Growing to New Heights: Creative Solutions for a Tall Wood Build in Milwaukee

Fadi Al Shakhshir
Director - Strategy & Compliance
Emaar Properties, Dubai

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, New Land Enterprises is growing a mass timber tower with the conviction that this construction type will be higher performing than other structural systems with respect to beauty, comfort, environmental impact, and market demand. The Ascent tower, currently in design phase and slated to begin construction in January 2020, will stand 247 feet tall and encompass 17 stories of mass timber housing above six stories of concrete parking. The 273,000 square feet of mass timber will support 231 residential units featuring exposed wood columns, beams, and ceilings.

Preconstruction efforts by Swinerton Mass Timber, the turnkey trade partner for the structural frame, involved key decisions that influence the viability and cost-effectiveness of a timber solution, including construction type and code-compliance; unit plans and the supporting structural grid layout, orientation, and sizing; timber connection details; and methods for achieving required fire resistance ratings. Procurement strategies for timber components and associated accessories, as well as structural and fire performance characteristics of different species of wood are major cost drivers that impact the relative competetiveness of European, Canadian and American manufacturers. A multi-trade BIM coordination effort is required to maximize prefabrication potential, construction means and methods, and the anticipated construction schedule for what should be the tallest mass timber building in the United States.

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