Low Carbon Construction
Cutting Carbon with Mass Timber and Passive House Design

To lower a building’s carbon footprint, an increasing number of design teams are turning to timber because it is less carbon-intensive than other structural materials. Such is the case with Terra at 11 E Lenox Street, a 7-story, 34-unit multifamily project in Boston, MA, that combines the thermal benefits of mass timber construction and Passive House design to create an incredibly energy-efficient and low carbon building.

According to project architect Monte French Design Studio (MFDS), this winning combo helps cut operational energy consumption with a mix of passive and active systems and the use of eco-friendly materials—including mass timber. As a result, the project team curbed energy use by more than 80%, earning PHIUS+ PreCertification.

The building’s wood structural system will store 844 tons of CO2 throughout the building lifecycle and offset 327 tons of CO2 when compared to conventional steel or concrete alternatives. 11 E Lenox Street is expected to be completed later this year.

11 E Lenox
Photo credit: Monte French Design Studio
Affordable Housing
Boosting Affordability with Factory-Built Wood Construction

In the Greater Seattle area, design firms Mithun and Aspect Structural Engineers have been working with non-profit Forterra on the development of a Modular CLT Prototype for multifamily construction with planned deployment on sites across Western Washington and nationally. The project achieves its cost-cutting, time-saving volumetric factory production by leveraging integrated and multidisciplinary design for its architectural, structural, MEP, fire and acoustic solutions. The prototype is comprised of three prefabricated modules to create a two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit measuring approximately 1,165 square feet. The design allows for units to be stacked up to seven stories. Four all-CLT large-scale multifamily modular projects using this prototype are currently underway.

Modular CLT Prototype
Photo credit: Mithun
Prefabricated construction technology innovation is pivotal in addressing the compounding crisis of climate change and housing shortages. Now more than ever, clients are asking, ‘What does it take to go modular?’
Forterra Modular CLT Prototype

The modules will be fabricated at the Darrington Wood Innovation Center (DWIC), a 94-acre campus that will house the next generation of high-tech wood product companies.

Designed by Mithun, the first phase of DWIC includes a small high-efficiency sawmill and kiln facility; a CLT and glulam manufacturing plant; and the modular fabrication and assembly facility.

Modular CLT Prototype
Photo credit: Mithun
Prefab + Modular Construction
Merits of Modular: Increase Efficiency While Reducing Impact

Brooklyn-based firm Garrison Architects turned to factory-built timber construction for their recently completed boutique hotel and spa,The Piaule Landscape Retreat, located on a remote 50-acre site in the Catskill Mountains in southeastern New York State.

Twenty-four prefabricated wooden units are perched on stilts surrounding a sleek, modern central timber lodge. The units’ floor-to-ceiling windows slide open to reveal the sights, sounds, and sensations of the natural surroundings. The elevated standalone modules vary in size from 375 to 975 square feet. Prefabricated modules can not only reduce onsite construction but also limit environmental impact on remote locations like the Catskills.

Accessed via a quiet, tree-lined road, the lodge features cedar cladding, a butterfly wooden roof, and floor-to-ceiling windows that provide vistas of the surrounding mountains.

Interiors are constructed from locally-sourced materials to enhance the feeling of bringing the outdoors in; walls and ceilings are paneled with cedar and white oak.

The Piaule Landscape Retreat
Photo credit: Sean Davidson
Mass Timber
Mass Timber Moves Mainstream

One sign that mass timber is becoming mainstream is its wider adoption by an increasing number of influential Fortune 500 companies. From Google and Microsoft, to Adidas and McDonald’s, big brands are using mass timber to construct a growing number of corporate facilities. This includes retail giant Walmart whose new corporate campus is currently the largest mass timber corporate campus project under construction worldwide by square footage, and is set to use 1.7 million cubic feet of regionally-sourced lumber for the structures.

Mass timber will help institutional investors work closer to their ESG goals and modular construction will allow developers to try to mitigate labor issues in construction.
Survey Respondent
2022 Timber Trends Survey

Dispersed over 350 acres of native seeded greenery and 10 acres of lakes, Walmart’s new Home Office will be comprised of more than 2 million square feet of mass timber construction spread over 11 office buildings.

To supply the project, Canadian-based Structurlam opened a manufacturing facility in Conway, Arkansas in 2021. The new home office campus is anticipated to open in phases through 2025.

Walmart Home Office
Photo credit: Gensler
Hybrid Construction
Game Changer for Stadium Design

The recently completed Idaho Central Credit Union Arena at the University of Idaho is one example of creative ingenuity with hybrid timber construction. The stadium’s undulating roof, engineered and built by StructureCraft, is constructed from a doubly curved plywood diaphragm supported by hybrid glulam timber/steel trusses, carefully proportioned for both aesthetics and structural efficiency. The king post trusses span over 150 feet across the main arena and the timber/steel portal frame spans 120 feet to allow for viewing from the secondary seating.

Prefabrication and preassembly on-site streamlined construction and enhanced safety by reducing the amount of work required at extreme heights. Complex timber engineering was required to design the thrust connection between beam and column, effectively transferring over 450,000 pounds of compression.

With the use of new wood and connector systems technology, clear-span mass timber construction for sports and recreational facilities like this is becoming a competitive alternative to conventional concrete and steel techniques. The overall result is a warm yet awe-inspiring experience for both spectators and athletes.

Idaho Central Credit Union Arena
Photo credit: Courtesy of the University of Idaho | © LARA SWIMMER PHOTOGRAPHY

Get the full report and survey results.

