Tag Archives: sustainability

Inside Facades+ DC: The Projects, Trends, and Voices

From left to right: Elba Morales, Holly Lennihan, Sophia Lau

Architecture in Washington, DC is easily overlooked, often distilled to a vision of concrete and conservatism or disregarded as unimaginative. But architects in the city would argue that this couldn’t be further from the truth. In recent years, a broader shift in cultural and social values coupled with an urgency around climate change have contributed to a gradual yet undeniable transformation of the capital’s urban landscape. Even as the same restrictions around height remain in place, architects in DC have continued to innovate and mature within those boundaries – redefining the city through placemaking and the sheer power of a facade.

Ahead of the Facades+ DC conference this month, we sat down with Co-Chair Elba Morales and panel moderators, Holly Lennihan and Sophia Lau to discuss the evolution of DC design and explore the most significant factors influencing its future. Let’s dive right in.

Elba, over the past several months, you’ve been working closely with the Architect’s Newspaper to curate the programming for Facades+ DC. What influenced your selection of panel topics and speakers?

Elba Morales (EM): The conference presented us with an opportunity to design a program around what we’re most excited about and, more importantly, what we thought our peers and clients would be most interested to learn. We wanted to expand the conversation on DC architecture beyond federal buildings and monuments by introducing a new crop of buildings with materials, details, and tectonics that offer a counterpoint. Likewise, the local industry’s recent discussions around glass box fatigue are justified to a certain degree. But we tried to examine what it is about glass facades that we’re reacting to specifically – is it the lack of sustainable strategies in the enclosure, the generic character of the façade, the missed opportunity to contribute to the character of the neighborhood? We wanted to capture how glass is being redefined to become more sophisticated and tectonically complex. Solid facades present different opportunities in terms of placemaking. So we selected projects that convey how a facade can relate to its surroundings in different ways and propose a new type of monumentality. Finally, we knew we definitely wanted to address high-performance design because of the natural progression of policy and because we feel it’s important to perpetuate the dialogue around sustainability.

You mention DC’s glass box fatigue, which has been a hot topic across the industry over the past few years. What makes the first panel’s focus on the glass facades at the International Spy Museum and 2050 M Street different?

EM: Both projects have a distinctive façade and treatment of glass that is anything but generic, and we’re going to hear directly from the teams responsible for executing them. If you think about 2050 M, we see the fluted panels but so many of the details are hidden, or eliminated in the case of the vertical mullions. At the Spy Museum, all of the gymnastics of the oversized glass and connections to the angled fins are fascinating to me. It’s really unusual to see a façade layered in such a way that it creates pleats – it makes the whole facade feel lighter. And the way the entire façade cantilevers over the street! These tectonics did not exist in DC before these two buildings. The complexity of these facades required a lot of technical expertise, in some cases a massive approval process, and ultimately an owner willing to go there. I want people to be inspired by the challenges that come with innovating and going outside the norm like this, and look forward to hearing more about it myself.  

How do you hope the presence of these innovative projects will impact design within the city?

Sophia Lau (SL): It’s important to showcase that this kind of work can be done in DC. These buildings have a sculptural quality and are very thoughtful in how they’re realized in the details of construction. They create inspirational places for people to enjoy and remember. Exposing the DC marketplace to this caliber of design will hopefully bring new trades and skills to the construction industry that make it more mainstream. Everything we build is part of a movement to push the industry to the next level. Having these kinds of forums allows us to engage in conversation, build on ideas and then fuel them forward. It’s a village: the designer, the contractor, the developer and so on. We want to find new ways to inspire and challenge the status quo and enjoy working with clients that want that too.

The second panel takes the concept of sculptural design to the extreme through the examination of the Glenstone Museum and The REACH at The Kennedy Center. What makes you excited to hear from the teams behind these two projects?

