Largest Engineered Wood Building in Region Opens

THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2017

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst unveiled its new Design Building last month—one of the first institutional buildings in the Northeast U.S. made out of engineered timber.

Designed by architectural firm Leers Weinzapfel Associates and managed by Suffolk Construction (both of Boston), the building saves the equivalent of about 2,300 metric tons of carbon compared to a steel and concrete building, according to

The Building

The 87,000-sqare-foot, $52 million building was constructed with cross-laminated timber and glue-laminated columns. A wood-steel truss system supports a roof garden and is visible to an atrium below.

The building houses three academic disciplines at the college: architecture; building and construction technology; and landscape architecture and regional planning. The building and construction technology program participated in developing some of the CLT technology used in the building, and has been testing CLT with a National Science Foundation grant.

"The Design Building reflects the university's commitment to sustainability and innovation in education," said Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy in a statement. "It is a landmark building that offers an optimal space for team projects and experimentation and serves as an educational tool for students exploring every aspect of architecture, design, planning and construction."

Not the Only One

UMass isn’t the only institution jumping on the train as wood-engineered buildings gain steam. The University of British Columbia’s soon-to-be finished Brock Commons is set to be the world’s tallest wood tower.

That structure is 18 stories (174 feet tall) and will eventually house more than 400 students. Designed by Acton Ostry Architects, structural engineering firm Fast + Epp (both of Vancouver) and adviser Architekten Hermann Kaufmann (Austria), the building is comprised of wood, concrete and steel. CLT panels supported by glulam columns make up the 17 floor plates. Steel connectors are at the intersections of the floor slabs and columns. The tower is topped by a roof made of steel beams and decking with prefabricated wall panels that are 70 percent wood-fiber, high-pressure laminate.

Not for Everyone

Though researchers have conceded that more testing needs to be done to prove that wood-engineered buildings are actually stronger and more fire-resistant than traditional steel and concrete buildings, many have already taken up that stance.

Not everyone is so quick to be optimistic, however, as places like Sandy Springs—an Atlanta suburb—have banned wood-framed construction in buildings taller than mid-rise, citing safety concerns.

The American Wood Council and Georgia Forestry Association objected to the code change.


Tagged categories: Building Envelope; Construction; North America; Sustainability; Wood; Wood composites

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