Designing Beneficial Spaces for Living, Working and Well-being
Occupant health and well-being is more important than ever. In the face of a global pandemic, building professionals have improved how we design, use, and occupy buildings. And these improvements are here to stay: touchless entries, better ventilation systems, and facilities that promote hygiene and safety. But these advancements go beyond occupant safety—designers are looking for ways to enhance the user experience and provide flexible, versatile, and more open, adaptive spaces. In this course, you’ll learn how you can boost well-being on your next project and deliver unique design solutions that can better service and delight occupants in a rapidly changing world.
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The Role of Wood Products in Green Building
Material choice can have a big impact on the sustainability of buildings, both during construction and throughout the building’s lifecycle. Wood is a renewable, durable building material that can be used in almost any building application—and typically requires less energy to produce than other building materials. In this CEU you’ll learn about green building standards and their recognition of wood’s contribution to improved energy and environmental performance. You’ll gain a better understanding of all the related terminology and the tools used to assess green building certifications.
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MultiFamily Mid-Rise Wood Buildings: A Code-Compliant, Cost-Effective and Sustainable Choice
Demand for affordable and sustainable multifamily housing continues to play an important role in the overall U.S. construction market. In this CEU, you’ll identify the sustainability and economic benefits of using wood construction for mid-rise multifamily or mixed-use buildings. You’ll learn about building code requirements and design best practices through practical examples and in-depth case studies. Upon completing this course, you’ll expand your knowledge of framing solutions that address issues such as shrinkage, fire protection, and seismic requirements while minimizing a building’s carbon footprint.
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Architecting Change: Design Strategies for a Healthy, Resilient, Climate Smart Future
Over the past decade, the architectural, construction, and engineering (AEC) sector has grappled with big technological and socioeconomic changes along with an unprecedented confluence of challenges to the health of our communities, our cities, and our planet. While these challenges are daunting, industry thought leaders increasingly see an opportunity to be at the forefront of change. In this course you’ll learn from design teams who are embracing new strategies and delivering unique solutions that begin to address some of the most urgent global issues of our times.
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How to Calculate the Wood Carbon Footprint of a Building
Buildings consume nearly half the energy produced in the United States, use three-quarters of the electricity and account for nearly half of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Measuring carbon impacts is a critical tool in the fight against climate change and harmful greenhouse gases (GhG). This course explains the principal methods and tools that are used to assess the carbon footprint of building materials. You’ll gain a better understanding of product terminology, including life cycle assessment (LCA), environmental product declarations (EPDs), carbon footprint, embodied carbon, and whole building LCA (WBLCA) tools.
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The Impact of Wood Use on North American Forests
Building professionals are looking for ways to increase their use of eco-friendly, low carbon materials, particularly when it comes to a building's primary structure. Increasingly, wood from sustainably managed forests is viewed as a responsible choice. This course will demonstrate how specifying and building with wood can contribute to the sustainability of forests, while reducing embodied energy emissions. You’ll learn more about forest sustainability measures such as biodiversity, soil and water quality, and harvest vs. net growth—and why increasing the use of wood in buildings provides an incentive for landowners to keep forests healthy and helps stave off urban development.
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Opportunities for Wood in Low-Rise Commercial Buildings
Building professionals are increasingly turning to wood for low-rise commercial buildings. This course provides practical information that can be applied to such projects—covering code-related topics, cost implications of construction type, opportunities for achieving unlimited area, and implications of multi-tenant occupancies. It provides an overview of wood wall and roof systems commonly used in commercial buildings, and highlights key design considerations.
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Designing Sustainable, Prefabricated Buildings
Factory-built, prefabricated technologies—using both light-frame and mass timber—are offering a nimbler, quicker, and more integrated way to construct today’s buildings. In this course you’ll learn how prefabricated wood components can help solve many design and engineering challenges and deliver material and process efficiency, environmental performance, and life safety benefits. You’ll achieve a better understanding of prefabricated wood buildings and how they can be designed like a kit-of-parts made, delivered, and assembled on site, much like life-sized Lego.
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Wood and Evolving Codes: The 2018 IBC and Emerging Wood Technologies
Valued for its versatility, low carbon footprint, aesthetic qualities, and cost performance, both light-frame and mass timber construction offer new design options for architects and building owners. And in recent years building codes have evolved allowing for taller wood construction. In this course you’ll learn more about these changes and how the International Building Code (IBC) ensures that wood buildings provide a proven and trusted level of safety. You’ll develop a better understanding of techniques that make it safe for designers to increase heights and areas of building projects beyond IBC base limits.
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Exceeding Thermal Performance Goals by Choosing Wood
The benefits of choosing wood in commercial and nonresidential projects are many. Both light-frame and mass timber structural systems offer flexibility in design options. They also are economical and relatively easy to construct, providing ease of use on the job site. Yet one important benefit that should not be overlooked is the thermal performance that wood can provide. Thermal performance contributes to a range of important goals for most projects, including energy efficiency, comfort, durability, code compliance, structural integrity, and sustainable outcomes. Designing with wood not only meets performance requirements for commercial and nonresidential buildings—it can also exceed goals.
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Looking for more? Be sure to check out our e-learning platform, The Wood Institute. It provides free, on-demand content from Think Wood, WoodWorks, and the American Wood Council, including 100+ CEU courses accredited by AIA, ICC, GBCI, and others.

What is Participatory Design?


Participatory design is the idea of directly engaging users in a design process. An article on regenerating public spaces defines it as: “ the model of direct involvement of different social groups in the design from functional tools to environments, social institutions and businesses.”

