Urban jungle: wooden high-rises change city skylines as builders ditch concrete

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Urban jungle: wooden high-rises change city skylines as builders ditch concrete
New york's 475 West 18th Street is a 10-storey residential condominium building designed immediately opposite the High Line / Image: SHoP Architecture

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Urban jungle: wooden high-rises change city skylines as builders ditch concrete
New york’s 475 West 18th Street is a 10-storey residential condominium building designed immediately opposite the High Line / Image: SHoP Architecture

Mass timber projects in Portland and New York City offer eco-friendly dwellings, but can ‘plywood on steroids’ actually catch on in the industry?

The concrete jungle has a rival: forests. Two urban building projects, in New York City and Portland, Oregon, will be changing their city’s skylines with an environmentally sustainable, cost-competitive building material. The key ingredient? Wood.

Called mass timber, the material is an umbrella term for large, solid chunks of panelized wood. When used in buildings, the benefits are sky high: flexible, strong, fire resistant and carbon-sequestering. Mass timber could prove to be a viable alternative to concrete and steel for mid-to-high rise buildings.

The two projects in question were nationally recognized last September when each was awarded $1.5m from the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Tall Wood Building prize, a competition that sets out create America’s first modern mass timber building, reaching 80ft or higher.

Moreover, the USDA is looking to these projects to mitigate climate change and support jobs in rural America.

The winning proposals are 475 West 18th Street, a 10-story residential condo in Manhattan’s West Chelsea neighborhood, and Framework, a 12-story mixed-use building slotted for Portland’s Pearl District.

The Manhattan building – a project of 130-134 Holdings LLC, in partnership with Spiritos Properties, Arup, and ShoP Architecture – will be New York City’s first to use mass timber systems. […]

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