Multi-family housing and mixed-use projects have consistently covered Schaefer engineers’ desks for the past several years. The majority of these developments used wood materials because of its cost and constructibility. While mixed-use and mixed-materials become more common and includes a lot of innovative ideas with wood construction, it is limited to five stories tall. While there will always be a demand for this type of construction, bigger things are on the way…or should I say taller.

Studies project the world population to be over 9 billion by 2050; most of the increase in population will occur within our cities. As our cities become more densely populated, the height of buildings will need to increase as well. As population increases, the carbon emitted into the atmosphere will also increase. Hence the need for the construction industry to utilize ways to build taller without increasing the output of carbon dioxide. The solution is tall wood construction.

Heavy timber construction has been successfully used to build high rise structures in Europe, Australia and Canada. The limits are continually being pushed and many structures have been built and are under construction that are at or above 10 stories tall. These buildings typically have a combination of Glulam beams and columns along with Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT).

We have designed the FIRST Cross Laminated Timber Wood hotel in the United States.

At Schaefer, we are leaders in this industry. While tall wood construction is still in its infancy in the United States, we have designed the first CLT wood hotel in the United States with Nordic Engineered Wood out of Canada. The four story building is currently the largest commercial CLT building in the United States and the first one built on a military installation (Redstone Arsenal, Alabama). This means that it is also the first CLT structure designed to resist both Progressive Collapse and Anti-Terrorism Blast.  See this link for a time-lapse video of the Redstone Hotel during construction (fast forward to half way through; the first half of the video is site preparation).

While this is a major step forward, it is only the tip of the iceberg as multiple other similar structures are currently under design. The US government has gotten behind the movement, issuing a design competition challenging firms to build a tall wood 10+ story building in the United States. Two firms were awarded $1.5 million each. Both will be residential developments – one in New York, New York, and the other in Portland, Oregon.

There is still a long way to go for the wood industry to regularly construct tall buildings out of wood. We are witnessing the start of this process and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.

Cross section of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT)
Cross Laminated Timber Section | Nordic X-Lam



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