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Nation’s Largest Mass Timber Building Under Construction In Oregon

As a crane lowered a glulam beam and construction workers on either end deftly guided it into connection with two upright wooden columns, a tour group member shook his head and said, “It’s like Lincoln Logs.”

Kind of. Which may in part explain some of the attraction of builders and designers to the potential use of strong, precisely engineered, carbon-storing wood beams, columns, wall panels and floor decking. As Chris Evans, a Swinerton Builders project manager put it, wood is the first building material people use to make the forts, homes and hideouts of childhood.

These days, builders and designers are joining mill owners, university researchers and policy makers in taking a fresh look at advanced wood products, “mass timbers” and what’s come to be called “tall wood” design. Advocates believe it can replace concrete and steel in mid- to even high-rise buildings, and provide an economic jolt to rural Oregon in terms of forest management and mill jobs.

In Hillsboro, Evans and Swinerton Builders are overseeing construction of the largest known U.S. building to date that uses cross-laminated timber, or CLT, for flooring, and glulam posts and beams. The Oregon headquarters of First Tech Credit Union will be five stories high and have 156,000 square feet of office space. Swinerton Builders is the general contractor.

Another tall wood building planned for Portland, called Framework, will be 12 stories high and will have five floors of affordable housing. That project was awarded a $1.5 million federal design competition grant to help with seismic and fire testing and certification.

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