Building the Future: Catalyst Construction Leads the Mass Timber Revolution

Advancements in construction technology have led to a categorically unique building material that is quickly establishing a major foothold in the industry. Mass timber is showing the world that its strength and stability are every bit as safe and reliable as its more traditional steel and concrete counterparts, and even more cost effective. That show of strength and stability, as well as of mass timber’s design flexibility and environmental sustainability, is causing a complete paradigm shift that is changing public perception about what was long believed to be the comparatively limited construction capability of wood. Since 2013 in the continental United States alone there are more than 700 construction projects for commercial, institutional, multi-use buildings that have either already been completed or are in design including high profile projects like the T3 office building in Minneapolis, Carbon 12 – a cross-laminated timber (CLT) luxury condominium complex in Portland, Oregon, and The Ascent residential tower in Milwaukee, slated to be the tallest wood frame structure in North America and one of the MTF projects in Catalyst Construction’s ever-expanding mass timber portfolio.

Mass timber is arguably the most exciting and innovative building material in the history of modern industrial construction and it’s a technology that is still in its infancy. Companies around the world are learning about and taking advantage of the myriad benefits of MTF systems and Catalyst Construction is at the forefront of the revolution.

The ‘What’ Of Mass Timber?

Mass Timber Framing (MTF) is an alternative structural framing system that can be used in place of a CIP Concrete, Structural Steel, or conventional wood framing system. In other words, mass timber is essentially a classification of building framing styles that uses large solid wood panels for roof, floor, and wall construction. It is a system that is taking the construction industry by storm and revolutionizing the way buildings of all sizes are designed and erected largely due to the irresistible benefits that mass timber provides.

The ‘Why’ Of Mass Timber?

Mass timber products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) are becoming increasingly attractive to owners and developers for their aesthetic quality, structural performance, and opportunity for innovation. But the reasons for mass timber’s rising star don’t stop there.

  • Sustainability: Mass timber offers a renewable and sustainable alternative to its more fossil-fuel intensive industry counterparts. Buildings constructed from wood become what researchers refer to as a “carbon sink”, in that they perform in much the same way that trees do in terms of their carbon engagement. Trees “inhale” CO2 as they grow and, chemically speaking, they lock that carbon away. The wood in a mass timber framed structure keeps that carbon sealed within itself until the wood degrades or the building is destroyed. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry, the substitution of steel and concrete with mass timber products in large-scale construction projects can reduce global CO2 emissions by as much as 31%.
  • Market Uniqueness: By being left exposed, the wood beams, columns, and panels used in mass timber frame buildings provides a differentiating finish palette for a uniquely attractive aesthetic. Additionally, numerous studies focusing on wood’s biophilic benefits have found direct correlations between the use of exposed wood in commercial, residential, and medical-use structures and improved physical and psychological health and well-being among occupants who live and work in those buildings.
  • Speed to Market and Cost Reduction: Mass timber framing systems are able to go up faster than other traditional material systems, with MTF projects able to be constructed approximately 25% faster than similar projects that use concrete and/or steel. Moreover, mass timber projects have seen as much as a 90% reduction in construction traffic – that is, in the number and frequency of industrial vehicles delivering materials – as well as up to 75% fewer workers, making for a much quieter and more efficient work site. All of this increased efficiency inevitably leads to a substantial overall project cost reduction and healthier bottom line for owners and developers.

So Where Does Catalyst Construction Fit Into All Of This?

Catalyst Construction’s market-leading knowledge of and experience with mass timber has involved in-depth, comprehensive research of every national and international supplier in the mass timber market from Japan to North America in a knowledge procurement process that has made us the leader in MTF construction proficiency, competence, and know-how. The team at Catalyst has properly and accurately vetted and priced various mass timber systems for a number of construction projects including the Timberlofts, Milwaukee’s very first mass timber building that opened in Spring of 2020, and The Ascent, a 25-story apartment tower that when finished will be the tallest timber building in North America.

In June of 2018, Catalyst Construction was selected by New Land Enterprises to provide preconstruction and construction services on The Ascent project and led the product selection process. Catalyst’s preconstruction team worked with Thornton Tomasetti and Korb Architecture to research, vet, and select the suppliers and erectors of Ascent’s mass timber frame. Upon its completion in 2021, the complex will include 265 apartments and a “wellness floor” that will feature a pool with fully operable windows, a sauna, steam room, and an entertainment center. The top floor will feature a resident amenity level with two outdoor decks, fire pits, grilling stations, a clubhouse, kitchen, and a co-working space.

Mass Timber Framing is a new and rapidly growing technology that offers unprecedented structural solutions and overall construction benefits that could potentially make steel and concrete construction systems obsolete. As an emerging technology, it is one with which people both inside and outside the industry do not have much familiarity. While most construction firms in southeastern Wisconsin are just now getting to know this innovative new framing system, Catalyst Construction has been staying ahead of the curve by expanding its knowledge of the technology and methodology involved with mass timber. This knowledge, along with a network of product suppliers and the firm’s leadership on a growing list of mass timber projects, gives Catalyst an authoritative voice in the world of MTF systems, which means we can provide sound, trustworthy guidance at the critical initial design and selection phase of your construction project.

Is mass timber the right solution for your next construction project? In all likelihood, the answer is probably a resounding yes! To find out more about the benefits of mass timber framing system and how you can take advantage of the structural, aesthetic, and financial benefits of this emerging and rapidly proliferating technology, reach out to us by calling our main office in downtown Milwaukee at 414-727-6840.

Construction Begins on the World’s Tallest Timber Tower