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The Wooden High-Rises and Timber Towers Changing Construction, Mapped

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While massive megatall skyscrapers continue to push the upper limits of what technology can accomplish, a new breed of buildings is showing how to design a more sustainable skyline by going decidedly retro. The trend towards tall timber towers—often built with cross-laminated timber, a dense series of compressed panels that provide structural support—suggests steel and glass aren't the only medium for multi-story construction. These new types of structures, which now boast floor counts climbing into the double digits, offer strength and stability with a much smaller carbon footprint. And according to top engineers, they're far from the fire risks many assume when they first hear about such structures. Due to the density of their wooden skeletons, the timber frames char when burned, forming a protective layer and maintaining structural integrity.

The techniques and technology behind modern wooden towers have primarily been developed in Europe. London's nine-story Stadthaus, built in 2008, is considered a forerunner to recent efforts, and the recently finished 14-story Treet, or "Tree," apartment complex in Bergen, Norway, set to open to residents later this year, is currently the world's tallest timber structure. But success has led to new ventures breaking ground elsewhere, including North America. Many architects and proponents believe current examples have just begun to realize the potential of wooden skyscrapers; a Skidmore, Owings & Merrill study suggests 40-story wood towers are viable, and other see them as potential catalysts for sustainable forestry. Here are many of the multistory, mass wood project in the pipeline across the globe.


Why a Wooden Office Tower May Symbolize the Future of Multi-Story Construction [Curbed]
SHoP Designs A 10-Story Wooden West Chelsea Condo Building [Curbed New York]
$3M Prize Pushes Proposed Timber Towers in NYC and Portland [Curbed]

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323 N Washington Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55401

An abbreviation of Timber, Transit, and Technology, this under-construction office building in Minneapolis’s North Loop neighborhood set to open later this year was designed by Michael Green, a Vancouver-based architect and pioneer of tall timber construction. The 210,000-square-foot future home of the Hines Development company, one of the biggest such projects in the nation, is, in Green’s words, “not a reinvention of the wheel… but bringing back a very good wheel.” Built with enough wood panels for nine hockey rinks, the office will be 30 percent lighter than a similar steel structure. It also offers a unique advantage in a cold climate; unlike steel, which draws in cold from the outside, the wooden skeleton of this building will help with insulation.

2. SHoP NYC Wooden Condo

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475 W 18th St
New York, NY 10011

A skyscraper-dense area such as Manhattan seems like an odd choice for a timber building, but the team that designed this proposed 10-story condo building in West Chelsea believe wood is a help, not a hinderance, in such a competitive market. In addition to shrinking the carbon footprint of construction, exposed wooden beams throughout the structure would convey authenticity and warmth, according to designers at SHoP Architects. The project, one of two winners of a Department of Agriculture (USDA) project to support the construction of high-tech wooden tower, gets a cut of a $3 million prize pool. The team behind the development, which includes Spiritos Properties, Arup, Icor Associates and environmental consultancy Atelier Ten, hopes to begin construction later this year.

3. Framework

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160 NE 6th Ave
Portland, OR 97232

The other winner of the USDA contest, this 12-story, mixed-use tower will be a sleek addition to the Pearl District in Portland, and the country’s tallest wood building when completed. Thomas Robinson, the tower’s designer and principal of LEVER Architecture, wants the building’s unique structure to be immediately apparent, with plans for a visible wood core and a facade decorated with hanging plants. Due to its progressive building codes and proximity to the domestic timber—local firm DR Johnson Lumber, the company suppying Framework, is the only domestic supplier of cross-laminated timber—Portland has become the epicenter for tall timber construction in the states, with a handful of completed projects scattered through the city, including the five-story Radiator Building.

4. Brock Commons

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E Mall & Walter Gage Rd, Vancouver
BC V6T, Canada

Under construction and set to finish in 2017, this proposed 174-foot-tall, $51.5-million dormitory for the University of British Columbia will become the tallest timber building of its kind when completed. The plan by Acton Ostry calls for 17 stories of structurally laminated timber and Douglas Fir, and will house 404 students. The campus already boasts a handful of wooden structures, and worked with the provincial government to craft and pass regulations governing tall wooden towers.

5. Dalston Lane

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71 Dalston Ln
London E8 2NG, UK

The London borough of Hackney took a progressive stance by approving a “timber-first” policy for development and construction in 2012, and this sizable new mixed-use project showcases just what can be achieved when this type of building gets local supports. Set to be the world’s largest timber building by volume when it opens this summer, this 121-home development, designed by the same firm (Waugh Thistleton Architects) behind the nearby Stadthaus tower, features an array of apartments and commercial space.

6. HOHO

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Ostbahnbegleitstraße
1220 Wien, Austria

Still in the developmental phase, this proposed Austrian tower would be a record-breaker if completed. Nearly three-quarters of this 275-foot-tall, 24-story tower, a capstone of an ambitious “urban lakeside” development project in Vienna, would be made of wood. Designed by Rüdiger Lainer and Partner, the project recently received approval and is set for groundbreaking this year.

7. Heartwood the Beach Condos

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1884 Queen St E, Toronto
ON M4L 1H4, Canada

Taking advantage of a recent change in Toronto zoning codes, this six-story condo building will be the city’s tallest of its type, with crews expected to break ground this spring. The 40-unit development by Quadrangle Architects, set on the site of a former gas station, will offer low-slung, loft-like units and exposed wooden beams throughout.

8. Origine

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Rue de la Pointe-aux-Lièvres, Ville de Québec
QC, Canada

One of many Canadian projects in the works, this 13-story red-and-white condo, assembled from cross-laminated timber atop a concrete core, is being built on the site of a former gravel pit by Nordic.

