- The country's first large-scale, mass timber residence hall project is under construction at the University of Arkansas (UA) — the Stadium Drive Residence Halls, according to Building Design + Construction.
- The more-than-700-bed, two-building complex, The Arkansas Traveler reported, will cost up to $78 million and is designed as a living-learning-environment with retail food options, meeting rooms, a kitchen, communal living spaces and a laundry. Exposed structural wood will be featured in student and study rooms, as well as in lounges and ground-floor common spaces.
- UA's board of trustees approved the project a little more than a year ago and is financing the construction through a combination of cash and bonds. The project is scheduled for completion in Fall 2019.
The current world's tallest mass timber building also happens to be a residence hall — the University of British Columbia's (UBC) $39 million, 18-story Brock Commons Tallwood House. According to UBC, the building opened to students in July 2017, which was slightly earlier than its previous completion target date of September.
In addition to the prefabricated wood components, which took only 70 days to install from the date of delivery, the tower also has a concrete foundation, two concrete stair cores, steel connectors and a roof with steel beams and decking. Sustainability also came into play at Brock Commons, with UBC officials claiming that the residence hall's carbon footprint reduction has the same impact as putting 500 cars out of commission for a year.
The mass timber discussion typically turns to safety, particularly when wood features prominently in a structure used for housing. In fact, Sandy Springs, GA, officials, citing safety concerns, banned the use of wood last year in the construction of all multifamily buildings more than three stories high and larger than 100,000 square feet.
Proponents of mass-timber products, however, maintain that they are resistant to fire and char rather than burn, protecting the wood underneath with the charred outer layer. This allows the wood members to preserve up to 90% of their strength, according to wood industry advocates, and gives adequate time for the occupants to evacuate a building.
Financial risk is also a factor when it comes to choosing building materials. According to a study paid for by the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, wood buildings are more expensive to insure, which reflects a belief on the part of the insurance industry that wood buildings are a bigger risk. The study determined that builder's risk and commercial property insurance premiums for concrete buildings cost up to 72% less and up to 65% less, respectively, than those for wood buildings.