The Future of Mass Timber: 2022 and Beyond

Once considered an emerging building technology, mass timber has rapidly gained momentum as an low-carbon alternative to energy intensive structural materials. Light-weight yet strong, versatile and nimble, these easy-to-prefabricate building products are being specified by everyone from governments and educational facilities to multi-family developers and major corporations. Faced with the looming climate crisis, many AEC professionals are starting to perceive building with mass timber as a tangible step to curbing carbon emissions.

The International Mass Timber Conference in Portland, OR in April 2022 brought together some of the industry’s best and brightest experts innovating with mass timber today. As mass timber shifts from niche to mainstream, Think Wood asked these innovators for their insights on the future of mass timber design and construction.

Tracking Timber’s Trajectory

The number of mass timber projects being built across the country is on the rise, from record-breaking tall wood construction to precedent-setting corporate campuses. 

Regulatory and code changes are creating more opportunities to build taller with wood. To better understand mass timber’s trajectory, we asked nearly 20 building professionals their perceptions of the biggest opportunities and challenges for mass timber in the next 5 to 10 years.

When will mass timber become mainstream and what indicators will signal this shift?

  • Robert Cesnik | Principal | HDR

    “The fact that clients are asking for mass timber is a huge game changer for us—this is a marked shift in how they are thinking about the technology and signs that mass timber is reaching a tipping point.”

  • Jason Heinrich | Building Performance Lead | HDR

    “As mass timber increasingly shifts from niche to mainstream, I think there’s an opportunity to expand its use into different building typologies in a bigger way—like healthcare, sciences and technology—and to demonstrate that it can meet those unique demands such as infection control and vibration.”

  • Veronica Hinkley Reck | Principal | SERA

    “As more companies are challenged to meet aggressive ESG goals, mass timber is going to be something they’ll have to consider. The AEC sector will need to develop systematized methodologies so that the adoption of mass timber is not considered something novel every time.”

  • Susan Barnes | Principal | Skylab Architecture

    “There are so many jurisdictions adopting building codes that will make mass timber accessible to everyone. Hopefully code clarifications will make it much more accessible to firms without requiring the upfront investment in code analysis.”

  • Lauren Magasko | Virtual Design & Construction Engineer | Timberlab

    “I think in the next five years, we’re going to see more adoption of mass timber driven by a combination of government and developer interest along with more general contractors becoming more familiar with the technology.”

  • Thomas Robinson | Founding Principal | LEVER Architecture

    “The biggest challenge, which is also an opportunity, starts with the forest and how mass timber is harvested and fabricated—to ramp up supply and fabrication in a sustainable way.”

  • Randy McGee | Design Principal | ZGF Architects

    “When it comes to mass timber and tackling climate goals, I think there is an opportunity to expand equality and access to mass timber. If mass timber is a movement, we have to ask: how do we ensure everyone can participate in it?”

  • Jacob Dunn | Associate Principal | ZGF Architects

    “Looking to the future, I think we’ll start to see mass timber expand into a broader range of building types–health care being one of the big frontiers. We’re seeing greater interest in that sector and what a perfect fit it can be given wood’s biophilic benefits.”

  • Erik Barth | Associate Architect | Gensler

    “Mass timber represents an opportunity to replace steel and concrete, when possible, with a biogenic, more sustainable material.”

Curbing Carbon with Mass Timber

Without decisive action, building materials used in new construction in cities and towns across the globe will generate 100 gigatons of embodied carbon by 2050. (One gigaton of embodied is equal to 2.2 trillion pounds or 10,000 fully-loaded U.S. aircraft carriers.)

As a result, embodied carbon is becoming a top priority for many environmental, architecture, and urban planning organizations across the country including C40 Cities, Architecture 2030, Urban Land Institute, Carbon Leadership Forum, and the World Green Building Council. Because it is less carbon intensive than other structural materials, many design teams are turning to mass timber to lower a building’s carbon footprint. We probed the experts to share their thoughts on the role mass timber might play in decarbonizing  the built environment. 

