Framework, the 12-story cross-laminated timber project planned for the Pearl District, passed another hurdle last week when it was permitted for construction.
The Framework Project LLC, as it's officially known, received approval for a building permit allowing construction of the first wood, high-rise structure in the U.S.
The permit was awarded by the State of Oregon and the City of Portland, although the state took a hands-on approach, due to the potential for the building to stimulate the Oregon timber industry.
Framework, which will consist of retail, offices and affordable housing, is designated as a 12-story tall "wood resilient building" meaning it has passed seismic and fire, life safety tests which are the equivalent of a building made from conventional concrete, steel and lumber.
Cloudy day skyscraper
"Receiving a permit is a critical juncture for Framework and demonstrates the feasibility of using wood to build high-rise buildings in the U.S.", said Anyeley Hallova, developer, project^. "With our path now clear to start building, Framework will start to unlock the demand for mass timber products at all scales justifying new investment into rural manufacturing and job creation."
"Portland is built on creative innovation and the trailblazing spirit as exemplified by the groundbreaking work of the Framework Project," said Portland Mayor, Ted Wheeler in a release. "Thanks to the tremendous work of the Framework team, Portland's Pearl District will proudly stand as the site of the first skyscraper made from wood in the United States — a true technological and entrepreneurial achievement."
Framework was designed in part through a US Dept. of Agriculture grant of $1.5 million. The goal is to clear the permitting pathway to enable people in other states to build CLT buildings taller than 75 feet.
Any research and development knowledge gained is to be public property, not belonging to stakeholders such as project^ (the developer), Home Forward (the affordable housing manager) LEVER Architecture or Beneficial State Bancorp, the owner.
"They've been doing buildings this tall out of wood in Canada and Europe for some time," Anyeley Hallova, the developer, told the Business Tribune.
The City of Portland conducted a design review and OK'd the building for the way it meets land use code and how it interacts with the public street. The State of Oregon, because the project was going through a special performance-based review, was innovative and doesn't follow prescribe code, reviewed our drawings and conducted that review."
Right now project^ is finalizing financing and the architect is doing a lot of drawings. The drawings need to be done sooner than with a conventional building because they get sent to the mill where the timber is pressed into panels and cut out to exact specifications. Constructing the building is more an act of assembly, with very little measurement done on site.
"All the details that go into the building have to be put into a 3D model, which is very different than ordering raw wood or concrete."
Hallova says it's hard to say how far toward completion it is. By the calendar, work began in September 2015, construction should start this fall and be complete in 14 months, towards the end of 2018.
"But most projects don't have R&D. Typically you fund, design and construct a project. On this we have gone through R and D. This is like two projects."
Blue sky thinking
Thomas Robinson, the project architect and principal of LEVER Architecture, told the Business Tribune that the biggest deal is that this is the first all-mass timber high rise to be permitted in the U.S.
"We're also interested in an opportunity to create a new kind of architectural language, one that leverages renewable resources and connects to economic development in rural areas."
He adds that many of the tests that the wood went through last October at Portland State University and Oregon State University have never been done anywhere in the world.
"The west coast is going to lead this effort. Partially because the forests are here and the manufacturing is here. Partly because in the Bay Area, Seattle and Los Angeles, there's an interest in this type of construction. It's a sustainable way of building, using renewable resources and sequestering carbon."
As an architect, his Framework tasks are not complete.
"I feel like we achieved what we set out to achieve. Next we have a lot of work with contracts, with mechanical systems and with Walsh Construction. We're done with the construction documents, now we're doing coordination. No, it's not less work. It's never less work!"
Wood for the win
According to a release, the state is betting heavily on CLT to revive the timber industry.
"The innovations in wood construction that are part of the design of the Framework building will help change how America builds in the years to come", noted Steve Lovett, CEO of the Softwood Lumber Board, a lumber industry organization which contributed $1 million to the R&D phase of the Framework project as part of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Competition. "Modern wood based building systems create opportunities to increase the use of wood products which is better for both the environment and rural communities," he added.
The Framework Project has completed extensive fire testing and computer modeling to demonstrate that select areas of wood in the Framework building can be exposed, adding to the overall aesthetic. Acoustic testing achieved the required sound insulation between apartment units. This is an innovative departure from other high-rise projects around the world, which typically cover all of the wood product with drywall to meet fire and acoustic requirements.
"It is no accident that a first-in-the-nation project like Framework would be built in Oregon," said Mark Long, Administrator, State of Oregon Building Codes Division.
"Oregon's unique building code system encourages innovation while ensuring projects comply with robust safety standards. We are proud to partner with local governments and industry on this and other groundbreaking projects."
When construction is complete, Framework will be the first high-rise building made from wood in the U.S; the tallest mass timber building in the U.S; and the tallest post-tensioned rocking wall project in the world.
"The Framework project is literally a laboratory for the revival of building with mass timber, an investment for which Oregonians will be grateful for many generations to come," said Valerie Johnson, President of D.R. Johnson. "The rural-urban divide in Oregon has existed too long. We hope our young people (in Douglas County) will now grow up believing there's a future for them doing this type of work. It is inspiring for all of us to know that all together we are providing a more environmentally friendly, lower carbon emitting, renewable and sustainable product for mass timber construction in urban areas."