Design choices can have big impacts on community wellness—a well-designed building or public space can foster a sense of belonging by creating third places between work and home that invite social connection and interaction.  In particular, participatory design invites community engagement and responsibility. By centering the community at the heart of the design process, participatory design, can foster community ownership and pride.


La Borda

La Borda Cooperative Housing is a building designed by the community, for the community. A co-operative housing project in Barcelona, Spain, La Borda featured a lengthy community engagement process as part of the project’s development. Each resident served as a working group member, contributing to elements of the building’s design, function and management. Active participation from building residents was crucial to La Borda’s co-design process, aimed at maximizing human connection.

The process aligns with La Borda’s values: “active participation, collective ownership, affordability, and sustainability.” Just as each member of La Borda’s collective serves a purpose and a role, so too do the architectural elements. At its heart, a central courtyard unifies the building, creating a flexible meeting area that invites residents to gather, connect and socialize. Shared spaces like the laundry room and kitchen-cum-dining room allow residents to mingle and connect during the rhythms of daily life. Above them, the polycarbonate roof draws energy from the sun during winter and increases ventilation during summer.

La Borda
Photo credit: Lluc Miralles

The Spanish cross-laminated timber is striking, infusing the building with a natural and organic ambience.

Cristina Gamboa, a cooperative member, explains that they “tried to have a more global understanding of the implications of this material decision,” with mass timber offering a climate-friendly alternative to more energy intensive materials.

Learn about La Borda’s unique design and CLT construction.
Finding Common Ground

Lubber Run

Lubber Run Community Center is an expanse of lush green space that draws you toward the net-zero center at its core. The building emerges organically out of the park and features a living roof adorned with trees and park benches. Initially, local residents were set on plans for a three-to-four-story building, tucked into the background of the surrounding park.

To find common ground, the design team undertook a lengthy participatory design process that lasted an entire year. Jay Fisette, former Arlington County Board Chair, says that “there was lots of community involvement and excitement surrounding the new design and plan. Attention was paid to functionality, energy efficiency, sustainability – and great design. This is truly a community project.”

Lubber Run Community Center
Photo courtesy VMDO Architects
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The Grass is Always Greener

Designing a replacement to the original 1950s-era community center presented a challenge for VMDO Architects —community members felt strongly that park space be maximized and building space minimized. Yet, through community engagement, the VMDO team was able to demonstrate how architecture can integrate and blend building and landscape, “ultimately creating public space that is greater and greener for residents.”

Lubber Run’s design focused on promoting equitable access to the center and the park and engaging cross-generational communities and hard-to-reach groups. A series of workshops, meetings, online feedback sessions and on-site engagement activities contributed to the project vision.


Nina Comiskey
Architect, VMDO
Lubber Run Community Center
We were able to guide [the people of Arlington] to a better way of getting what they wanted.

The center invites people of all ages and backgrounds to use its multipurpose rooms, whether that be the fitness center, gymnasium, kitchen or the popular preschool program. The building itself is constructed of wood, creating a soft ambience.

Joe Celentano, principal, VMDO Architects, says that “there was never any doubt that we wanted wood for the structure of the building. The building literally grows up out of the ground, and the surrounding forest became a metaphor for our design.”

This must be the place.
Using placemaking to build community.

Placemaking is the art of transforming public spaces into community places. A place is a gathering point—whether that be a bench that invites you to sit and chat, a beautiful garden to meander through, or a fountain to gaze at. A community place is a conversation starter, an eye catcher, a bustling hub or a place to rest weary feet.

The Basics of Place

The principles of placemaking provide tools to transform our public spaces into places. What are some placemaking basics?

  1. The community is the expert—people who frequent public spaces know intimately and intuitively how the area functions; what could be improved; and who uses the space and for what purpose.
  2. Design of the space should facilitate programming, active use, multipurpose functionality and economic opportunity—design is important but shouldn’t supersede functionality.
  3. If you want to know what makes a community place, take some time to observe. For creative city dwellers, a curb can be an excellent meeting place, greeting space—or even a clam cooking hotspot.

Placemaking can revitalize underused urban areas, inviting social connections between diverse citizens and demographics.

The Barn

Located in Sacramento’s once struggling Bridge District, the Barn Pavilion has breathed new life into this previously neglected area next to the Sacramento River. The Barn features a curvilinear design that emerges out of the pavement, welcoming passersby into its shaded nooks. The public plaza below the Barn hosts gatherings, while inside you can shop, wine and dine, or wander, making your way out to the extensive open-air breezeway. The Barn’s multifunctionality and warm organic atmosphere turns this public space into a community place that is both beautiful and functional. Its fluid, sculptural form makes for ambidextrous architecture, adaptive to a multitude of uses.

The Barn underside lit up with gathering of people
The Barn
Photo credit: Chad Davies
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'Secret Ingredient'

Another successful community project, the Secret Ingredient 2019 Biennial project at the former Anthony Overton Elementary School, is where participatory design, placemaking, and public space collide. The project asked residents of Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood to share their connections between food, friendship and neighborhood identity.


Herkes İçin Mimarlık, the Turkish translation for Architecture for All, interviewed Bronzeville residents and archived their stories. Their starting point? Overton Elementary School, a Perkins and Will-designed community landmark and shuttered public school brought alive through art activations.

Gathering residents together at this focal point, Herkes İçin Mimarlık unlocked the secrets of place over conversations about how food can nourish a neighborhood and create shared memory. The project culminated in a mixed-media installation of picnic tables and placemaking shelters on the Overton lawn for residents to gather and connect with each other.

