- The city of Milwaukee Plan Commission and the Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee have unanimously approved changes to New Land Enterprises' Ascent residential project that will add height, parking space and residential units to the tall wood project. Thornton Tomasetti is the structural engineer.
- In a letter to the committee, Rocky Marcoux, executive secretary of the Plan Commission, said the changes were driven by a redesign of the parking area that required an increase in "solid wall area" to comply with energy codes.
- The building as now designed will offer up 231 residences, an increase of 26 units, and 50 additional parking spaces, bringing the total to 310. The changes also take the structure from 21 stories to 23 but add only 9 feet, according to city documents. The more than 8,100 square feet of ground-floor commercial space was not affected by the changes.
Despite the International Code Council and some U.S. jurisdictions incorporating tall wood structures into their building codes, some in the construction and design industries are still unsure about the safety of tall wood structures when it comes to fire.
Bill Parsons, a licensed engineer and vice president of operations at WoodWorks, which provides education around wood buildings, as well as free support for those developers pursuing tall wood projects, said that once completed, projects like the Ascent will help change that perception.
"Having built projects in the U.S. will eventually take away the novelty and reinforce that tall wood buildings are held to the same standards for safety and performance as buildings made from other materials," Parsons told Construction Dive. "This is happening in Europe, where tall wood buildings have been built for many years."
A recent report from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat said there would be 21 tall wood buildings in Europe by the end of 2019.
Judging by attendance at WoodWorks' education events, use of the organization's technical resources and the number of those asking for project support, Parsons said, interest in tall wood buildings has continued to grow, so much so that WoodWorks recently brought on an in-house tall wood expert to meet the demand for information and support.
Completing these buildings will likely add even more industry legitimacy to tall wood projects like the Ascent.
"More buildings will add to a greater collective sense that these buildings are allowed by code, can achieve building official approval and are viable from design, construction and cost perspectives," Parsons said.
Mass timber may also become more prevalent in the industry thanks to additional capacity coming on stream from investor darling Katerra, which is opening a 29-acre, 270,000-square-foot factory that will produce cross-laminated timber.