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US Forest Service Wood Innovation Report

Perhaps the most in-depth body of research we’ve been a part of to date on Mass Timber uses comes from the United States Forest Service Wood Innovation Report: Multi-Story Mass Timber K-12 Schools published by Mahlum Architects. Completed in conjunction with Mahlum Architects, structural engineer Fast + Epp, mass timber supplier Vaagen Timbers, PAE Engineers, and acoustical engineer Arup, the team selected Sequim School District as their “client”. Mahlum began down this road by asking some questions amongst themselves about why mass timber was not being utilized in the construction of K-12 schools in Washington State. Questions such as: “Was the lack of mass timber schools related to cost? Or structural design? Or maybe the concept of multi-story, mass timber K-12 schools is just too new and therefore perceived as too risky?”

Bringing on Walsh senior project manager, JJ Powell, and assembling the other team of experts, the report: “explores the use of mass timber to deliver exceptional K-12 educational spaces in Washington State that are cost-effective, resource-efficient, and low carbon. The primary focus of the grant is to study the feasibility of tall, multi-story (up to 3-stories) classroom buildings in Washington State with applicability across the Pacific Northwest as well as other regions of the U.S.

While finding that mass timber can be a cost-competitive option to the traditional steel frame construction, it was also found that mass timber can simply appear more expensive because the cost estimating was not done with a holistic approach. Through thoughtful value engineering options, simple detailing, efficient use of wood, and quantifying deviations in the design approach between mass timber and steel – the cost gap can be closed.

Within the 117-page report, readers can explore the thought behind these conclusions and learn from the team more about the approach and research. As responsible stewards of our community and a company that lives its values, continuing to provide our clients with the best quality, most cost-effective projects possible is at the heart of our operation. We seek to learn and improve with this in mind, while taking care of our earth. If you are curious about the viability of mass timber use in your next project, please reach out and we can talk you through it.