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From Stumptown to Timber City: Portland Could Be Home to Tallest Wood Skyscraper

A rendering of tall wooden buildings
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Amidst what is shaping up to be a friendly competition in the world’s design community to erect the tallest timber tower (there are currently more than 21 tall wood buildings planned or underway around the world), Portland’s latest project, dubbed The Spar, is backed in part by the United States Forest Service (USFS) and will top out at 48 stories, with 8,000 square feet of mixed-use office space per floor. The engineered wood product primarily used for the project will be cross-laminated timber (CLT), which consists of three, five, or seven layers of dimension lumber oriented at right angles to one another and then glued to form robust structural panels.

A rendering of a tall timber building
As a city building, it would be fantastic if we could house organizations committed to sustainability, such as the Forest Service, USDA, or the City of Portland Sustainability Center.
Ben Kaiser
Founder and principal of Kaiser Group + Path Architecture

Still in the design phase, the concept drawing envisions a tall, slender tower of three distinct volumes, along with rooftop greenery, rising high above its urban park setting. Located in a once neglected part of the city, in recent years the North Park Blocks have experienced an urban rejuvenation, with condominiums and creative commercial buildings replacing vacant or underutilized buildings. If accommodating public agencies, The Spar would establish a strong civic anchor to Portland’s downtown, and secure the city’s foothold in timber building innovation.

Earlier this year, USDA Forest Service announced the award of nearly $8 million to expand and accelerate wood products and wood energy markets, which included $250,000 to Kaiser Group + PATH to continue feasibility research on The Spar project.

In addition to staying ahead of the curve, Kaiser sees a primary thrust of the project being the sustainability and environmental benefits it represents, and the efficient use of timber resources.

Still in the conceptual design phase, The Spar design tops out at 48 stories

Image courtesy Kaiser Group + Path Architecture

A rendering of the Spar
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