Secret Ingredient 2019 Biennial Project
Photo credit: Sandra Steinbrecher

Grassroots Placemaking With Wood

The Secret Ingredient project is an example of grassroots placemaking that uses readily available, naturally renewable materials—dimensional lumber that can be bought at a local home improvement store—and offers ample opportunity for community participation given the ease of basic wood construction. Similar creative approaches may lend well to placemaking in the time of COVID, given it’s an outdoor activity and results in a sheltered gathering place that can accommodate social distancing.

Secret Ingredient 2019 Biennial Project
Photo credit: Paola Aguirre

Rebuilding Community Resilience During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged city officials and planners to reconsider the structure of our gathering places. Some cities have taken advantage of the urban center’s very own goldmine—the city street. Cities around the world have extended patio season indefinitely allowing restaurants to sprawl across the pavement and into car lanes, providing a safe outdoor area for socialization during the pandemic.

Participatory design processes and placemaking strategies are integral to happy and healthy communities. When citizens and architects come together, the results can be powerful: culminating in projects like La Borda and the Lubber Run Center designed to foster community and connection.

At its heart, a community is a collective of people intersecting in a thousand different ways throughout the course of a day, whether that be grocery shopping, biking to work, going to school or reading a book in the park. The design of the built environment can have an immense impact on our social connections and daily lives, providing a foundation for stronger communities co-created by the communities themselves.

Placemaking Strategies in the Time of COVID-19

Happy City urban planning and design consultancy has created a guide to rapid placemaking in the shadow of the pandemic. Grounded in communal values and motivated by equitable access, the guide offers safe and rapid placemaking activities and programs for cities and city planners.

The Impact of Wood Use on North American Forests
Green building is looking beyond energy efficiency, placing greater attention on structural materials and their influence on a building’s environmental footprint. Wood products from sustainably managed forests are increasingly viewed as a responsible choice. Learn how to evaluate wood construction in the context of long-term forest sustainability. Learn More
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How to Calculate the Wood Carbon Footprint of a Building
From an environmental perspective, it is widely known that buildings matter. Buildings consume nearly half the energy produced in the United States, use three-quarters of the electricity and account for nearly half of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This course explains the principal methods and tools used to assess carbon footprint in the context of building materials, including a primer on product terminology like life cycle assessment (LCA), environmental product declarations (EPDs), carbon footprint, embodied carbon, and whole building LCA (WBLCA) tools. It also highlights ways to track and assure wood comes from sustainable forests.
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Wood and Evolving Codes: The 2018 IBC and Emerging Wood Technologies
Learn about structural wood use in residential and low- to mid-rise commercial construction with recent innovations and subsequent code changes that expand the use of structural wood. Valued for its versatility, low carbon footprint, aesthetic qualities, and cost performance -- both light frame and mass timber construction offer new design options for architects and building owners.
Learn More
Opportunities for Wood in Low-Rise Commercial Buildings
This course provides practical information that can be applied to projects -- code-related topics, including cost implications of construction type, opportunities for achieving unlimited area, and implications of multi-tenant occupancies. It provides an overview of wood wall and roof systems commonly used in commercial buildings, and highlights key design considerations.
Learn More
Time for Timber
Named for the legendary tennis player, the Billie Jean King Main Library in Long Beach, CA, offers a fitting homage to the athlete famed for the power of her serves and the efficiency of her ground strokes and volleys. Join Architectural Record as they tour Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s award-winning civic project and explore topics of sustainable building, seismic resistance and designing for natural daylight.
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Designing Sustainable, Prefabricated Wood Buildings
Prefabricated wood components can help solve many design and engineering challenges such as material and process efficiency, environmental performance and life safety. This course demonstrates the advantages of prefabrication, specifically how it relates to both light wood frame and mass timber construction.
Learn More
The Role of Wood Products in Green Building
Material choice greatly affects the environmental impact of buildings, both during construction and over the building’s lifecycle. Wood is a renewable, durable building material that can be used in almost any building application. Green building standards also recognize wood’s contribution to improved energy performance over time. Learn about tools and certifications for green building in this CEU.
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Designing Modern Wood Schools
In 2019, school construction and educational facilities accounted for 101 million square feet of the non-residential market. By 2024, U.S. schools will be required to accommodate an estimated 2.8 million more students. There is a strong case for using wood in school construction to build structures that are cost effective, and to do so while creating high-performance, sustainable buildings that are safe, resilient, and appealing. Learn more in this online course.
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Mass Timber in North America
Around the world, designers are leveraging the strength, stability, and design flexibility of products like cross-laminated timber (CLT) to push beyond wood’s perceived boundaries, achieving building heights and spans that would have once required concrete, steel, or masonry for structural support. Examine the trend toward mass timber buildings in the context of construction efficiency, fire and life safety, occupant well-being, and other advantages.
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Multi-Family, Mid-Rise Wood Buildings: A Code-Compliant, Cost-Effective and Sustainable Choice
Demand for multi-family housing continues to play an important role in the overall U.S. construction market. This CEU explores the reasons for the increasing popularity of wood in multi-family buildings, reviews code compliance and fire safety technical considerations, and discusses techniques for successful wood building designs.
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A healthy city is a green city; a healthy urban dweller a park-goer. There is ever-growing evidence that local access to greenspace and greenviews positively impacts physical health, mental well-being and the overall resilience of a citydefined as its capacity to survive, adapt and grow in the face of adversity.

Easy access to greenspace, urban parks and nature has been linked with improved human health—everything from better immune function, mental health and cognitive capacity to a reduction in type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular morbidity. Proximity to greenspace has been correlated with lower rates of psychiatric disorders. Beyond this, a city of well‐connected, attractive greenspaces may be better equipped to bounce back from crisis, natural disasters and extreme weather events. These benefits extend to all population groups, particularly marginalized and low income segments. 