SL: We chose to highlight glass versus non glass on purpose to spur a conversation between mass and opening. We want to capture how buildings can display elements of excellent design through the examples we highlight in the conference. Not just in museums or institutional buildings but in offices and buildings that affect our everyday. At The REACH, Stephen Holl took advantage of the fact that concrete is liquid to create an experience that embraces curves. His team used the plasticity of poured-in-place concrete to create dynamic forms that literally dance in the landscape. What’s so compelling about Glenstone is how an institution can use the humble material of concrete and realize it in a majestic way. The facade is more than just an envelope and is deployed masterfully. It demonstrates the level of creativity that can be achieved with any material, and showcases how something like concrete can be looked at thoughtfully and reinterpreted. The precast concrete units surprise people because they think its stone. We know it’s not, but Thomas Phifer and his team elevate the material in a way that alters its perception. I am exceptionally interested in learning more about that process and how they could get it to a point of transformation.

The final session invites experts from Transsolar and the Center for the Built Environment to share the latest on their sustainability research. Why are open dialogues like this more important now than ever before?

Holly Lennihan (HL): No matter which way you look at it, climate change cannot be ignored, and that translates to the building industry in the form of being more intentional with how we design. With legislation like DC’s Omnibus Act, all of a sudden we’re having mandated conversations that explicitly require us to explore outside of our comfort zones and learn from others in the field. Quantifying and analyzing building performance or studying how buildings perform with different facades is an expertise, so how do we find and tap into those experts to educate ourselves and our peers? Education is key. That’s why sharing our work more frequently is extremely valuable, especially when it comes to sustainability. It makes replication of what works so much easier, and that’s what we want above anything else – to make high-performance design more approachable for designers and clients. As sustainable programs become more mainstream, the evolution of how they’re applied is changing becoming more sophisticated. For example, we talked earlier about the glass box phenomenon, and all-glass buildings are not great for sustainability when it comes to energy usage. The current solution tends to revolve around layering or adding shading techniques to reduce overheating, but now is the time to go back to the basics and add mass as well as take advantage of the available technology. People are working hard to sort out how to make a shift in their design process. It’s an amazing time to be an architect because there’s a real transformation occurring in how we do what we do. One thing we can’t forget – even with all of the new technology out there – is that the fundamentals of design still apply. Basic things like quality air barriers and proper insulation – these are age old responses to climate conditions that start at the very core of the building and cost nothing. I really think the whole industry is coming to terms with the concept of less is more. And as Sophia said before, the only way we’re going to get there is together.

What do you all hope people take away from the conference? 

HL: There are a lot of great nuggets to pull from, even at the basic level. We want to impress upon owners and developers that professionals in this area don’t shy away from risk. We are not going to ignore the complications of trying something new, or being the first as in the case of our work at AGU. We understand that these conversations start early and that we need to continue to educate ourselves. Anyway we can move the needle forward with our clients – whether it’s a more sophisticated facade or designing for net zero energy – that’s a win for us.

SL: This is an opportunity to join a forward-thinking community. We hope people come away motivated to become active participants in the dialogue, research and collaborations that are pushing the built environment to new heights of design excellence. 

EM: Ultimately, we’re pushing for change and a more immediate dialogue on what it takes to follow through on ambitious aspirations. In the context of the conference, we want to see more buildings with facades that inspire us and that are better for our city, people, and environment. The conference has an excellent range of speakers who will tackle these topics from diverse viewpoints – sharing details, processes, and challenges that are not public.  That in itself is so powerful. We want people to feel inspired by what is presented and what can be achieved. And to know that DC is happening!


Elba Morales, LEED AP is an Associate Principal and Senior Designer at Hickok Cole. She is currently working on several repositioning projects including 1400 L Street NW, 2340 Dulles, and 2 Bethesda Metro.

Holly Lennihan, RA, LEED AP is a Senior Associate and Director of Sustainable Design at Hickok Cole. Holly is in the process of delivering the American Geophysical Union headquarters, DC’s first net-zero energy renovation of a commercial office building.

Sophia Lau, AIA is a Senior Associate and Senior Designer at Hickok Cole. She is currently working on the National Geographic Pavilion.

Hickok Cole Celebrates MLK Gateway Groundbreaking with Menkiti Group and Mayor Bowser

On January 8, 2020, Hickok Cole, the Menkiti Group, and Enlightened Inc. were joined by Mayor Muriel Bowser and city officials to celebrate the official groundbreaking of the MLK Gateway. Located at the corner of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, this development intends to revitalize the Anacostia neighborhood and serve as a catalyst for economic opportunity. Upon completion, the project will deliver an estimated 400 jobs to the local community.

