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Industry & Trends

Mass Timber: Are Wood Buildings the Next Frontier for Sustainability?

A new University of Washington campus building that uses Mass Timber construction could represent the future of new carbon offset practices.

A pilot program at the University of Washington that uses Mass Timber construction could represent the future of new carbon offset practices.  The program sold offsets against the carbon stored in the structure of a new campus building.

As reported by Bloomberg Green, “Founders Hall, at the school’s Foster School of Business, is estimated to have a carbon footprint one-quarter the size of a conventional concrete building’s thanks in large part to its mass timber structure.” Designed by LMN Architects, the 85,000-square-foot building, which opened last fall, combines offices, lecture halls and gathering spaces.

Bloomberg reported that Founders Hall is “forecasted to have a 76% [smaller] carbon footprint relative to a traditional concrete-steel structure” over the next 60 years or so, according to Frank Hodge, dean of the university’s Foster School of Business. Some of that comes from building features to conserve energy and water, he said, but “a big part of it is building with mass timber.”

The new building’s beams, columns and central staircase uses mass timber engineered wood that, according to the report, “locks in carbon dioxide digested by Pacific Northwest trees and should keep it out of the atmosphere for decades or longer.”

The university worked with Aureus Earth, a Boulder, CO-based climate tech company, which sold $150,000 of Founders Hall carbon offsets to a group of timber industry supporters and private foundations. Since the purchasers then gifted that money back to the school, Aureus Earth described the transaction in public filings as a “proof of concept.”

“This is a way for us to show how this can be done,” Hodge told Bloomberg, “and hopefully in our small way, start a movement about how we can use a product that does not have as big a carbon footprint to build buildings.” 

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