Recent Washington, DC Commercial Project Incorporated Mass Timber

15 December 2022Architecture and Engineering, Construction, Sustainabilitymass timber, sustainable design


Recent Washington, DC Commercial Project Incorporated Mass Timber

In a nod to sustainability, a recent three-story vertical addition to the commercial office structure at 80 M Street SE in Washington, DC used mass timber in its construction. According to a news release by Arup, a global collective of engineering consultants, this is the first mass timber commercial office space to be built in the U.S. capital. Arup provided structural and MEP engineering. In addition, the company consulted on acoustic, fire and life safety.

For the “80 M” addition, over 1,300 tons of mass timber in the form of fire-resistant, load-bearing glue-laminated lumber were used in the project. This type of construction lumber is a renewable material created from wood panels that have been glued together in layers. The mass timber addition, which was built atop the existing commercial office building and did not require extensive demolition of existing construction, encompassed 108,000 square-feet.

Miscellaneous sizes of large and small logs stacked with cut side facing camera, plus one log with a green ecocycle graphic, mass timber

Mass timber is considered to have a low carbon “footprint” compared to more traditional building materials. Arup announced that the “80 M” construction project has received certifications from Energy Star, Fitwel and WiredScore Silver. The project has also been submitted for recognition by LEED Silver Core, as well as Schell and WELL Building Standard version 2 certification.

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Although the use of mass timber in construction continues to increase around the world, there are some constraints that can hinder building with mass timber. Those include restrictive building codes and the fact that few manufacturing facilities currently produce laminated wood panels.

Glue laminated timber, mass timber

The cost savings from using mass timber is not so much in the price of materials, which some reports estimate at five-percent less than steel or concrete. The real savings can be achieved through:

  • shorter construction timeframes by using prefabricated panels.
  • less labor required for erecting the structure.
  • lower costs of foundations because the structural weight of mass timber is less than that of traditional materials.

On its website, Arup is described as a global sustainable development consultancy focused on producing safe, inclusive, resilient communities, infrastructure and cities. The collective includes 16,000 specialists working across 90-plus disciplines with projects in more than 140 countries.  

Other mass timber projects Arup has worked on include Ascent Tower in Milwaukee, WI; Washington Latin Public Charter School, Washington DC; Elements residences in Amsterdam, Sweden; Ainsworth Building, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.

A structural engineer with Arup recently published a perspective that stated, “To promote the widespread adoption of mass timber in the US market, design professionals, developers, investors, and government decision-makers will need to work together to address impediments and make mass timber a more attractive and affordable option.”

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