Our team has worked closely with the Menkiti Group to design a sustainable and equitable space that matches their vision for economic development while addressing the needs and concerns of the Anacostia community. Beginning Q1 2021 upon construction completion, Phase One will feature the restoration of 14,000 SF of ground floor retail and 20,000 SF of newly built office space, and include facade preservation in an effort to maintain continuity of the historic neighborhood. Phase Two design will tentatively start later this year with the goal to start construction soon after the completion of Phase One.

Several companies are already on board to lease the new space, including Enlightened Inc, who has agreed to relocate its headquarters from downtown DC. The tech company will not only increase traffic to the area, but increase career growth with a new incubator program designed to help small tech firms conduct business with the federal government, in addition to offering cybersecurity training geared towards providing local residents with new skill sets. 

We are thrilled to be a part of this pivotal development in the heart of Anacostia and look forward to the monumental opportunities it will bring to the community. 

Hickok Cole’s Top 19 Moments of 2019

2019 was a great year for our staff, our projects and our firm. We put our research into action, saw many of our designs finally realized in construction, and even brought home a few awards. None of it though, would be possible without our partners and our clients. We thank you for sharing our vision and for embracing opportunities focused on building a successful future for our city and the people within it. Now for a rundown of our top moments of the year:

1. In 2019, we welcomed 10 new members to the Hickok Cole team – including a designer who started as an intern this spring!

2. We promoted 13 team members to positions varying from Associate to Principal, and celebrated five staff members who reached significant firm milestones within the firm.

3. The International Spy Museum opened in L’Enfant Plaza, taking DC by storm with it’s technically innovative design – winning awards and recognition from organizations like NAIOP DC|MD, ENR Mid-Atlantic, and the Architectural Engineering Institute, and earning features in publications like Dezeen, Architectural Digest and the Washington Post.

4. We continued our support of net zero and high-performance development through participation in the DMV Net Zero Energy Coalition and ULI Sustainability Committee while strengthening our relationship with the DOEE by helping to inform the real estate industry about goals established by DC’s new Omnibus Act.

5. Our Lifestyle team celebrated the grand opening of The Batley, a warehouse turned residence setting the new standard for modern luxury in DC. Inspired by the history of the Union Market neighborhood, the design features a variety of custom furnishings, finishes and works of art throughout the building’s public and amenity spaces.  

6. We transformed our research on modular and mass timber construction into reality with new projects at Benning Road and 80 M SE in DC respectively. Upon completion, 80 M will become the first ever mass timber construction on a commercial office building in DC.

7. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the most ambitious clean energy law in the nation at our American Geophysical Union headquarters project, the first net-zero energy office renovation in the Mid-Atlantic region. The project went on to receive the DC Department of Energy and the Environment’s first ever Clean Energy DC Award.

8. We won and began work on our first project in Philadelphia, a modular multi-family development in historic Fishtown, expanding our geographic reach to include the City of Brotherly Love.

9. Nearly five decades following the fire that burned it down, we helped restore the beloved St. Thomas Parish to the Dupont Circle community – completing a mixed-use renovation and modern interpretation of the church with an adjacent multi-family addition that makes use of the surviving 1970s facade.

10. Hickok Cole’s Richmond office broke ground on their first base building project, The Current, a mixed-use development with Lynx Ventures.

11. We delivered the first phase of our work to modernize National Geographic’s headquarters campus with a new office environment that properly reflects their mission-driven culture, and began work on the next phase of design for the organization’s new entry pavilion.

12. We hosted our first annual Wellness Month (which originated as Wellness Week in 2018) and brought meditation, mindfulness, health and wellness to the workplace thanks to our partners at Steelcase, Bently, Coalesse, Designtex, reDistrict, ALKS, MOI, and many more.

13. Hickok Cole Creative continued to expand upon their portfolio of strategic branding packages for multifamily and commercial buildings across the DMV, while embarking on efforts for new clients in the arts and culture world – including artist residency program, the Nicholson Project and the DC Concert Orchestra Society.

