So You Want to Build with Wood

Opsis Architects’ Alec Holser and the University of Idaho’s Michael Perry discuss how they are turning the vision for an iconic mass-timber arena from renderings into reality.

University of Idaho mass timber building rendering

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.

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