to become more common. Preliminary voting results released by the International Code Council (ICC) in late 2018 approved 14 tall mass timber code change proposals, clearing the way for their inclusion in the 2021 International Building Code (IBC).

Taken together, the 14 tall mass timber code change proposals create three new types of construction in the United States, setting fire safety requirements and allowable heights, areas, and number of stories for tall mass timber buildings up to 18 stories tall.

Some cities are already on the leading edge of the mass timber movement. Seattle for example is a textbook case in building with wood in dense urban environments. Earlier in 2018, the City of Seattle began accepting permit applications for developments that use mass timber in heavy timber building types up to 18 stories tall.
These allowances are capturing the imaginations of top designers and engineers. DLR Group, Martha Schwartz Partners, Fast+Epp, Swinerton, WoodWorks, and Heartland created a feasibility study called ‘Tall with Timber: A…

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June 5, 2018

New York City issues first call for affordable housing requiring modular construction

New York City’s affordable buildings are now going up in blocks as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan released late last year. The more ambitious sequel to 2014’s original Housing New York, the new plan calls for a shift towards modular construction on affordable housing projects as a time- and cost-saving measure. Now, the first request for proposals (RFP) has been issued for a city-owned modular development.

As reported by The Real Deal, NYC’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) first issued the RFP for a modular, 100 percent affordable building in East New York on May 24. The L-shaped plot is owned by the city and covers approximately 49, 397 square feet at 581 Grant Street, between Pitkin and Glenmore Avenues along Elder Lane, adjacent to the Grant Avenue A station.

For the city’s first mandated modular project, HPD is looking to develop a mixed-use building with 100 percent of the units allocated for affordable housing across all income levels. Ten percent of the units will be set aside for the formerly homeless.

Interested parties have until September 10, 2018, to submit their proposals.

Modular construction has taken off in a big way as of late and is one of the…

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December 4, 2017

Marriott International Expands Modular Construction Initiative

In an industry first, Marriott International (NASDAQ: MAR) today unveiled a comprehensive expansion to its initiative to drive adoption of modular construction of hotels in North America. In addition, the company said it expects to sign 50 hotel deals in 2017 that incorporate prefabricated guestrooms or bathrooms – more than 10 percent of the Select Brand signings expected for the region this year.

“Construction is the next frontier for innovation, and modular is leading the way, ” said Eric Jacobs, Marriott International’s Chief Development Officer of Select Brands, North America. The announcement was made at the company’s CONNECT conference – a meeting of Marriott hotel owners – in Los Angeles at the JW Marriott. More than 1, 300 owners are expected to attend the conference, making it the largest in the company’s history. “By working with our pre-approved modular partners, owners can open hotels faster, put associates to work earlier and generate revenues sooner. It’s another example of Marriott’s focus on optimizing our partners’ return on investment.”


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