Tall wood buildings rise in U.S. and Canada


When you’ve made the pages of the Wall Street Journal, you know you’ve truly arrived. It was the Journal that wrote earlier this month about the big news: the first tall, modern wood building in U.S. history is on its way.

The 7-story office building will be constructed in Minneapolis, right next to Target Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins. The developer is Hines Interests LP of Houston, and the architect – no surprise here – is Michael Green of Vancouver, B.C.

Green, of course, is the same star architect who has been the leader in pushing large wood buildings into the public sphere in North America. He also is the star of a series of videos promoting the use of wood in large buildings. The videos are sponsored by the Washington Forest Protection Association, the Washington Contract Loggers Association, the Family Forest Foundation and the Washington Farm Forestry Association, and we wrote about Green’s involvement last month.

It’s no wonder that the Journal’s headline reads: “Towering Ambition”:

For the past 100 years, virtually all buildings over a few stories tall have been constructed out of concrete and steel. But some architects and builders are promoting an alternative they are positioning as environmentally friendlier: good old-fashioned wood.

Last week, real-estate developer Hines Interests LP, based in Houston, unveiled plans to build a seven-story, wooden office building in Minneapolis near one of the city’s light-rail lines in an increasingly popular district downtown. Hines is calling the project T3, for timber, technology and transit.

If the building is approved by the city’s preservation and planning agencies, T3 would be the tallest modern all-timber structure in the U.S., according to reThink Wood, a coalition promoting wood in architecture. The building is designed by Vancouver-based Michael Green Architecture; the firm also designed the Wood Innovation and Design Centre in British Columbia, which opened a few weeks ago and is the tallest modern wooden building in North America.

The announcement comes just a few days after the official opening of The Wood Innovation and Design Centre, currently one of the largest modern wood buildings in North America. The six-story building in Prince George. B.C., is owned by the B.C. provincial government and will include the University of Northern British Columbia as its largest tenant. What’s incredible about the new building is it’s not only a beautiful space and a testament to the efficiency of wood as a construction material, but the university will also teach students about the benefits of wood construction in the building itself.

This video does a splendid job telling the story of how 13 different companies and several different levels of governments came together to make the Wood Innovation and Design Centre a reality. Oh, and the architect? Michael Green. But he was just one of the leaders on a team of 250 people who built the innovative facility.