Market Differentiation with Mass Timber


Along with its carbon-storing advantages, exposed mass timber’s aesthetic and biophilic benefits are market differentiators that can boost a project’s value and contribute to occupant well-being.

From Google and Microsoft, to Adidas and Walmart, Fortune 500 companies are incorporating mass timber into their workplace to retain employees, attract new talent and help boost productivity. At the same time, schools and universities, museums and civic buildings are increasingly turning to mass timber to set themselves apart and reflect their sustainable values. Read on to learn about the industry achievements and unique contributions of pioneering firms in the advancement of mass timber design and construction.

Steve Cavanaugh Principal + Design Leader | DLR Group

“Our design team has put forth tremendous effort to crack the code on making repeatable, commercially-viable mass-timber design, drilling down to every detail to get the full value of the practical and aesthetic benefits of the material.”

T3 Goose Island
Credit: DLR Group

Robert Cesnik Principal | HDR

“HDR is passionate about using mass timber as a versatile building material. What sets us apart is that we have applied mass timber to a wide range of building typologies from hospitality and commercial applications to schools, health care facilities and laboratories.”

CNL Logistics Warehouse
Credit: CNL IPD NB Poly Party Team

Jacob Dunn Associate Principal | ZGF Architects

“What’s intriguing about mass timber is that we can celebrate the supply chain: we can celebrate the fabricators, the manufacturers, the workers more than with other materials. With sustainable forestry and mass timber, there’s a chance for it to be truly regenerative.”

Burr and Burton Academy
Credit: ZGF Architects

Brooke Whitsell Timber Engineer | Timberlab

“When it comes to Timberlab’s work on the Portland Airport, I don’t think other materials could ever achieve the same geometry quite like mass timber. The arched glulams and lattice members are really striking and beautiful—in my view, there’s no world where steel and concrete would have that same aesthetic appeal.”

PDX Airport Main Terminal Expansion
Credit: ZGF Architects

Veronica Hinkley Reck Principal | SERA Oakland

“What’s unique about SERA is that we’re not just building with mass timber in housing, we’re using it in the workplace too. We’re finding ways to have an impact with timber across multiple sectors.”

McEvoy and Dupont Apartments
Credit: SERA

Hans-Erik Blomgren Senior Engineering Manager | Timberlab

“We look to the future and the scale of how the industry can grow in 5, 10, 20 years. Getting to work with your supply chain partners as they expand, testing their products to work with this new material, and our ability to fabricate with CNC and VDC modeling – that’s what’s going to make Timberlab different.”

Credit: Korb & Associates
View project
Inspirational Mass Timber Projects

Advanced hybrid mass timber construction is helping to deliver a wide range of efficient structural solutions from innovative and graceful geometries to long-spanning roof designs.

At the same time, prefabrication, combined with building information modeling (BIM) and computer numeric control (CNC) machines, is continually broadening the possibilities of mass timber. Discover some of the country’s leading designers favorite picks and most inspiring mass timber projects.

Reimagining the Built Environment


From its carbon cutting and biophilic advantages to its versatility and ease to prefabricate, mass timber is changing how America builds. A growing number of design teams across the country are charting new ground and advancing novel applications of mass timber in multifamily, commercial office, hospitality, civic projects and more. Their unique expertise is increasingly sought after by clients interested in the benefits and beauty of mass timber. 

When it comes to advice they would give to professionals  new to mass timber our interviewees were virtually unanimous in their response: start by building a strong project team and include experts who have subject matter expertise and previous experience realizing the opportunities and overcoming the challenges of mass timber construction.

As Erik Barth, an associate architect at Gensler, shared, “mass timber projects benefit from an integrated, teamwork-driven approach where bringing many parties on board as early as possible creates a more democratic process that ultimately leads to a better design.”

“We need innovations like mass timber more than ever. Embodied carbon and the impact of using different materials is really what’s going to move the needle over the next decade. And it goes beyond just architecture. ​​It’s really how we design things as a society that needs to be reimagined.” If the designers and experts we spoke with are any indication, mass timber has a critical role to play. 

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