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Mass Timber in 3 Regions

Project Team
Olifant / Project Lead
Lambert Sustainability / Project Manager
Boston Society for Architecture / Lead Partner
LeMessurier/ Technical partner
Turner Construction / Technical Partner
Solomon Cordwell Buenz / Technical Partner
AIA Minnesota/Minneapolis / Regional Partner
AIA Colorado/Denver / Regional Partner
AIA Georgia/Atlanta / Regional Partner
Springboard Forestry / Forestry expert


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About the Project
The BSA is a Lead Partner on a 2022 Wood Innovations Grant (WIG) led by Boston-based environmental solutions firm Olifant focused on further developing the market for mass timber across the nation. The two-year project, dubbed "Mass Timber in 3 Regions," has drawn prominent regional and national partners to bring technical expertise and high-profile attention to the climate and construction benefits of using mass timber in the Minneapolis, Denver, and Atlanta metro markets. The goal is to enable each city and its surrounding region or state to make mass timber a centerpiece carbon reduction strategy for the built environment and to be ready to offer a United States Forest Service (USFS) Mass Timber Accelerator grant program to developers and/or other incentives for mass timber construction.

The WIG will build on the successful work led by Olifant in 2019 which highlighted mass timber’s carbon benefits for use in Boston and the surrounding region, regional forest supply, and industry infrastructure through rigorous research and illustrated data. Boston-based Lambert Sustainability’s added complimentary work to bring embodied carbon issues to the attention of the City of Boston.

The first year of this current grant will focus on three building types – one in each AIA "sister city", Atlanta, Denver, and Minneapolis - conducting design and engineering comparative studies with Life Cycle Analyses on each model’s carbon footprint and cost and construction data, as well as analyses of forestry supply chains. The second year will focus on disseminating findings and learnings for AEC professionals and city planners through educational programing led by the BSA and AIA chapters as well as other partners in the industry.

Project Partners
The project will be led by a core team of experts on architecture and sustainability, climate policy, and forestry and forest products: Lambert Sustainability, Olifant, and Springboard Forestry.

Regional partners AIA Denver/Colorado, AIA Minneapolis/Minnesota, and AIA Atlanta/Georgia will advise on local conditions and construction trends in collaboration with BSA and Boston-based AEC partners SCB, LeMessurier, and Turner Construction, who will design and engineer comparative model building studies for each region and include data on each project’s carbon benefits, cost, procurement, and construction savings on time and safety on-site.

Current Considerations and Challenges
As discussed in other mass timber initiatives, such as the Boston Mass Timber Accelerator, lack of sufficient mass timber supply domestically is a barrier consistently cited by developers and architects who wish to use the material. This project’s building studies will be complemented by studies on forestry practices and forest products industry status, with input from university peer reviewers, in each of the three regions, with the intention of building climate-smart regional supply chains.

“U.S. working forests in each of these regions can and should be part of the climate solution. Mass timber product manufacturing can help keep these forests as forests while supplying a local, renewable material to build high quality, low-carbon buildings,” said Nicole St. Clair Knobloch, principal, Olifant. “We need signals of demand from our cities to encourage manufacturers to invest.”

Forest industry maturity varies in the three regions, from the well-established U.S. Southeast, to the efforts to revitalize historic industry in the upper Midwest, to the lack of milling infrastructure in the fire- and drought-plagued Rocky Mountain West. “In Colorado, though our forests are not traditional agricultural lands, there is great concern about the threats to our national forests without some amount of management that could mitigate those threats,” explained Mike Waldinger Hon. AIA, CEO of AIA Colorado.

The project’s partners recognize the difficulty of introducing a new building material to established markets, despite its many environmental and construction benefits, and believe this effort can address that more quickly.