Softwood Lumber Board sponsors research project into structural viability of 42-story timber tower for US; hybrid system of mass timber, concrete and steel would reduce carbon footprint by up to 75% compared to concrete benchmark, report finds

DUNEDIN, New Zealand , June 21, 2013 () – Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP has released Timber Tower Research Project, an initiative sponsored by the Softwood Lumber Board (SLB) to establish the structural viability of a 42-story-tall prototypical mass timber framed building for the US. The structural solution is benchmarked against the existing concrete-framed DeWitt Chestnut Apartments in Chicago—a revolutionary structural solution when it was designed by SOM in 1965. The new prototype is a hybrid system that uses the most efficient structural combination of mass timber, concrete and steel to reduce the carbon footprint of the resulting design by between 60 and 75 percent when compared to the concrete benchmark.

The genesis of the project lies in the fact that a tall building’s embodied carbon footprint is significantly higher relative to low-rise buildings on a per square foot basis. This is exacerbated by the fact that tall buildings are almost exclusively constructed of concrete or steel—high-strength non-combustible materials that have a high carbon footprint when compared to wood. “The wood solution for sustainable tall buildings is attractive, but also requires care from the engineering community since few contemporary precedents exists,” according to the report’s executive summary. “The goal of the Timber Tower Research Project was to develop a structural system for tall buildings that uses mass timber as the main structural material and minimizes the embodied carbon footprint of the building,” SOM Managing Partner Richard F. Tomlinson II says.

The 400-feet-tall, 42-story building documented in the 72-page report and 33 supporting drawings demonstrate the technical feasibility of meeting architectural, structural, interior, and building service requirements. “Building sustainable cities is the most important design challenge of the 21st century,” SOM City Design Practice Partner Philip Enquist, FAIA, says. “Mass timber towers like those proposed in the Tall Timber Research Project will give us another important tool for environmentally responsible development in this century of cities.”

Click here for the Timber Tower final report.

Source: Archinect News

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