Source: Wall Street Journal
Aspirational plays for iconic status can miss the mark. The standout buildings completed over the past 12 months were instead notable for focusing on concrete needs, not dazzling form. Long-term planning and a smart use of innovation served a purpose.
In March, the 2017 Timber Innovation Act was introduced in Congress to support research into using wood for structures over 85 feet tall. Considerable research already shows how composites such as cross-laminated and glue-laminated timber can be more sustainable, fire resistant, lightweight and seismically viable than concrete or steel. The new John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, designed by Boston-based Leers Weinzapfel Associates, is a forerunner. At only four stories, it’s no timber skyscraper, but it is the first cross-laminated timber academic building in the country, housing the university’s architecture, landscape and building technology departments.
… its interiors radiate with the saturated warmth long associated with woodwork. Here it’s engineered wood used in exposed beams, columns, braces, ceilings—even the stairwells and elevator shafts. For the flooring, an innovative wood and concrete composite developed right on campus is used here for the first time. The Design Building is helping to lay the foundations for the smart use of mass timber in ways that will soon enrich, and transform, our built environment.
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