14. The hard work and dedication of our team members was recognized with more than thirty industry awards, including honors from IIDA Premiere MAC, MultiHousing News, AIA Northern Virginia, Retrofit Magazine, Multi Family Executive, and ENR. 

15. We strutted the catwalk at Cosmo Couture with our partners Good Lines DC and Buzzi Space in a visionary portrayal of Memory that paid homage to the Kodak Carousel.

16. Our staff shared their expertise at industry events like Design DC, ULI’s Resilience Day, Bisnow’s Greater State of Senior Housing and ARchitecture & Design Summits, and the PHIUS Passive House Conference. We were also invited to serve and began work as co-chair for the upcoming Facades+ DC conference.

17. 1701 Rhode Island Avenue delivered fully leased to co-working behemoth WeWork, and was then sold by Akridge to Exan Capital for a record market price –  winning it the title of Best Urban Office and Best Real Estate Transaction Over $25 Million from NAIOP DC|MD.

18. Our Full Circle Committee organized over 300 staff hours dedicated to volunteer efforts from helping at soup kitchens and running marathons to donating pro-bono design work for Arts on the Block’s new Silver Spring studio.

19. Finally, we raised nearly $150,000 – a new record – in partnership with Washington Project for the Arts at our annual Art Night event which featured a custom pop-art themed signage, invitations, and swag designed by Hickok Cole Creative.

Looking forward to a bright 2020 – we’ll see you then!

JOIN HICKOK COLE DESIGNERS AT DESIGNDC 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – Hickok Cole’s Joel Onorato, Jason Wright, Holly Lennihan, and Guil Almeida were selected to participate in this year’s AIA DesignDC Conference in Washington, DC from September 16 through September 18, 2019. The premier regional conference theme, Charged Up, will focus on the unique challenges facing architects, interior designers, engineers, contractors and developers in the DC metro area with a range of panels covering emerging technologies, trends, and the intersection of sustainability and design.

Joel, Jason and Holly will speak on various panels throughout the conference on subjects including the circular economy, DC building code changes, sustainable retrofitting and net zero energy. Guil will lead a guided tour of the American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC’s first commercial office building to achieve net-zero energy. 

Is the Building World Ready for the Circular Economy?

Joel Onorato, Architect and Structural Engineer

Sept. 16, 2019 at 8:30-10:00 am
Materials require large amounts of energy and finite resources during production but normally end up in landfills after demolition. This presentation will cover why it is necessary to transition to the Circular Economy where waste, material consumption and environmental impact are minimized by keeping products and materials in use in order to drastically reduce this impact.

Upcoming Changes to the DC Building Code

Jason Wright, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Associate Principal

Sept. 16, 2019 at 10:15-11:45 am
In response to the 2018 published Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the 2017 District of Columbia Construction Codes, this discussion will focus on many of the key code changes that will impact design and construction in the District, including an overview of the 2017 DC Construction Code proposed changes and include a Q+A session. Jason joins Chris Campbell, PE from Arup on the panel.

Retrofitting Existing Buildings – DC’s Sustainability Guide for Existing and Historic Properties

Holly Lennihan, LEED AP, Director of Sustainable Design

Sept. 17, 2019 at 8:45-10:15 am
This session will provide an overview of the “Sustainability Guide for Existing and Historic Properties” intended to promote and facilitate green retrofits of existing older buildings in a manner that will improve their performance and energy-efficiency while also respecting their character. Holly joins Laura Huges from EHT Traceries, Sarah Vonesh, LEED and Melanie De Cola LEED on the panel.

Coming Up: Another Way of Getting to Net Zero

Holly Lennihan, LEED AP, Director of Sustainable Design

Sept. 17, 2019 at 2:15-3:45 pm
This panel of designers and ecologist will discuss the ecology of the District, the practices that contribute to the health of our habitat, how positive impact can be measured and case studies that illustrate methods for creating health urban habitats. Holly joins Joe Chambers, ASLA from Landscape Architecture Bureau, Damien Ossi from Department of Energy and the Environment and Dr. Robert McDonald from The Nature Conservancy on the panel.

