Bricks and… wood? Green developers are embracing timber

An advisory group recently said wooden buildings as high as 18 stories are safe to construct, but some remain skeptical

Jan.January 02, 2019 10:30 AM

(Credit: iStock)

Some developers are looking to cut down on their carbon footprint by finding alternatives to steel and mortar.

Now, green-minded builders are constructing office towers and apartments with timber — a move that is receiving growing support, according to the New York Times.

In New York City, wooden structures are limited to seven stories, but a recent strong voice of support for timber construction could change that. The International Code Council, a Washington D.C. advisory firm, said wooden structures as tall as 18 stories could still be structurally safe. This is twice as high what was previously believed to be a safe height.

Some developers are already trying to build with timber in the city. Flank, an architecture and development firm, is building two timber-filled commercial buildings at 320 and 360 Wythe Avenue in South Williamsburg, which it says are the first wooden structures to be built in the city in nearly a century.

However, concerns remain, particularly because of safety issues, including fire hazards, and cost. One developer behind an eight-story condominium building in Portland, Oregon, is reportedly spending $11 million to build it — 20 percent more expensive than using steel. In Oregon, state authorities saw an opportunity to revive its lumber industry, and reportedly passed regulations that allow developers to reach 18 stories with wooden structures.

Other countries are far ahead on the timber trend, as The Real Deal previously reported. Paris and Vienna, respectively, have 35-story and 24-story wooden projects rising.

Still, such projects are coming to Denver, Chicago and other U.S. cities. In Milwaukee, developer New Land Enterprises is constructing a 21-story, 201-unit rental, which is expected to be the tallest timber building in the western hemisphere, according to the outlet. [NYT] — David Jeans 

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