The science is still emerging  and more research is needed, but initial findings and anecdotal reports show promising results: a walk in the woods may be just what the doctor ordered.

Urbanites Turn to Nature in Times of Crisis

The idea that, in the face of crisis, human health and our cities can be restored by nature is not a new idea. From Indigenous cultures around the world to the  late 18th century Romantics, history is filled with examples when humanity has turned to organic medicines and nature for healing and a sense of respite.

Leap forward more than a century and Google mobile data reveals that droves of citydwellers took refuge in nearby nature and outdoor activities at the onset of the global pandemic. One study estimated that outdoor recreational activity increased by 291% in Oslo, Norway during the recent lockdown relative to a 3-yr average for the same days.  

Similarly, preliminary findings suggest that visits to New York City parks this summer grew compared with before the COVID-19-triggered shutdown. New Yorkers reported continued use of urban greenspaces during the pandemic and considered them to be more important for mental and physical health than before it began. In Philadelphia, community gardens and urban farms were declared an essential service.

Nature and the City

Density Isn’t the Problem, Equitable Access to Greenspace Is

There has been a tendency to blame urban density for the rapid spread of COVID-19, leaving some to question the viable future of city life. But density isn’t the problem, according to a growing number of urbanistscrowding is.

Increasing equitable access to greenspace may be the biggest hurdle to countering such crowding and creating more resilient cities. In the U.S. alone, 100 million people (28 million children included) do not have a neighborhood park within a 10-minute walk from home. The good news is, progress is being made. It’s all part of a concerted effort called the 10 minute Walk, a nationwide movement championed by The Trust for Public Land, National Recreation and Park Association and the Urban Land Institute. The program is enlisting mayors from across the nation to improve access to parks and green spaces.

Along with improving more equitable access to public parks and recreational amenities, urban designers and architects in cities across the country are increasingly looking for innovative ways to weave greenspace into the built environment.

Bringing nature indoors.

Most people in North America spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, either at home, work, or in spaces like retail stores, restaurants, schools or other public buildings. In response, designers are bringing the great outdoors inside by integrating natural elements into building design, sometimes referred to as biophilic design. This design style is increasingly used in built environments to boost occupant well-being through connection to nature and the use of natural elements like views of nature, natural light, plants, water and exposed wood.

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Weaving Nature into the Built Environment 


Gardenhouse, a mixed-use multifamily project in Los Angeles, California, is a recent example of this trend, making the deep integration of greenspace central to its design. Conceived by MAD Architects to feel like a naturally vegetated hillside village, the 18 residential units, completed in late summer, feature the country’s largest greenwall of its kind. 

With seamless transitions between indoors and out, members of the Gardenhouse community enjoy expansive, open-concept floor plans with towering window walls and outdoor living spaces. Gruen Associates, who served as both the executive architect and landscape architect for the project, worked closely with the designers to bring a vision of nature-infused urban living to life.

The multifamily residence includes a purposeful mix of housing types to encourage a diverse community-feel: two studios, eight condominiums, three townhouses and five villas. The development’s concrete podium is crowned with a shimmer of white pitched-roofed units constructed of light-frame wood construction, while the interior finishes pay tribute to California’s woodworking heritage. A second floor courtyard forms a central landscaped gathering space for the complex. In many respects, the development acts as a demonstration project of what is possible.

Courtesy MAD/Gruen Associates
Courtesy MAD/Gruen Associates
Gardenhouse represents a unique opportunity to impact not only the architecture of Los Angeles but to introduce a new paradigm of living where humans are more emotionally connected to nature.
Ma Yansong
MAD Architects

Keeping Your Cool With Vegetation and Organic Materials like Timber

In the face of rising temperatures and a warming planet, weaving greenery into urban infrastructure not only offers biophilic benefits, but it can also help offset the heat island effecturbanized areas that experience higher temperatures due to closely packed and paved surfaces—afflicting so many of today’s cities. Increasing urban vegetation and green roofs, and reducing the use of high-density materials like concrete or bricks in favor of timber helps to counter this effect. 

Explore Tips for Reducing Heat Island Effects

Finding Solace in Nature
The Ark at Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice

The Ark launched in late 2019 as a new highly sustainable facility for Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice, specifically designed to support children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions.

Nestled in a 7.5-acre urban nature reserve in Barnet, North Londonthe largest London borough by populationThe Ark, designed and delivered by Squire & Partners, with landscape by Gensler, features biophilic nature-inspired design strategies inside and out. The interior includes the use of natural organic materials including an exposed timber-oak-framed structure with floor to ceiling glazing and clerestory windows giving views to nature while flooding the space with ample sunlight.

“As designers we have a huge responsibility to deliver high-quality environments that facilitate the connection between people and place, and improve their physical, psychological and social wellbeing. Understanding the stress that clinical environments can cause, the landscape at Noah’s Ark was designed to provide a safe and restorative outdoor setting where the children and their families find respite and comfort,” said Alicia Gomez, associate at Gensler.

Nature Connects Marginalized Communities

Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson Apartments

Biophilic design and greenspace is connecting marginalized communities with the healing power of nature. One notable example is the Richardson Apartments. The 120 residential studio units combined with common areas and program space provides formerly homeless individuals with accommodation. The social housing is complemented by a courtyard and topped with a vegetable roof garden.


