Moving forward with structural innovation

“For developers keen to use cross-laminated timber, the failure in March of CLT panels at a project on Oregon State University’s campus has been met with a widespread shrug.

CLT is being used for a number of Portland-area projects, some with material from D.R. Johnson, the Southern Oregon supplier at the heart of the OSU incident.

For its proponents, CLT offers an attractive combination of warm aesthetics, a buy-local economic story and shorter construction schedules. Developers who are using the products say they are satisfied D.R. Johnson has fixed the issues that caused the material to reportedly delaminate at Peavy Hall in Corvallis.

Key Development’s Block 76 West project, near the Burnside Bridge’s east end, is using CLT materials from D.R. Johnson.

“We did not have any reluctance to go with D.R. Johnson,” said Claudia Munk-von Flotow, chief operating officer of Key Development. “They’ve been great to work with.”

The Block 76 West project, formerly known as SideYard, will have 23,569 square feet of space over five floors. Office users are being sought for the top floors, Flotow said. Key Development is in talks with the owners of Hood River’s Ferment Brewing Co. and Camp 1805 Distillery to open tasting rooms in the building.

Andersen Construction is building the project based on a design from Skylab Architecture.

District Office, a Central Eastside Industrial District project from Beam Development and Urban Development + Partners, will also use CLT from D.R. Johnson.

“It’s a positive connection between the urban economy and rural economy here in Oregon, and aesthetically, it’s more compelling,” said Jonathan Malsin, a principal at Beam Development.

Hacker, which designed District Office, will itself occupy 20,000 square feet in the six-floor, 110,000-square-foot building. Andersen Construction is building the project.

Beam Development was already interested in CLT, Malsin said, before a suggestion was made that it be used for District Office.

“We’ve been keen on using CLT for a while now,” he said. “When we started planning the project with Hacker (officials), they proposed it.”

The OSU incident did not dissuade the District Office project team from using D.R. Johnson’s CLT.

“We did our due diligence,” Malsin said. “We remain thrilled to be working with them and are confident in their ability to deliver.”

Brandon Brown, a Portland developer, also did not hesitate to use CLT materials on the Flatiron building. Construction of the six-floor, approximately 25,000-square-foot office project is wrapping up, with completion expected by Nov. 1.

CLT was more appropriate for the building, with its envelope reaching the triangular lot’s boundaries, Brown said.

“The wood performs in a much better way than concrete for that specific design,” he said.

Brown also favored the aesthetics of CLT.

“Part of the driver was just the warmth the wood brings to the feel of the buildings,” he said. “That’s something that concrete just doesn’t allow for.”

Works Progress Architecture designed the Flatiron building; Abbott Construction is serving as general contractor.

D.R. Johnson, based in Riddle, offers regional ties and a feel-good story for local projects looking to support Oregon’s timber industry. But the company does have competitors, such as Structurlam of British Columbia, in addition to traditional concrete-and-steel construction. Structurlam provided CLT to First Tech Federal Credit Union’s newly opened 156,000-square-foot office building in Hillsboro.

D.R. Johnson did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Not every CLT proposal has moved forward. Most notably, Framework from Portland’s Project^ was halted in July after the 12-story proposal attracted a range of grants and months of publicity. Project^ blamed escalating construction costs, fluctuating tax-credit markets and inflation.

In August, Oregon issued new building codes for CLT structures. Known as the Statewide Alternative Method, the codes are drawn from the 2021 International Building Code and allow for tall wood construction.”

Chuck Slothower, Daily Journal of Commerce