The sky's the limit for tall wood buildings

The proposed mixed-use Framework development in Portland’s Pearl District will fit right in with other tall residential and retail buildings in the neighborhood. But unlike other high-rise buildings that will surround it, Framework is bucking the trend of concrete and steel construction.

The project has attracted national attention because the 12-story building will be constructed with wood, shining a spotlight on Oregon as a leader in tall wood building innovation.

As one of two winners of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition, Framework will serve as a demonstration project for the use of engineered wood products, such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), in high-rise structures.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Softwood Lumber Board and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council sponsored the national competition. The other winner was a proposed residential condominium building in New York.

Each of the winning projects will receive a $1.5 million grant to complete the necessary research on using engineered wood products in high-rise construction. This information will be made public to support the timber industry and encourage the development of more tall wood buildings in the U.S.

“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,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press conference announcing the winners.

Portland-based LEVER Architecture is designing the Framework building for Portland-based developer project ^ and property ownerBeneficial State Bancorp. The project team also includes affordable housing provider Home Forward, general contractor Walsh Construction Co., and engineering firms KPFF Consulting Engineersand Arup.

Project plans call for ground-floor retail space beneath housing, offices and a rooftop deck. The design will expose the building’s wooden structural components to demonstrate to the public its innovative use of timber.

Thomas Robinson, a principal with LEVER Architecture, says he was attracted to the idea of mass timber construction for aesthetic as well as socially conscious reasons. This includes supporting jobs in rural Oregon and using a renewable resource that sequesters carbon.

“Architects and designers, their main goal is to create great spaces for people to live and work,” he says. “In Oregon and Portland, this material and this type of building will really resonate.”

Construction of the Framework project is scheduled to start late next year and wrap up in December 2017.


Tall wood construction gains support of state's highest office

Gov. Kate Brown is backing efforts to make Oregon a hub for cross-laminated timber in hopes that the sustainable building material will be a boon for the state’s rural timber communities.

The state has supported Riddle-based D.R. Johnson Lumber Co., the first mill in the U.S. to be certified by the American Plywood Association in producing CLT that can replace concrete and steel in tall buildings.

"Historically, forests have been a significant economic engine in our state, and I hope they will be again," Brown said in September when announcing a $100,000 state loan to D.R. Johnson.

In addition to investing in CLT production in Oregon, the state is sponsoring a CLT design contest that will award up to $200,000 for product and code compliance testing.

"Oregon wants to help builders use CLT more often," Brown said.

Another reason Oregon is quickly becoming a national leader in wood products innovation is the recent establishment of the National Center for Advanced Wood Products Manufacturing and Design in Corvallis. This collaborative effort between Oregon State University and the University of Oregon will lead research, testing and development of engineered wood products. 

In addition to the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, other private and public organizations that have supported innovative uses of Oregon wood products include Sustainable Northwest, the Oregon Business CouncilBusiness OregonOregon BEST, the Oregon Business Association, the Oregon Department of Forestry, the Oregon Forest Industries Council, thePortland Business AllianceWoodWorks and the World Forestry Center.

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