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$3M Prize Pushes Proposed Timber Towers in NYC and Portland

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Recent advances in timber construction technology have led many green advocates and progressive architects to push wood as the main material for a new generation of high-rises and towers. To help give a nudge to this nascent industry, which many believe could be a massive boom for domestic logging and provide a renewable green blueprint for the construction industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), along with timber industry trade groups, awarded $3 million for funding and research earlier today, as part of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. Two in-the-works projects that exemplify the diversity and potential applications for this new type of construction—Framework, a mixed-use project in Portland, and 475 W. 18th, a luxury high-rise in New York—were each given $1.5 million to support the exploratory phases of their projects. The aim is to help jump-start developments in the industry, which is slowly gaining momentum in Europe and North America, and help find solutions to overcome its current challenges, such as sourcing, public wariness about the safety of wooden structures, and code restrictions.

Set in downtown Portland's high-end Pearl District, Framework, the winner of the contest, would showcase the aesthetic and environmental possibilities of timber, especially with its sleek façade of alternating glass and wooden slats. Designed by Lever Architecture, the 12-story development would house residential and commercial spaces, including street-level retail, office, workforce housing and community space, as well as a public exhibit on tall-wood construction. Along with interior detailing, such as exposing the beams from the cross-laminated timber frame, the building would stand as a showpiece for this type of building technology.

In New York, the 475 W. 18th residential high-rise project proposed for the Chelsea area of Manhattan would be the city's tallest building to use structural timber once completed. The architect's expect to reduce energy usage by 50% and achieve LEED Platinum status, in addition to achieving substantial sustainability goals. Everything from the elevator shafts to exterior to building core can be made from this next-generation wood, due to its increased density (which also makes it extremely fire-resistant), resulting in a warmer interior than many glass-and-steel high-rises.

In addition to promoting renewable building practices and reducing emissions, high-tech timber construction could be a huge job boost. According to a release by the USDA, if next-generation timber products penetrate just five to fifteen percent of the non-residential American construction market, that would mean 0.8 - 2.4 billion additional board feet of lumber would be consumed annually. To put that in perspective, roughly 35 jobs are created for each million board feet of wood added to the building supply chain.

Why a Wooden Office Tower May Symbolize the Future of Multi-Story Construction [Curbed]
Reduce, Replay, Recycle: Pickathon's Sustainable Stage [Curbed]
Here are the Most Impressive New Green Buildings in the U.S. [Curbed]