Last November, the Hines development company unveiled plans for a new office building in the North Loop section of Minneapolis. Seems like ordinary news, except that the building would be the first of its kind in the U.S to be made primarily of wood. The builders refer to the project as “T3” for “Timber, Technology and Transit.”
“This building is very unique,” the lead architect, Michael Green, told the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission earlier this month. “It is the first large-scale office building built of timber in America. It is part of a revitalization of century-old ideas of how to build buildings.”
At the federal level, the U.S. is encouraging the use of sustainable wood products in building. The MinnPost reports that Green says that wood grown sustainably has a smaller carbon footprint than concrete and steel. If this seven-story building were to go forward, it would include a foundation and a first floor made of concrete and steel and six stories of mass timber construction.
As Next City columnist Alexis Stephens reported in “Can Taller Buildings Make Toronto More Affordable?,” the province of Ontario recently relaxed height restrictions on wood-frame construction to encourage residential density.
In Minneapolis, the MinnPost notes, the city has been flexible:
Dan Callahan, supervisor of the city of Minneapolis’ plan review section, said he has had several meetings with the T3 team to talk through building code issues. The building would fit under code sections for heavy timber buildings. …
Callahan said he expects further meetings to get more information and to present the design team with other issues the city has before a formal permit application is received.
The city is building a track record of thinking big about resilience and the effects of climate change. Plans for a “city within a city” dubbed Prospect North, near the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus, include waste-powered energy and an on-site hydroponic farm.
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.