Tour: The American Geophysical Union

Guil Almeida, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Associate and Project Designer

Sept. 18, 2019 at 10:00 am-12:00 pm
During this session, participants will tour and learn about The American Geophysical Union, the first-ever net zero energy renovation of an existing commercial building in the District. The tour will highlight the unique systems installed in the building and the innovative blend of architecture and engineering.

Media Contact:
Ellie Ruggeri
917.708.0947
eruggeri@hickokcole.com

DMV Net Zero Coalition

On the morning of Tuesday February 12th, 2019 Hickok Cole helped facilitate the inaugural session of the DMV Net Zero Coalition. Presented by DCRA’s Green Building Division, and Arlington and Montgomery counties, the coalition was a chance for multi-disciplinary building industry professionals from across the region to share progress on achieving deep energy savings in their buildings and share best practices in designing Net Zero structures.

With over 130 attendees, the coalition was a great success and gets us one step closer to the goal of creating a grassroots regional peer-exchange network that promotes and builds capacity for net-zero energy buildings and technologies throughout the greater Washington region. This coalition will be ever more important now that DC has mandated 100% renewable electricity sourcing for the city by 2032.

A special thanks to Dave Epley, DCRA’s Green Building Program Manager, Joan Kelsh and Jessica Abralind of Arlington’s Office of Sustainability & Environmental Management, and Lindsey Shaw, Montgomery County’s Energy & Sustainability Programs Manager for organizing this coalition kick-off. If you would like to included in future events, please contact  DMV.NZE@gmail.com.

Upcoming events:

  • Wednesday, April 3rd: Montgomery County Energy Summit at the Silver Spring Civic Building register click here.
  • Wednesday May 1st: Bisnow’s Greater DC Solar and Sustainability Summit: Why Developers Should Go Green to register click here.

To learn more about Hickok Cole’s Net Zero renovation of the American Geophysical Union’s headquarters in Dupont Circle please contact Holly Lennihan or Melanie De Cola.

Be sure to follow the latest American Geophysical Union construction updates at Building AGU.

American Geophysical Union

Fast Company 2018 World Changing Ideas finalist

FAST COMPANY — Hickok Cole Architects’ master plan for Kingman and Heritage Islands has been named a finalist in the Urban Design category. World Changing Ideas celebrates businesses, policies, and nonprofits that are poised help shift society to a more sustainable and more equitable future.

Commodity, Solar Power, and Delight

ARCHITECT MAGAZINE — Harvesting the sun’s power to create net-zero (or even net-positive) energy is cheaper than ever now. So why aren’t more architects doing it? It probably comes as no surprise that solar power is currently the least-used energy source in the United States. It has had a lot of catching up to do.

Exploring the Advanced Sustainable Building Features at American Geophysical Union

Construction is now fully underway on The American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) headquarters renovation in Dupont Circle. As part of its mission of “science for the benefit of humanity,” AGU seeks to lead by example and is striving to create the first-ever “net zero energy” renovation of an existing commercial building in the District.

In order to realize this goal, particular strategies had to be devised and technological advances realized. We would like to present just a few of them from the architects’ perspective:

Generation

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Array
This solar PV array includes 720 solar panels making up a 250 kilowatt system. It includes 24 panels on a vertical, south-facing surface and 696 panels laid out horizontally and elevated above the penthouse roof. The panels are from manufacturer Sunpower, and at just over 22% efficiency, they are some of the most efficient on the market.

AGU's solar canopy

Reclamation

Dedicated Outdoor Air System (DOAS) with Exhaust Air Heat Recovery
The DOAS will provide a dedicated means of ventilation for the building. This system will condition the air prior to delivering it inside, while at the same time recovering the outgoing exhaust air’s heat to help raise the temperature of the incoming fresh air for space heating needs.

Hydroponic Phytoremediation (Hy Phy) Wall
While this wall looks like a standard green wall or vertical garden, it will actually work a little harder. When installed it will be an active rather than passive wall, and function as part of the building’s ventilation system. In conjunction with the DOAS, the wall will filter and improve indoor air quality, all while reducing the amount of outside air necessary. The plants, their roots, and the water filtration system will scrub air of unwanted toxins and VOCs before it recirculates throughout the building.

