Guest Post by Jared Hoeflich, VP and Division Manager at Swinerton

Mass timber as a construction alternative is growing as companies learn of its many benefits.

The United States’ Pacific Northwest region was the earliest to adopt the practice of constructing with mass timber/cross-laminated timber (or CLT). According to WoodWorks, at the close of 2022, 1,677 mass timber projects were either constructed or in design throughout the US as a result of businesses seeking sustainability aspects, along with biophilic virtues and, in some instances, savings of time and cost.

Swinerton’s commitment to mass timber began in 2016 with the design, permitting and construction of the then-largest mass timber office building in the U.S., which was delivered 4 months faster at a 4% cost savings compared to structural steel.

Seeing demand swell for this sustainable, biophilic product, Swinerton launched Timberlab in 2020, a holistic provider of mass timber systems with in-house timber engineering, procurement, fabrication and installation services, to projects across the United States. Not only has Timberlab in partnership with Swinerton built a reputation for taking on and successfully delivering some of the most challenging mass timber projects in the country, but this sister company also partners with timber suppliers certified by the most robust sustainable forest management programs making its eligible for Living Building Challenge certification.

Campbell Global Headquarters, Portland, Ore. Photo: Jon Meyers

Why Turn to Mass Timber?

The growing affinity towards building with mass timber can be attributed to many trends and innate benefits.

  • Employers interested in bringing employees back into the office seek to create a warm, relaxing environment that eases stress and creates a happier, healthier, more appealing work environment.
  • Sustainability is front and center for many corporations. Mass timber construction not only minimizes carbon footprints and improves indoor air quality but is also a sustainable resource – unlike steel and concrete.
  • Mass timber can reduce construction timelines by as much as 25%, particularly relevant in today’s market pummeled with supply chain delays and labor shortages.
  • Mass timber construction can expedite project delivery by up to 20%, often at lower or more competitive cost points relative to concrete and steel structures.
  • As mass timber structures are fully prefabricated – each CLT panel is customized for a specific location based on a 3D model – the need for onsite cutting is eliminated, saving significant resources and time, preserving quality and ensuring a safe environment.

Mass timber environments also benefit employees.

Studies show that mass timber buildings create happier, more productive and healthier work environments. The physiological impact of touching wood has been shown to reduce sympathetic nervous activity and blood pressure – a phenomenon not experienced with any other building material.

Harder Mechanical Contractors Headquarters, Portland, Ore. Photo: Quanta Collectiv

A 2018 study by Forest and Wood Products Australia, “Workplaces: Wellness + Wood = Productivity,” found that wood is correlated with higher levels of concentration, improved mood and personal productivity. A study by the University of British Columbia, “Wood in the Human Environment: Restorative Properties of Wood in the Built Indoor Environment,” concluded that “wood provides stress-reducing effects similar to the well-studied effect of exposure to nature in the field of environmental psychology.”

Ultimately, these physiological influencers that accompany a more natural work environment also benefit the bottom lines and overall financial health of companies that deploy this workplace strategy. Happier workforces tend to log fewer sick days and remain loyal to the organization resulting in less turnover.

And, without a doubt, companies benefit from a high-performing, more productive workforce.

Banner image: First Tech Federal Credit Union Headquarters, Hillsboro, Ore. Photo credit: Jeremy Bitterman

Jared Hoeflich is a VP and Division Manager at Swinerton