Giant chain ferns, Japanese painted ferns, western sword fern and wood sorrel form an urban oasis. These plants were selected for their low-maintenance and adaptability to the extreme solar conditions of full sun and deep shade. Five stories above the courtyard, a roof deck offers a space for residents with seating areas, succulent gardens, raised beds for vegetable gardening and a green roof.

Richardson Apartments
Credit: David Baker

Midrise Wood Construction Delivers Affordable Access to Nature-Inspired Design

Designed to provide permanent residences for low-income, formerly homeless adults, this five-story project consists of 120 studio apartments. The architect used wood as the primary structural material because of its relative cost savings compared with concrete and steel. Wood was also left exposed throughout the interiors to add warmth, variety and texture to the common spaces. This classic mixed-use urban infill project achieved GreenPoint Rated certification, and was a WoodWorks Wood Design Award winner.

Garden City 2.0: Building Long-Term Resilience and Health

In times of hardship and crisis city dwellers throughout history have turned to nature for hope and healing. Today, equipped with a growing body of research and compelling data, city builders are beginning to confirm what folk wisdom has taught usthat nature and greenspace woven into the fabric of our urban environments is good for our health. The concept of a garden city is a practical response to building stronger, more resilient cities

As Will Allen, director of strategic conservation planning at The Conservation Fund in Chapel Hill, NC writes “if a post-COVID world can move towards more people-centered social infrastructure investment, with ambitious goals for nature in cities and biophilic design, then our financial investments in nature will be rewarded with less crowded and more resilient cities, which will hopefully also lead to a more equitable and healthy country.”

And this investment may very well begin with a walk in the park, just ten minutes from home.

Category: Article

Timber Gets Top Marks for Biophilic School Design

As research purporting the benefits of biophilic design continues to grow, architects are rethinking school design—from elementary to college-level—by incorporating more natural materials, such as wood, along with views of nature and better access to the great outdoors.

Wood inside a school science lab

Mass Timber Simplicity

For a ‘rough it’ vibe, mass timber lodges like the Cottonwood Cabins are a perfect retreat. These six bunkhouses are characterized as a “welcome refuge for trekkers at the basecamp for Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions” in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Suspended bunks give campers options to use the space, including sleeping, sitting, or game night with the family. “Drawing on the camp’s rich porch culture,” the cabins share a singular roof over a common outdoor gathering and kitchen space.

These versatile, sturdy structures are the product of the Colorado Building Workshop, the University of Colorado Denver’s Department of Architecture and Planning design build certificate program. The cabins use screw-laminated tongue and groove fir timbers for the floors, walls, and ceilings, allowing for self-supporting assemblies without the need for additional framing. “Traditional headers over doors and windows are no longer required as the timbers work to carry the loads. This structural assembly is also utilized in the fabrication of the doors, window bucks, and post-tensioned floating bunk beds.”

Canopy Cabins mass timber

Shelter on High

Treehouse cabins, like the Canopy Crew’s near Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, provide a unique perspective not found with traditional camping, including panoramic views, suspension bridges and a “ kitchen crane” to hoist coolers and food. There’s no cell service on site, but they do offer heating/cooling, kitchenettes, beds, and even a hot tub.

The company’s founder, Django Kroner, spent three years living in a treehouse when he decided to share the canopy experience. Today, he is dedicated “to life in the trees,” through treehouse rentals, as well as custom treehouse building and tree care.

Candlewood Cabins treehouse outdoor escape

Let’s Go Glamping

For secluded solace with all the conveniences of home, cabins like The Barn in Wisconsin offer ample space for large families. While the outside surroundings are pastoral, The Barn offers “inspired comforts” like a wood-burning stove, designer furniture and a gourmet open kitchen to encourage gathering and connection. When solitude is needed, “guests can find respite in the reading loft, silo patio or one of two soaking tubs.”

This 3,000 square-foot cabin is one of seven, known collectively as Candlewood Cabins. Owners Norbert and Susan Calnin began the resort in 1995, intending to offer every guest the space to relax, enjoy the quiet surroundings and unplug. The Barn was built using aspen for the ceilings, pine for framing, and reclaimed oak for the flooring.

Candlewood Cabins barn kitchen

Nature Nurture

Regardless of desired amenities, a wood cabin can boost moods. Research finds that humans automatically relax when they are surrounded by elements from the natural world. Being outdoors makes people feel good, and being exposed to nature—and natural, organic materials—can have positive effects on our sense of well-being.

Enjoy your escape.

Category: Article

Timber Gets Top Marks for Biophilic School Design

As research purporting the benefits of biophilic design continues to grow, architects are rethinking school design—from elementary to college-level—by incorporating more natural materials, such as wood, along with views of nature and better access to the great outdoors.

Wood inside a school science lab

First, let’s define:

Overbuild ​is a technique used to add extra stories on top of an existing building, maximizing development area-per-square-foot. Overbuilds often use as much of an existing building as possible adding extra support as needed. Since limited demolition is required, overbuild projects generally have quicker turnaround than new construction.

Infill ​is the development of vacant lots surrounded by existing buildings, converting once-dormant land into a vibrant residential or commercial structure.Because of their location, infills have easy access to existing public infrastructure– a cost savings for developers.

