Think Wood: Tell us about Cutler Development and the types of projects you work on?
Molly Cutler: Our mission is to develop residential and mixed-use commercial projects that better neighborhoods, society, and the environment. We’re focused mostly on urban infill projects that offer affordability, good walkability, access to public transit and a chance to boost density. We focus on affordable housing for households in the 30–80% AMI [area median income] range. Achieving that mix takes a lot of support from the city, county, and federal agencies, and we’ve been really lucky to establish good relationships at each level and secure funding. Along with improving the environment through denser, transit-oriented, smarter development, we have done things like getting everyone in the building access to bus passes, incorporating more bike storage, and more recently we turned to mass timber as a more sustainable building material.
How did you come to your interest in using mass timber for your development projects?
Scott Cutler: We actually just recently completed Junction Lofts, one of Iowa’s first mass timber apartments, featuring commercial on the first floor and a mixture of offices and multifamily housing on floors two and three. We hadn’t initially planned for this building to be mass timber, but our architect [Pelds Design Service] went to an AIA conference and heard a WoodWorks presentation on mass timber and he knew how much our team valued environmental design concepts. He did this great thing by bringing this new idea back to the team, and we were so excited about it that we asked him to redesign the whole building.
MC: In fact, we took a significant risk, having first designed 60% of the building to follow a more conventional steel-and-concrete structure. We had no connections to mass timber suppliers or manufacturers. We’ve been able to use WoodWorks on that project and on subsequent projects to connect us to industry experts and their carbon calculator online. So we redesigned that whole project as mass timber and it’s been a big learning experience for us.