Over the past several years, a number of tall wood projects have been completed around the world, demonstrating successful applications of new wood and mass timber technologies.

By 2050 the world’s population will see an additional 2.5 Billion people move to cities (Source: United Nations). North American cities are already booming due to urbanization, and architects, developers and planners are being tasked with accommodating the increasing demand for spaces to work, learn, live and play.

Urban sprawl is not usually an optimal solution, so it’s critical that cities build up rather than out.

For this pace of growth and development to be sustainable, it’s essential that we rethink environmentally taxing traditional steel and concrete structures, and look to wood innovations that offer options for taller structures that are high-performing and renewable to meet the coming demand.

Wood is a competitive option for tall buildings because it allows for:

  • Faster and safer on-site construction. Prefabricated sections can be manufactured off site, shipped to the project and then assembled on site, significantly shortening project timelines and improving safety and accuracy.
  • Tight envelopes. Mass timber components are fabricated with high levels of precision to ensure a tight fit. Together with wood’s natural insulating properties, mass timber construction offers strong thermal performance, which is critical for tall buildings.
  • Excellent fire resistance. Large wood slabs char on the outside, protecting their inner structure, which is essential to occupant and first-responder safety in wood buildings, particularly those with multiple stories, during a fire event.
  • Structural and seismic performance. Wood’s strength-to-weight ratio is competitive with steel, but it weighs considerably less, reducing the load on the foundation during seismic events and making for a resilient and safe structure.
  • Efficient footprints. Wood structural systems have high building-volume-to-surface-area ratios, allowing for spacious interiors even with space constraints that typically require tall, compact designs.

The Future of Tall Wood Buildings in the United States

U.S. building codes are evolving to include safe, sustainable and versatile ways of building based on the latest research and findings from around the world. Those code changes, which continue to evolve, have made tall wood construction significantly easier today and will help its continued adoption. The following factors are critical to the continued uptake of tall wood construction and will define the movement in the coming years:

  • Continued full-scale testing of tall wood assemblies for acoustic, durability, fire and seismic performance
  • Advances in all-wood connectors, as well as the continued development of hybrid connectors comprising wood, steel and concrete
  • Continued commercialization of CLT, specifically, as well as other mass timber products across the U.S.
  • Growth in off-site fabrication facilities nationwide
  • Closing of the perception gap concerning wood’s use and performance in noncombustible applications

With rising demand for new urban buildings, a ready labor force for mass timber production and increased interest in sustainable and efficient construction, the potential for tall wood buildings is expected to only grow.

Tall Wood buildings around the world. Download the poster here.

Case Study: T3; Minneapolis, Minnesota

The seven-story T3 building in Minneapolis, a mass timber commercial structure, uses NLT panels and glulam beams and columns throughout, requiring no code exemptions. The end result has been widely praised for its beauty and sustainable construction. Economical to build and a draw for highly desirable tenants, including Amazon, it promises to inspire more buildings like it. Read more.

T3 Minneapolis

Architecture: MGA + DLR Group | Image: Ema Peter

Tall Wood Survey Report

Over the past several years, a number of tall wood projects have been completed around the world, demonstrating successful applications of new wood and mass timber technologies. FII and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council engaged Perkins + Will to look at ten international tall wood buildings, and presents some common lessons learned from the experiences of various stakeholders, including the Developer/Owner, Design Team, Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), and Construction Team for each project.

Fill in the form below and receive the Survey Appendices, which outline in-depth the lessons learned about the ten tall wood buildings covered in the survey:

  1. E3, Berlin, Germany—a 7-story mixed-use commercial and residential building
  2. Limnologen, Vaxjo, Sweden—an 8-story residential tenant-owned apartment complex with 4 buildings
  3. Bridport House, Hackney, London, England—an 8-story residential social housing development
  4. 3XGrun, Berlin, Germany—a 5-story residential apartment building
  5. Holz8, Bad Aibling, Germany—an 8-store residential apartment with commercial office space
  6. Forte, Melborne, Australia—a 10-story residential boutique apartment building with a 5 Star Green Star residential rating
  7. UBC Earth Sciences Building, Vancouver, Canada—a 5-story Science and Mathematics university building
  8. Lifecycle Tower One, Dornbirn, Austria—an 8-story commercial office tower
  9. Tamedia Headquarters, Zurich, Switzerland—a 6-story commercial office redevelopment project
  10. Cenni Di Cambiamento, Milan, Italy—four, 9-story social housing apartment buildings with commercial and retail services
  11. Wood Innovation and Design Centre, Prince George, Canada—a 6-story academic, laboratory and commercial-use project

Resource Downloads

Get the free Tall Wood summary report here that presents the results of the Survey and hear the shared experiences and learnings from global leaders in taller wood construction. Get the Addendum to the Tall Wood Survey Published in 2015

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Download the Tall Wood Survey Report with Appendices