Three reasons why wood is ideal for vertical expansions:

  1. It’s lightweight.​ Wood’s light weight makes it a natural choice for overbuild designs, whether mass timber or light-frame construction. In addition to helping maintain a building’s original architecture or design, wood’s light construction footprint may allow tenants to remain in an existing building during construction, as opposed to evacuating while internal columns are strengthened to support heavier materials. With 20 percent of the density of concrete, timber also proves advantageous when building on sites with a poor foundation material. As with7overbuilds, wood’s lightweight nature is one of several differentiators that make it optimal for infills. Wood tends to use less construction equipment than other building materials, therefore facilitating infill projects in tight, complex urban spaces.
  2. It’s cost-friendly.​ Opting for an overbuild can offer cost benefits, with additional savings by using mass timber construction. When wood and mass-timber products are prefabricated and delivered ready for installation, construction time, equipment needs and on-site labor costs may be reduced. In addition, wood is one of the most cost-friendly building materials, saving builders 20 percent in some cases. In many cities, infill real estate is costly, so wood’s comparative10cost advantage also helps ensure a project’s overall financial health. In many cases, building five-six stories using wood is the only way an infill project is financially viable.
  3. It’s eco-friendly​. In addition to performance and cost benefits, wood’s lower carbon footprint offers an environmental gain to America’s housing crisis. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings account for 39 percent of America’s yearly carbon dioxide emissions. Wood is the only building material made from a renewable resource, and its ability to capture and store carbon differentiates it from competing materials like concrete and steel. Analysts estimate that the construction of timber buildings for new urban dwellers could store up to 680 million tons of carbon a year, with these carbon benefits lasting throughout the building’s lifespan. A recent mass timber expansion of an15existing building in London removed over 1,000 tons of carbon from the atmosphere. The project, which added 50,000-square-feet of new office space, took just eight weeks to complete.
80 M Street

Show and Tell

To differentiate a project in D.C.’s crowded commercial office-space market, Hickok Cole and Arup chose wood to design a 100,000-sf mass timber vertical extension of an existing seven-story building.

The overbuild will add two floors of office space with 17-foot-high ceilings. “​The D.C. market is glutted with office space, and [developer] ​ColumbiaProperty Trust believes that using mass timber could be a differentiator for quicker leasing and higher rents,” says Lauren Wingo, Arup’s Senior Structural Engineer. ​

Proposed mass timber building section rendering
metro 280

As part of New Haven’s downtown city improvements, a “dilapidated” parking garage ​will be majorly renovated​, including overbuild construction.

​Greg Wies & Gardner Architects​, in partnership with ​Metro Star Properties​, will lead this restoration and adaptive re-use endeavor, complete with high-end residential mixed with ground level commercial.

Keep looking up.

As urban populations continue to prosper, overbuilds and infills are sure to be equally burgeoning building trends. When new projects call for upward mobility, wood is a smart choice for meeting this demand with strength, versatility, shorter construction times, lower costs and smaller carbon footprints.

Onward and upward!

Category: Article

Timber Gets Top Marks for Biophilic School Design

As research purporting the benefits of biophilic design continues to grow, architects are rethinking school design—from elementary to college-level—by incorporating more natural materials, such as wood, along with views of nature and better access to the great outdoors.

Wood inside a school science lab

Just last month, Think Wood teamed up with Hanley Wood, publisher of ArchitectBuilder and Multifamily Executive, to talk with developers and design teams about how timber is taking their projects to the next level.

Download our white paper to discover the benefits these firms are realizing with wood construction. From the opportunity to boost sales and lease rates, to the potential for cost savings and speed, wood construction presents several market advantages.


Here’s a sneak peak of a few of the white paper’s case studies:

Realizing Speed to Market | TMBR, Minneapolis, MN | Hear from the developer and design team as they describe how timber became a central selling feature of this cross-laminated timber, 10-floor, 79-unit, 119-foot-tall condominium. Learn how using a prefabricated timber structure made this project go up faster and easier.

Wooden ceilings and pillars inside a living room
Todd Simning
President and CEO of Kroiss Development
The posts, beams, and floor and wall sections snap into place… It’s kind of like an erector set that goes up. Or it’s like getting a kit from Ikea, looking at the instructions, and putting it together. There’s a lot less waste.

Boosting Density and Maximizing Value | WREN, Los Angeles, CA | Discover how a podium design using light-frame wood construction achieved a whopping 195 units per acre. The innovative double podium design helped the developer keep costs down, boost density, and ultimately maximize the project’s profitability.

Wren residential mass timber exterior

“We were able to get an extra level into the building by using a mezzanine, which doesn’t technically count as a floor. Essentially, it made it into an eight-story building,” says Kyle Peterson, associate principal at TSM. “Our area of expertise is looking at what we can do, within the allowances of the code, to maximize yield for our clients.”

Additional Case Studies

That’s not all. Be sure to download our white paper to read more about a Denver-based project that achieved a bold aesthetic while saving time and money with a panelized prefab wood design and a Quebec-based project that takes timber to a new level, 13 stories, to deliver a 94- unit condominium that soars 135 feet into the skyline.

How Building with Wood Helps Multifamily Developers Succeed

Think Wood spoke to some of the leading designers, developers, and timber experts in the sector to learn how wood factors into some of the innovative architecture and design trends we are seeing in the industry. We surveyed architects across the country to get their take on wood construction and design. Here are six trends to watch when it comes to the future of timber and the built environment.

Sustainability and Timber are Top of Mind for Architects1


1. Evolving Building Codes

With recent changes in building codes and a quest to find more sustainable ways to build taller, we are seeing a rise in the number of taller mass timber buildings popping up across North America. In response to growing support for taller timber structures throughout the United States, the International Code Council approved 14 changes to the International Building Code (IBC) that will see timber construction and design trend taller, up to a maximum of 18 stories.2 Similarly, Canada has also updated its national building code to permit 12-story timber buildings. Early adopters in Oregon and Washington in the United States and British Columbia and Quebec in Canada have helped drive this trend3. Expect to see more jurisdictions follow suit in 2020 and beyond.

