Wood is a go-to material for floors, doors, furniture, and now, a skyscraper—the very first of its kind in the U.S. Construction on Portland, Oregon’s wood high-rise, Framework, is slated to begin this October. The 12-story mixed-use building—a collaboration between local firm Lever Architecture and real-estate developer Project^—will be made entirely from timber. Thomas Robinson, Lever Architecture’s founder, says his company is interested in “exploring the relationship between materials, experience, and the environment—how the way we build impacts the way we live and the environment as a whole.”
To highlight the innovative design, the structure will be centered around a visible vertical core and capped with a roof deck framed by wood columns. Flexible, sturdy, and lighter than materials like concrete or steel, timber has a high strength-to-weight ratio. Framework’s design includes cross-laminated wood panels, engineered of stacked lumber, for floors and ceilings, and glue-laminated timber for beams and columns.
Inside, a double-height community space will feature a public exhibition documenting the building’s creation and impact, plus a second-floor garden terrace. Visitors will be able to roam retail spaces on the ground floor, while above there will be five floors of offices and five floors of affordable housing.
The “forest to frame” philosophy behind the building reflects its relationship between urban construction and rural lumber manufacturing. This project creates more opportunities in both industries, which were gravely affected in the recession. “Framework stands as a model for sustainable urban ecology,” says Robinson. And there are copious environmental benefits: Buildings made primarily of wood have significantly lower carbon emissions and use less energy than those made from traditional materials. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture took notice. It solicited designs for a tall wood building competition, and the Framework team won an impressive $1.5 million grant to fund further research and development—the structure is expected to be finished by December 2017.