DLR Group Awarded Wood Innovations Grant from the U.S. Forest Service

DLR Group was awarded the U.S. Forest Service Wood Innovations Grant to fund a conceptual building design and wall panel prototype for a cross-laminated timber hotel. The proposal, Mass Timber Hotel: Tuning CLT to Overcome Barriers to Adoption in the Hospitality Industry, was submitted in partnership with the Master of Science-Research Practices (MS-RP) program in the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota. The joint proposal from DLR Group and UMN was one of 35 selected out of 103 submissions.  

The Canopy by Hilton Minneapolis Mill District in Minneapolis by DLR Group. Photo by Jim Kruger.

Recent independent research, testing, and updates to building codes have addressed the fire safety of mass timber, paving the way for an increase in its use for larger-scale commercial applications. Building upon this momentum, DLR Group and UMN will put empirical data behind the viability of CLT for hotels through the lens of acoustics, systems integration, and aesthetics.

“The Wood Innovations Grant is an important recognition of DLR Group’s industry-leading position in mass timber design from agencies interested in mass timber markets,” said DLR Group Principal Steve Cavanaugh, AIA, who leads DLR Group’s timber design practice. “It’s also an opportunity for us to accelerate the timber optimization learning curve for this specific building type.”

“Partnering with the University of Minnesota has been a valuable relationship for years,” added DLR Group Senior Associate and Design Research Leader B. Sanborn. “The university’s commitment to sustainability and expertise in subject matters such as Jacob Mans’ mass timber research, is a good match for ours, and we’re proud to be included in the U.S. Forest Service’s program so that we can help improve the understanding and use of mass timber in AEC, as well as provide more opportunities for architecture students at UMN to participate in this kind of collaborative research.”

A close partnership between the grant’s principal investigator Assistant Professor Jacob Mans and MS-RP graduate student Brittany Lindsay, the joint grant proposal is part of a new MS-RP initiative to help students gain experience with grant writing and publishing research under the supervision of faculty and firm advisors. “This new initiative creates an opportunity for grant-based collaborations between academia and industry and provides practice-based research experience for students,” said MS-RP Director Malini Srivastava. “Being selected to receive this grant is an honor and we hope is only the first in continued partnerships between the program and its firm partners.”

The University of Minnesota and DLR Group will work with CLT manufacturers and hospitality partners to construct wall panel prototypes for acoustic testing and MEP systems integration strategies, leading up to the creation of a modular hotel room prototype for further testing and iteration. This experimental apparatus will also double as a show unit to educate users and developers of the potential for a mass timber hotel.  In addition to developing, constructing, and testing the prototype, the team will develop informational materials and a detailed cost analysis that will allow hospitality partners to understand the associated details of implementation. Information on the project and its progress will be shared through three collaborative convenings hosted at the University of Minnesota. 

The work is anticipated to begin this fall.