Company building nation's first wooden high-rise

Company building nation's first wooden high-rise

A rendering of what will be the first wooden high-rise in the United States. Photo courtesy of LEVER Architecture

Considered a landmark structure, a 12-story high-rise soon will be built in Portland, Ore.

While it will add to the city’s commercial landscape, the building will be vastly different because it will be made of wood, according to the Northwest environmental organization EarthFix.

The project will use cross-laminated timber, where giant panels of wood are made out of many layers of timber sheets that are tightly pressed together. The wood comes from timber in rural Oregon, and the panels will be made before they arrive at the building site.

Thomas Robinson, founder of LEVER Architecture, the Portland-based firm that is part of this project, said that the construction method can be likened to "an incredibly large Ikea cabinet." Instead of pouring large amounts of concrete and fashioning the right parts on the building grounds, cross-laminated timber panels can be engineered near the forests from which they came and shipped straight to the construction site.

Cross-laminated timber was pioneered in Austria and Germany in the 1990s, but it is only now reaching America. The building Robinson and his firm are working on will be the first wooden high-rise in the United States.

"The idea is there's a central wood core, and that's where the stairs and elevators are housed, and that core would be visible all the way up the building," he said. "We really want people to see the fact that this is not your typical highrise."

Asked whether wooden buildings would stand up to fires and earthquakes, Robinson said the structure has been oversized, giving the building more time as a fire burns at a constant rate. He also pointed out that the wood panels comprising the building will be different from the timber frames most people are used to seeing in their homes.

"Large pieces of wood have an inherent fire resistance," Robinson said. "When you think about forests, part of a natural cycle is forest fires, and the larger trees survive."

Robinson said he hopes the building will show the viability of wooden high-rises and serve as a model for the region and the country.

Topics: Architectural Firms, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Lumber / Structured Panels / Engineered Wood Products, Office Buildings, Real Estate, Sustainable Trends and Statistics, Urban Planning and Design, Wall Systems / Curtain Walls

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