9. HSB Landmark

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Gjörwellsgatan 15
112 60 Stockholm, Sweden

While it’s a contest entry that’s years away from anything resembling construction and completion, with a hypothetical finish date is 2023, this wooden skyscraper proposal has earned plenty of attention. Architecture firm CF Møller, architect Dinell Johansson and consultant Tyréns are collaborating on this 34-story concept, with a pyramidal top and a lush, plant-filled facade. It’s an ambitious, though still fanciful, addition to the conversation over the future of tall timber construction.

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1. T3

323 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401

An abbreviation of Timber, Transit, and Technology, this under-construction office building in Minneapolis’s North Loop neighborhood set to open later this year was designed by Michael Green, a Vancouver-based architect and pioneer of tall timber construction. The 210,000-square-foot future home of the Hines Development company, one of the biggest such projects in the nation, is, in Green’s words, “not a reinvention of the wheel… but bringing back a very good wheel.” Built with enough wood panels for nine hockey rinks, the office will be 30 percent lighter than a similar steel structure. It also offers a unique advantage in a cold climate; unlike steel, which draws in cold from the outside, the wooden skeleton of this building will help with insulation.

323 N Washington Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55401

2. SHoP NYC Wooden Condo

475 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011

A skyscraper-dense area such as Manhattan seems like an odd choice for a timber building, but the team that designed this proposed 10-story condo building in West Chelsea believe wood is a help, not a hinderance, in such a competitive market. In addition to shrinking the carbon footprint of construction, exposed wooden beams throughout the structure would convey authenticity and warmth, according to designers at SHoP Architects. The project, one of two winners of a Department of Agriculture (USDA) project to support the construction of high-tech wooden tower, gets a cut of a $3 million prize pool. The team behind the development, which includes Spiritos Properties, Arup, Icor Associates and environmental consultancy Atelier Ten, hopes to begin construction later this year.

475 W 18th St
New York, NY 10011

3. Framework

160 NE 6th Ave, Portland, OR 97232

The other winner of the USDA contest, this 12-story, mixed-use tower will be a sleek addition to the Pearl District in Portland, and the country’s tallest wood building when completed. Thomas Robinson, the tower’s designer and principal of LEVER Architecture, wants the building’s unique structure to be immediately apparent, with plans for a visible wood core and a facade decorated with hanging plants. Due to its progressive building codes and proximity to the domestic timber—local firm DR Johnson Lumber, the company suppying Framework, is the only domestic supplier of cross-laminated timber—Portland has become the epicenter for tall timber construction in the states, with a handful of completed projects scattered through the city, including the five-story Radiator Building.

160 NE 6th Ave
Portland, OR 97232

4. Brock Commons

E Mall & Walter Gage Rd, Vancouver, BC V6T, Canada

Under construction and set to finish in 2017, this proposed 174-foot-tall, $51.5-million dormitory for the University of British Columbia will become the tallest timber building of its kind when completed. The plan by Acton Ostry calls for 17 stories of structurally laminated timber and Douglas Fir, and will house 404 students. The campus already boasts a handful of wooden structures, and worked with the provincial government to craft and pass regulations governing tall wooden towers.

E Mall & Walter Gage Rd, Vancouver
BC V6T, Canada

5. Dalston Lane

71 Dalston Ln, London E8 2NG, UK

The London borough of Hackney took a progressive stance by approving a “timber-first” policy for development and construction in 2012, and this sizable new mixed-use project showcases just what can be achieved when this type of building gets local supports. Set to be the world’s largest timber building by volume when it opens this summer, this 121-home development, designed by the same firm (Waugh Thistleton Architects) behind the nearby Stadthaus tower, features an array of apartments and commercial space.

71 Dalston Ln
London E8 2NG, UK

6. HOHO

Ostbahnbegleitstraße, 1220 Wien, Austria

Still in the developmental phase, this proposed Austrian tower would be a record-breaker if completed. Nearly three-quarters of this 275-foot-tall, 24-story tower, a capstone of an ambitious “urban lakeside” development project in Vienna, would be made of wood. Designed by Rüdiger Lainer and Partner, the project recently received approval and is set for groundbreaking this year.

Ostbahnbegleitstraße
1220 Wien, Austria

7. Heartwood the Beach Condos

1884 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4L 1H4, Canada

Taking advantage of a recent change in Toronto zoning codes, this six-story condo building will be the city’s tallest of its type, with crews expected to break ground this spring. The 40-unit development by Quadrangle Architects, set on the site of a former gas station, will offer low-slung, loft-like units and exposed wooden beams throughout.

1884 Queen St E, Toronto
ON M4L 1H4, Canada

8. Origine

Rue de la Pointe-aux-Lièvres, Ville de Québec, QC, Canada

One of many Canadian projects in the works, this 13-story red-and-white condo, assembled from cross-laminated timber atop a concrete core, is being built on the site of a former gravel pit by Nordic.

Rue de la Pointe-aux-Lièvres, Ville de Québec
QC, Canada

9. HSB Landmark

Gjörwellsgatan 15, 112 60 Stockholm, Sweden

While it’s a contest entry that’s years away from anything resembling construction and completion, with a hypothetical finish date is 2023, this wooden skyscraper proposal has earned plenty of attention. Architecture firm CF Møller, architect Dinell Johansson and consultant Tyréns are collaborating on this 34-story concept, with a pyramidal top and a lush, plant-filled facade. It’s an ambitious, though still fanciful, addition to the conversation over the future of tall timber construction.

Gjörwellsgatan 15
112 60 Stockholm, Sweden