Absorption

Municipal Sewer Heat Exchange System
This system will tap into a combined sewer line in front of the building, which was built in the 1890s, to maximize the efficiency of the building’s mechanical systems. It will essentially function the same way a geothermal system does—as a heat sink/source—but it will be the first of its kind in the United States. The system operates by:

  1. Diverting wastewater to a settling tank located just outside of the building.
  2. Circulating the then debris-less water into a sewer heat exchanger in the underground garage.
  3. While in the garage, separately piped in radiant fluid will be pre-heated or cooled before being circulated throughout the building.

Fear not, it is a closed loop system, no sewage contamination will take place. Read more about how sewer heat exchange works here.

AGU's sewer heat exchange system

Stormwater Collection and Re-use
Rainwater will be captured from the roof and PV array and collected in a large cistern also located in the building’s garage. After filtration and treatment this greywater will be reused for all flushing fixtures and the irrigation of the green roof and hy phy wall. The cistern’s capacity is 11,300 gallons.

Reduction

Enhanced Dynamic Glazing System
The existing windows at AGU will soon be removed and replaced with dynamic glass. The curtainwall glazing will be made up of triple-pane, air-filled, 1-3/4” thick windows. The added 3rd pane gives the windows a lower U-value and solar heat gain coefficient to help reduce the transmission of heat and cold. This glazing will also utilize an electrochromic film to tint the windows on-demand. This tint twill take the place of traditional blinds as well as reduce glare and heat transmission while still allowing natural light in and views out.

electrochromic glass

DC Powered Workspace and Lighting
The US electrical grid is wired for alternating current, or AC, power distribution. However, direct current, or DC, power is used by computers, appliances, and LED lighting. Conveniently, DC power is also what will be produced by the large PV array on AGU’s roof. Creating an energy distribution microgrid which relies on direct DC to DC power will reduce the energy efficiency loss caused by power conversion.

Enhanced Envelope Insulation
The existing building envelope is brick on a CMU backup wall separated by an air gap. The exterior walls do not currently contain insulation or an air/weather barrier. 6” studs have been added along the interior of the perimeter wall which will provide space to:

  1. Install 8” of closed-cell spray-applied insulation to achieve an R-value of 53. The new insulation will also act as an air barrier.
  2. Anchor new windows which will now be in-line with the insulation, creating a continuous thermal barrier.

Radiant Ceiling Cooling System
In a radiant ceiling system temperature is controlled by radiation, a more efficient way to condition space than forced-air. Decoupling the building conditioning system from the DOAS provides the opportunity to reduce the overall energy needed to move air through the building since it’s now only needed for ventilation, not for space cooling.

radiant ceiling

“The renovation of the existing AGU headquarters provides an unprecedented opportunity to challenge ourselves to lead by example and demonstrate that we, and the Earth and space science community we represent, can be a model for sustainable design, reducing the carbon and environmental impacts of business operations in a cost-effective and replicable way.”

– American Geophysical Union

Be sure to follow the latest construction updates at Building AGU.

A Stroll through Timber City with Holly Lennihan

Over the past few months, there has been a steady stream of conversation and research around the office related to the subject of mass timber and its application in building design and construction. The stars (and wood!) aligned in mid-July when our own Director of Sustainable Design and DC CREW EDU committee member, Holly Lennihan, joined The National Building Museum’s Timber City Exhibit, Forestry experts and other industry representatives for a panel discussion on the topic as a part of CREW DC’s “Innovation” education series.

Following the program, we sat down with Holly to discuss this growing trend, its application, and the design implications of using mass timber.

Why was mass timber a timely fit for CREW DC’s “Innovation” series?
The idea for the program originally grew out of conversations I was having with people in our office. This trend represents an exciting new way to use wood in our industry, and not many firms have experience designing and building with mass timber therefore our list of potential panelists was limited. However, through CREW EDU committee members, we were able to connect with both Melissa Jenkins of the U.S. Forest Service and Nadine Block of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Lauren Wingo, structural engineer at Arup, joined the team on the heels of a presentation Arup gave on mass timber to the Hickok Cole office. She was an integral part of their presentation, and we knew she would bring a lot of value to the program.

