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an open office in a mass timber building with floor to ceiling windows
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Timber: What’s Old is New Again

Bobby Larson

Healthy. Renewable. Safe. Warm. Strong. Flexible. These are just a few terms to describe one of the most versatile building materials in the world. Many of us are familiar with wood as a decorative and finishing material, from bent plywood furniture to surfacing. But recently wood is making its way back – quite literally – to the core of our buildings.

T3 North Loop in Minneapolis. Photo by Ema Peter.

As a structural material, mass timber has been in our design kit for the better part of a decade. When we brought the T3 North Loop building in Minneapolis to life in 2016, it was the tallest mass timber building in the United States at the time. And with anchor tenant Amazon occupying half the leasable real estate, the building’s neo-industrial design gave timber its growth spurt: Minnesota is reportedly exploring ways to re-kindle its timber industry to support the production of materials like cross laminated timber and nail laminated timber. All of this was prior to the 2021 International Building Code cycle update that addressed concerns like maximum heights and fire resistance.

Perhaps most importantly, mass timber is a renewable resource that can reduce the carbon footprint of a building – especially when compared to a more typical steel or concrete structure. For example, the lumber that was used on T3 North Loop in Minneapolis was actually claimed from trees that had been attacked by invasive beetles.

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