Whatever the reason, increased wood use contributes to a more sustainable built environment
In my first article for EcoPreserve, I wrote about mass timber products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) and nail-laminated timber (NLT) and their growing use in the U.S. south. Those materials continue to draw attention, partly because their strength and dimensional stability make them a carbon-friendly alternative, even where wood isn’t typically used. More and more, building designers are finding applications for wood.
At WoodWorks, I provide technical support related to the design of wood buildings. This gives me a unique perspective on trends, and I see more designers leveraging the aesthetic of heavy timber, adding distinction to their commercial and public building projects. I’m often one of the first to hear about concerns—including historic concerns about moisture, which are addressed through modern design and detailing
A great example is the flagship location of Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza at Disney Springs, designed by Morris Architects, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Wood is used extensively, and the design is meant to show the progression of wood systems—from traditional post-and-beam construction at the entrance to a patio made spectacular with cantilevered glulam beams.
Two winners of this year’s WoodWorks Wood Design Awards, both in North Carolina, also use heavy timber to great effect. For The Grove at Live Oak Bank, a desire for sustainability and beauty led to an exposed wood structure that includes glulam beams, columns, and king-post trusses. Duda|Paine Architects also chose heavy timber for the three-level atrium lobby at the Duke University Student Wellness Center, adding drama to the space with exposed columns, beams, and roof deck.
I’m also seeing an increase in mid-rise wood-frame buildings in this part of the world—like the Brooklyn Riverside in Jacksonville, another winner of a Wood Design Award. There seems to be growing awareness that the building code allows wood for four-, five- and even six-story buildings, and it’s a cost-effective way to add density without sacrificing safety or performance. (Building codes require all materials to perform to the same level of safety for the given building type.)
At the end of the day, designers of mass timber projects may be the most vocal about wood’s sustainability and carbon benefits, but using wood for aesthetics or cost delivers the same benefits to the built environment.