What innovations and advancements have been made to make building with wood in urban areas safer than the approach has been in the past?
During the panel, Melissa spoke specifically about the extensive safety testing. As I understand it, when a Cross Laminated Timber column or beam burns, a fascinating thing happens where the outside layer chars and actually insulates the inside. So, counter to what you would think, the burned exterior becomes the protection for the interior. According to Melissa, everyone who watched the fire test was stunned by how well the timber performed.

In addressing seismic issues, Cross Laminated Timber is a surprisingly effective structural system due to the process of laminating in two different directions. This technique results in ductile behavior, giving the structure flexibility and allowing for energy dissipation because the timbers can move against one another.

“Why not strengthen the wood production industry through investment in mass timber material? It supports domestic manufacturing while both helping the environment and contributing to beautiful interior design. I predict we will even see productivity gains in people who work in spaces where the wood structure is visible. To me, it resonates across the triple bottom line—a win-win-win for people, planet and profits.”

– Holly Lennihan

CREW Edu Mass Timber Event

CREW Edu Mass Timber Event at The National Building Museum

How is Cross Laminated Timber addressing established North American building codes that bar against the use of mass timber in high-rise development?
The 2015 International Building Code (IBC) allows for Cross Laminated Timber, but it has not yet been adopted by DC or Virginia. There are, however, alternate paths for incorporating mass timber in the meantime while complying with current codes. Lauren shared an example where Arup was able to use mass timber in their approach to Washington Latin Public Charter School’s new gymnasium; they walked the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) through a process to show them how Cross Laminated Timber can meet fire and structural requirements for the code. This was, of course, aided by the fact that the material is included in future versions of the IBC.

Once there is a developer on board that understands that building with this material has valid economic rationale, while also giving them an edge in terms of their product offering, we anticipate others will follow. Hines has already successfully delivered a mass timber high-rise office tower in Minneapolis. At Hickok Cole, we’re excited about the opportunity to work alongside developers who want to be at the forefront of this kind of innovative work.

Are there sustainable or aesthetic benefits to building with wood over other materials?
From an aesthetic and wellness angle, there are benefits to taking a biophilic, human-centered approach to design. We are finding more and more connections between natural building materials and productivity, health and wellness. Plus, exposing the natural wood makes for a beautiful interior.

Nadine did a really good job of explaining the role of culling to maintain healthy forests. This necessary clearing results in a supply of timber that can be used throughout the built environment. Others are using wood from forests that have been decimated by the Mountain Pine Beetle, an epidemic brought on by climate change that is currently ravaging the West. Both approaches are helping to keep forests healthy and repurpose excess wood into a useful building material.

Are there financial benefits for developers that choose to go the mass timber route?
I think people that have used it successfully point to its ease of use and the resulting increased speed of construction. Anytime you can cut down on construction time, you are going to have a net gain in terms of expenditure and budget. Additionally, the fact that it’s a lighter weight material means a decrease in foundation costs.

As a designer and architect specializing in sustainability, why do you think mass timber is something DC—and the rest of the country—should be focused on right now?
For one thing, DC’s incredibly committed to sustainability. I think design professionals like myself feel that if there’s one place mass timber could enter the market, it’s here. We are looking for clients – whether it’s a developer or a mission-driven non-profit – to see the benefits of Cross Laminated Timber and be an agent of change.

However, we do have to be realistic. I think there are design constraints which could make it difficult to convince a central business district developer who wants to do a concrete and steel building to go the mass timber route. On the other hand, people may find new ways to use it. I’m both pragmatic and idealistic. I believe the use of mass timber will ultimately result in a better building, but it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach.

Special thanks to the DC CREW EDU committee members and to the following expert panelists who contributed to the “Timberrrr! A New Look at Wood Construction” program:

  • Melissa Jenkins, Natural Resources Specialist, Cooperative Forestry (Wood Innovation), U.S. Forest Service
  • Nadine Block, Chief Operating Officer and Senior VP Public Affairs, Sustainable Forestry Initiative
  • Lauren Wingo, Structural Engineer, Arup

CREW Edu Mass Timber Event

CREW Edu Mass Timber Event at the National Building Museum

Want to learn more about mass timber’s use in building design and construction? Check out these additional resources: