As part of ARCHITECT’s in-depth multimedia story “Redefining the Green Campus” that examines the net-zero design and operations of Hampshire College’s R.W. Kern Center—certified as a Living Building by the International Living Future Institute—I recorded a podcast episode with two key project stakeholders: Hampshire College past president Jonathan Lash and Bruner/Cott Architects principal Jason Jewhurst, AIA, who helped lead the Kern Center’s design.

This episode offers insights and anecdotes that could not fit into the article written by David Hill, but that help answer the increasingly asked question, “Could we make a Living Building?” Here, Lash and Jewhurst explain how architecture firms should—and should not—pursue a commission targeting the rigorous performance standard, the experience of returning to the drawing board after the thrill of a net-zero project, the role of wood in the Kern Center’s success, and the environment’s current prominence in everyday discourse among the higher ed and design communities.

With the possibilities offered by the array of engineered wood products now available in the country, mass timber is popping up in proposals for everything from pavilions to skyscrapers. However, many of those proposals stay as such due to a lack of owner or developer interest, feasibility, or funding.

That is not the case at the University of Idaho’s (U-Idaho’s) Moscow campus, located in the state’s panhandle. The institution had been considering building a mass-timber basketball arena on its campus for years, and in 2014, it began the active search for an architect. Ultimately U-Idaho selected the design team of Opsis Architecture, based in Portland, Ore., and Hastings+Chivetta, in St. Louis, to realize what will become the 4,200-seat, $48 million Idaho Central Credit Union Arena.

But identifying a designer is only one step in a long list of to-do items to get a project from renderings to reality. In this episode, Opsis partner Alec Holser, AIA, and U-Idaho’s special assistant to the president Michael Perry offer lessons for architects hoping to secure a wood-project commission, and for owners and institutions interested in trailblazing with wood. One tip: fundraise, fundraise, fundraise.

Art Carrillo/Carrillo Photo Stephen Cavanaugh, AIA

Photo: Art Carrillo/Carrillo
Stephen Cavanaugh, AIA

Across the country, the building industry has taken note of the growing interest in mass-timber structures. Aesthetics, sustainability, and construction efficiency are among the reasons commonly cited for its appeal. But designing with wood is relatively new to the modern commercial market in the United States. The uncertainty, and thus risk, can deter developers and building owners from undertaking such projects.

One property owner that has figured out how to execute mass timber, mid-rise construction projects on the commercial scale is the global real estate, development, and management firm Hines, whose portfolio includes a series of wood structures dubbed as T3 (timber, technology, and transit). Hines’ 220,000-square-foot T3 North Loop building in Minneapolis, for example, is the largest mass timber building constructed in recent U.S. history. In Atlanta, construction on Hines’ seven-story T3 West Midtown is now underway.

Besides sharing a common developer, these projects also share a common architect-of-record: international firm DLR Group. In this episode, ARCHITECT speaks with DLR Group principal Stephen Cavanaugh, AIA, the Chicago-based architect leading the timber design team for the two extant T3 iterations—and potentially more projects to come.


One would be hard-pressed to find a designer in the U.S. who knows more about NLT than Rebecca Holt, director of sustainability at HCMA Architecture + Design in Vancouver BC, formerly Perkins+Will. As co-editor of the first U.S. Nail-laminated Timber Design and Construction Guide, Holt offers design guidelines and considerations for architects pursuing NLT in their projects. She was also the lead author of the 2014 Survey of International Tall Wood Buildings, which consolidated testimonials and experiences from architects around the world who have worked on high-rise timber structures.

In this podcast episode, Holt shares the benefits of NLT as well as what developments are on the horizon for mass-timber construction in the U.S. since the landmark 2014 survey.

UMass Amherst Design Building exterior street view by day

UMass Amherst Design Building | Architect: Leers Weinzapfel | Photos: Albert Vecerka/Esto

UMass Amherst Design Building wood staircase

UMass Amherst Design Building | Architect: Leers Weinzapfel | Photos: Albert Vecerka/Esto

Recently, the firm worked with faculty and students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) on the institution’s new Design Building, which became the first mass-timber structure on the East Coast when it opened in January. Leers Weinzapfel principals Andrea Leers, FAIA, and Tom Chung, AIA, had to think and act quickly when the project’s original steel structure was swapped out for a glued-laminated (glulam) post-and-beam system after design had begun. Ultimately, the timber structure integrated new building technologies, such as custom steel-and-glulam zipper trusses and a composite floor system, both devised by UMass professors.



Ongoing interest in high-rise timber applications and technology has led to a boom in innovative building method research, with the hope of turning design concepts into structural realities.

Headlines touting the newest timber high-rises have been on the rise in the past decade, as there has been renewed interest in using wood structural systems for mid- and high-rise commercial construction across Europe, Canada, and the United States. This interest in the potential applications has grown, in part, because of innovation in the world of mass timber products, which have reduced weight and increased strength, making them a more viable alternative.

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