Faster to build and environmentally focused, cities that didn’t consider timber construction are starting to once again incorporate timber as a suitable infrastructure for high-rise commercial buildings. In fast-growing cities like Austin, TX, the demand for real estate – still fueling the building materials growth in 2020 despite the pandemic setbacks earlier observed – has zoning boards and building review councils looking for ways to quickly increase available space. In comes timber and new technologies.
Last year the world’s tallest timber structure opened in Norway. “To construct the tower, builders used glulam and laminated timber beams; both are strong enough to replace carbon-intensive concrete and steel, and require less energy to produce.” according to Architectural Digest.
Another commercial property that opened earlier in the year in Central Texas continues to thrill locals and win awards. The office-suite property located at 901 E 6th Street in Austin was the first of its kind for Austin – a 5-story CLT construction office complex. CLT, or cross laminated timber, offers a few key advantages – environmentally it’s very attractive since timber actually absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. You can build much faster since the fabrication can be done offsite and constructed as its delivered – no concrete, welding, or heavy equipment. Because Austin is now allowing such construction, it’s likely the price will drop in the future. Although still expensive to use in construction, timber’s sustainability, and smaller carbon footprint than steel is likely going to increase its popularity and the practices of bringing CLT into more projects around the nation.
Still, there are those who argue the true sustainability of timber and CLT – it’s risk associated with burning, rot and mold, and maintenance costs. It doesn’t seem to stop major cities from reinventing building practices and accelerating the use of mass timber in construction. Cities like New York, Boston, and the aforementioned Austin.
For more on 901 E 6th Street in Austin, see their website.