New York, Portland Proposals Win Tall Wood Building Prize

September 23, 2015


Tall wood buildings win awards

Two proposals to build tall buildings using cross-laminated timber (CLT) building products have each received a $1.5 million award in the Tall Wood Building competition sponsored by the Softwood Lumber Board and the Bi-national Softwood Lumber Council. The awards were announced by US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Arch Daily reports that each of the projects took a unique perspective on wood building systems, fulfilling the competition’s call “to showcase the safe application, practicality, and sustainability of a minimum 80-foot structure that uses mass timber, composite wood technologies, and innovative building techniques.”

In his remarks at the award ceremony, Secretary Vilsack said, “The U.S. wood products industry is vitally important as it employs more than 547,000 people in manufacturing and forestry, with another 2.4 million jobs supported by U.S. private-forest owners. By embracing the benefits of wood as a sustainable building material, these demonstration projects have the ability to help change the face of our communities, mitigate climate change and support jobs in rural America. I look forward to seeing how these two buildings help lead the way in furthering the industry.”

New advances in lumber and mass timber products are some of the latest technologies being used in the architectural field. With them come possibilities for longer wood spans, taller walls, higher buildings, improved resilience, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional building materials.

Framework, Portland, Oregon

Tall wood buildings win awardsThe Framework proposal is part of a Pearl District redevelopment in Portland, Oregon. The 12-story urban and rural ecological project will be constructed primarily of cross-laminated timber (CLT) and will support a distinct blend of functions including street level retail, office, workforce housing and community space. The main community space is designed to include a public Tall Wood Exhibit, featuring resources related to the realization and design of the building.

“We consider Framework to be a totally transformative, mission-driven project that will promote social justice, environmental well being and economic opportunity at the building, regional and national levels,” said Kat Taylor, president, of Beneficial State Bancorp, which owns the project site.

“The relationship of our cities to our rural communities, what we call ‘forest to frame,’ is strengthened by Framework,” added Tom Cody, the project principal. “On a national scale this project will be catalytic, leading to more tall wood buildings, driving more wood products and wood product innovation, and boosting rural economic development.”

475 West 18th, New York City

A continent away, the 475 West 18th project will take an innovative approach that goes beyond a limited palette of materials and systems for high-rise construction. Using wood, a locally sourced and renewable material, provides a low carbon, economically sound building solution. By combining aggressive load reduction with energy efficient systems, the project team expects to reduce overall energy consumption by at least 50 percent relative to current energy codes. It will also target LEED Platinum certification, as well as pursue higher levels of sustainability not captured in the LEED system.

Tall wood buildings win awards“By choosing to develop a timber building, we hope to pave the way for a new method of urban construction that is more ecologically conscious and supportive of rural economies,” said Erica Spiritos of Spiritos Properties. “Rooted in the forests and erected in the city, this building is a celebration of habitats that are at once ancient and cutting edge, interconnected and individual, natural and technological.”

Wood Building Products Are Sustainable

The first thing any non-professional thinks when the idea of tall wooden buildings is brought up is that they will be an obvious fire hazard. However, modern cross laminated timber products meet the most rigid fire code standards. They also create far fewer carbon emissions during manufacture than traditional building materials, especially concrete.

The City of Paris is considering a proposal for a 35 story building made with CLT products that will be the world’s tallest wooden tower. Paris will host the next global conference on climate change in December and is a world leader in new ideas on how to limit carbon emissions from all sources.

Photo credits: ReThink Wood



Stephen Hanley

lives in Rhode Island and writes about topics at the convergence of technology and ecology. You can follow him on Google + and Twitter.