North America’s Tallest Mass Timber Building: Design and Technical Challenges

Jason Korb
Principal Architect
Korb + Associates Architects, Milwaukee

As developers in our cities continue to build taller buildings, and our resources become more precious, architects and engineers are looking to new technologies and sustainable materials to create novel and humane buildings for our skylines. Mass timber construction, while technically an old technology, is generating new interest as a possible structural solution for tall buildings worldwide.

The advantages of mass-timber are well documented: the method of construction utilizes a renewable resource, can source local materials, sequesters large amounts of carbon, and supports healthy indoor air quality. Mass timber is much lighter than steel or concrete construction, requiring less substantial foundations. It can be prefabricated off-site and is faster to construct, and when properly designed it performs as well or better than traditional systems in fire, earthquake and wind conditions.

Modern mass timber structures have become relatively common in Europe, but have only recently been gaining traction in North America. Worldwide, mass timber structures are now being explored as potential solutions for the construction of high-rise residential buildings. In the United States, recently adopted building codes have opened the door for this structural system.

One of the more ambitious high-rise timber proposals currently being developed is the 21-story Ascent mixed-use tower in Milwaukee, US. This presentation describes the project's history, design process, technical challenges, and the design team's interaction with authorities having jurisdiction.

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation