All of these structures are made from wood, but not the traditional two-by-fours you’re thinking of. These buildings make use of innovative new materials like glued-laminated timber (glulam) and cross-laminate timber (CLT), both of which are gaining in popularity. They’re part of a family of materials named mass timber, where wood is cut, stacked, and glued to make a strong material even stronger. It’s cheaper, performs better in earthquakes, and is far more sustainable than most building methods out there now. It’s also made here in the US — most mass timber products come from Southern Oregon.
For a good example of how the new wood works, take the top photo here from a project named Framework, an office tower in Portland, Oregon. From the street you might not notice any difference between this building and its century-old neighbours. But instead of masonry walls, the building is almost entirely composed of Douglas fir glulam. And that wood is left exposed for a stunning effect. That’s the real beauty of wood — it doesn’t need to be covered up.
WoodWorkspicks the best buildings that are using wood in non-residential applications so you can see how architects use these materials on a larger scale. The hope is that by showcasing wood in such versatile designs, wood will become the material of choice for more and more architects down the road.
The Radiator | Portland, OR
This five-story building is part of a new wave of wood buildings in the Pacific Northwest. PATH is now working on the tallest wood frame structure in the US, also in Portland.
Architect: PATH Architecture; Structural Engineer: Munzing Structural Engineering General Contractor: Kaiser Group, Inc.; Photo: Josh Partee Photography
Chicago Horizon | Chicago, IL
A public pavilion created for Chicago’s Architecture Biennial was the first project to use CLT in the city.
Architect: Ultramodern; Structural Engineer: Guy Nordenson & Associates; General Contractor: FH Paschen; Photos: Tom Harris, Hedrich Blessing
Fire Station 76 | Gresham, OR
If a firehouse uses wood, that should tell you something about the material’s safety and resilience, right? In fact, mass timber burns much slower than many other building materials.
Architect: Hennebery Eddy Architects; Structural Engineer: Nishkian Dean Structural Engineers; General Contractor: Bremik Construction
Our Lady of Montserrat Chapel | Seattle, WA
Wood is not allowed for many applications due to antiquated Seattle building code. But this project was able to get an exemption because of the proven fire-resistance of mass timber, paving the way for more projects.
Architect: Hennebery Eddy Architects, Inc.; Structural Engineer: Coughlin Porter LundeenGeneral Contractor: Sellen Construction; Photo: Andrew Pogue
China Pavilion Milan Expo 2015 | Milan, Italy
The roof is made from sheets of bamboo that act as sunscreens.
Architect: Studio Link-Arc, LLC; Architect: Tsinghua University; Structural Engineer: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger; General Contractor: Bodino Engineering; Photo: Sergio Grazia
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon | Bend, OR
The roof of this structure is covered with solar panels, and the concrete floor offers radiant heating, to make it an incredibly efficient building.
Architect: Hacker; Structural Engineer: Walker Structural Engineering; General Contractor: Kirby Nagelhout Construction Co.; Photo: Lara Swimmer Photography
Cottonwood Valley Charter School E-Pod | Socorro, NM
The affordability of wood makes it an ideal candidate for budget-minded projects like schools.
Architect: Environmental Dynamics, Inc.; Structural Engineer: Walla Engineering, Ltd.; General Contractor: Janstar Builders, Inc.; Photos: Patrick Coulie Photography
Aspen Art Museum | Aspen, CO
The basket-weave of Aspen’s art museum not only protects from solar gain during the sunny summers; it’s also an effective tool for shouldering snow accumulation in the winter.
Architect: Shigeru Ban Architects; Structural Engineer: KL&A, Inc.; General Contractor: Turner Construction; Photo: Greg Kingsley, KL&A Inc.
Scott Family Amazeum | Bentonville, AR
Another great application for wood: Museums, where heavy use from visitors only adds to the patina of the wood.
Architect: Haizlip Studio, PLLC; Structural Engineer: Crafton Tull; General Contractor: Nabholz Construction; Photo: Kenneth Petersen
Terry Trueblood Boathouse | Iowa City, IA
Local cedar was sourced from nearby forests and made into affordable plywood for this park facility.
Architect: ASK Studio; Structural Engineer: Shuck-Britson Inc.; General Contractor: Tricon Construction; Photo: Cameron Campbell, Integrated Studio Top image: Architect: Works Partnership Architecture; Engineer: TM Rippey; Consulting Engineers General Contractor: Yorke & Curtis, Inc.; Photo: Joshua Jay Elliot