Mass Timber: Applications in Urban Density

February 2, 2023 / GGLO

By Ted Panton, AIA

By now I’m sure you’ve heard of mass timber, it describes a number of large, engineered wood fiber products that are manufactured into solid panels of wood. The resulting panels are highly capable and, like most wood products, attractive and compelling from a design standpoint. Mass timber’s relevance for each given project is something GGLO has been exploring over the last seven years, and in this series of blogs, I’ll be sharing our experience with this versatile and sustainable material. I’ll also offer a few lessons learned and demonstrate mass timber’s inherent design opportunities, commercial viability, and compelling role as a biogenic climate solution.

Why Mass Timber?

As our cities experience critical housing shortages, we embrace mass timber as a solution that offers triple-bottom-line benefits: it is biophilic, regenerative, and, when integrated properly, economically viable. Although mass timber currently has a low level of adoption in residential multifamily structures, it presents opportunities that can define and enhance the unique attributes of each given project when properly calibrated and applied.

The Business Case for Mass Timber

The key to unlocking the triple-bottom-line benefits of mass timber is defining its economic relevance. In apartment communities the business case for mass timber is all about fostering livability and addressing the resident’s desire for overt sustainability while working within the parameters of cost and feasibility. By accomplishing this goal, mass timber will create and elevated brand profile for the project, resulting in heightened performance in the marketplace. A few examples we’ll be exploring include:

  • Utilizing mass timber in high-visibility, high-touch areas, such as common areas and amenities. These can be integrated into an overall building or be featured as standalone structures.
  • Integrating exposed wood ceilings and other interior surfaces to create a unique offering in apartments and for-sale properties.
Project Precedent

I will be highlighting several residential mass timber projects GGLO currently has underway. Through intensive design and technical focus, they advance and scale mass timber usage as well as benefit the end users of urban infill density.

  • The Garden District which is currently in its final stages of permit approval and will commence construction in 2023. It will be the tallest dowel-laminated timber (DLT) residential structure in North America when completed. I’ll highlight the relevance of the use of this system and its ability to deliver “triple-bottom-line” results, as well as unique 3rd party testing utilized to permit the project.
  • The Avalon Bothell Commons Amenity Structure demonstrates how mass timber can create design focus and energy as a feature design element on a multifamily campus. Mass timber, including mass plywood and CLT, was used to define the dramatic vaulted spaces of this structure. The project is nearing completion and will be occupied in May 2023.
  • The Perry, a mixed-use project in Ketchum, Idaho embraces the use of mass timber to generate a unique and authentic identity that reflects its dramatic natural setting. Given the elaborate program includes market rate, affordable, and higher-end for-sale product, a flexible point-supported system of columns and beams was utilized.

I’m excited to share the outcome of these projects as we advance the use of mass timber as a biogenic, climate-positive solution. I’ll also be presenting The Gardens District at the upcoming International Mass Timber Conference, in Portland, Oregon on March 27–29.