2. Prefabrication and Modular Technologies

Off-site, prefabricated, and modular construction continues to grow in popularity for their ability to save time and money, and the industry is finding that timber offers several advantages when it comes to this more accurate factory-made approach to assembling a building like a kit of parts.4

While this shift to more turn-key design methods has massive upsides, it doesn’t come without risks. This new way of building requires more precise upfront planning and new skill sets.5 Wood’s flexibility and versatility position it as a material of choice for modular, prefabricated buildings.6 With the promise that modular construction can cut schedules by 20 to 50 percent and costs by 20 percent, expect to see more firms hiring for these qualifications and more clients vetting vendors for these areas of expertise.7

3. Innovative Business Models

Inextricably linked to prefabricated and modular construction are new business models that make these cutting-edge technologies viable and cost-effective. The rising demand for mass timber and light-frame wood construction as a more sustainable building type is challenging the industry to streamline the supply chain and more fully integrate material specification, modular design, prefabrication, construction, demolition, and reuse. Companies that can take an integrated design-fabricate-assemble-build business model will stand out among the competition.

Timber is easy to cut, versatile, lightweight, locally abundant, conveniently transportable, and naturally renewable – all of which are benefits that make timber well-suited to these new
business models8. Expect to see an uptick in firms offering the full package.

Architects Expect Wood to Increase for Large Projects9

4. New Design Tools

Innovations in digital design tools, such as building information modeling (BIM), Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA), 3D rendering software, and augmented virtual reality (AVR), are opening up new possibilities for timber construction and design.

“The digital tools are getting sophisticated enough that as designers, we can start looking at problems in a more integrated, cross-functional way.”
– Phil Bernstein, an architect who teaches at the Yale School of Architecture.10

New research is uncovering synergies between BIM, DfMA, and their application in the context of mass timber construction. It is expected that greater emphasis on these approaches could help mass timber construction boost its market share.

5. Net Zero Targets and Embodied Energy

There is increasing interest by cities and governments to use more low carbon building materials as part of a climate change mitigation strategy and to address the growing concern about embodied energy. 11Timber, rammed earth, and fly ash fit the bill.

A new report by the nonprofit Urban Land Institute lauds cross-laminated timber as a “good replacement” for traditional steel. The report predicts that governments will eventually move to regulate carbon, propelling a search for construction materials that emit less pollutants. Once a carbon tax is passed, developers will have a strong financial incentive to take action.

6. Biophilic Design

More and more, science is confirming common sense and the emerging concept of biophilia: that being exposed to nature and natural, organic materials not only calms our mind, but it can also contribute to an improved sense of health and well-being.

With biophilia on the brain, designers are looking for ways to incorporate more natural materials into buildings. Some of the best examples make ample use of natural daylight, views of nature, and exposed wood to create a warm, natural aesthetic that supports a health and
healing objectives.

Timber can serve triple duty within the built environment, delivering structural, aesthetic, and health benefits. It is light and strong to build with, and warm and welcoming to live within. Unlike live plants, wood does not rely on access to windows and natural light. As a result, wood’s biophilic health benefits extend even to windowless rooms where no natural light or landscape is present. For design teams interested in this approach, wood provides a high level of flexibility both in design and in application.

Innovative Projects, Tools, and Companies Driving Architecture and Design in 2020

Architects and designers around the world are working together to build taller, smarter, and more sustainably with wood. Download our 2020 Timber Construction Trendsetters Overview for a closer look at several projects, tools, and companies that are taking the built environment to a whole new level.

1Survey: Architect Perspectives On The Future Of Wood, AIA & Think Wood, 2019
2Tall Wood Buildings in the 2021 IBC – Up to 18 Stories of Mass Timber, WoodWorks, https://www.woodworks.org/wp-content/uploads/wood_solution_paper-TALL-WOOD.pdf
32020 NBCC code brings new era for Canadian wood construction, Journal of Commerce, https://canada.constructconnect.com/joc/news/government/2019/05/2020-nbcc-code-brings-new-era-canadianwood-construction
4Off-Site Studies: Solid Timber Construction, University of Utah, Integrated Technology in Architecture Center, College of Architecture and Planning, 2015, https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.nibs.org/resource/resmgr/OSCC/OffSite_Studies_STC.pdf
52020 U.S. Construction Risk Outlook, Building Connected, https://www.buildingconnected.com/risk-trends/
6Off-Site Studies: Solid Timber Construction, University of Utah, Integrated Technology in Architecture Center, College of Architecture and Planning, 2015, https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.nibs.org/resource/resmgr/OSCC/OffSite_Studies_STC.pdf
7Modular construction: From projects to products, McKinsey & Group, June 2019, p. 10, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/capital-projects-and-infrastructure/our-insights/modular-construction-fromprojects-to-products
8Off-Site Studies: Solid Timber Construction, University of Utah, Integrated Technology in Architecture Center, College of Architecture and Planning, 2015, https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.nibs.org/resource/resmgr/OSCC/OffSite_Studies_STC.pdf
9Survey: Architect Perspectives On The Future Of Wood, AIA & Think Wood, 2019

Would Wood Do? cites mass timber’s carbon footprint, seismic durability, ease of use, and performance benefits with regard to fire safety and sound as leading comparative advantages and presents a roster of the world’s tallest mass timber buildings.

Would Wood Do infographic

These five stunning buildings are just a small sample of the many mass timber projects around the world. For a closer look at impressive low-rise, mid-rise and taller wood projects, browse the Think Wood Project Gallery.

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