New Beacon Hill Classrooms Built from Innovative Wood Panels

New Beacon Hill Classrooms Built from Innovative Wood Panels

Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz recently joined in celebrating the start of construction for a new classroom building made of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). The site is Maple Elementary School in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.

The classrooms are part of a statewide pilot project overseen by the Department of Enterprise Services to build classrooms and pioneer the use of CLT in Washington State. The Seattle School District is one of five districts building classrooms from CLT for kindergarten through third graders. Four new classrooms will open for Maple Elementary students at the start of the 2017-18 school year. The design-build team for the classrooms was led by Walsh Construction Co. with Mahlum Architects.

CLT is a promising new product that’s engineered by crisscrossing and fusing layers of wood. It is remarkably strong and stable and is notable because it can be made from smaller-diameter trees like those harvested as part of forest-thinning and restoration projects.

“Cross Laminated Timber is a win across the board,” comments Commissioner Franz. “When produced from responsibly-harvested trees, CLT creates jobs in rural economies, supports healthy forests, gives architects and builders a beautiful new building material and can provide our kids with inspiring new spaces for learning. Our mission at the Department of Natural Resources is to be a steward of our state’s lands, strengthen our rural economies and support vital community infrastructure like schools. CLT is a product that falls perfectly in line with those values and we at DNR couldn’t be more hopeful about CLT’s potential.”

The state’s 2016 supplemental capital budget included $5.5 million in the state building construction account for a CLT pilot project, which in addition to constructing classrooms at five schools around the state will measure how well how using the engineered wood product creates efficiencies in the construction process, and achieves other environmental and economic benefits.

“The Seattle School District is pleased to be a pilot site for the Cross Laminated Timber classrooms,” says Flip Herndon, the District’s Associate Superintendent for Capital, Facilities, and Enrollment Planning. “With our burgeoning enrollment, we urgently need more classroom space. Plus, seeing this beautiful material, it’s clear that children will enjoy being around it.”

Research has shown that natural wood generates positive psychological responses, improving mental and physical health of students. All load-bearing walls in the classroom buildings will be constructed from CLT and the material will be left exposed to view from the interior.

“It’s been exhilarating to create designs using this new material, said Joe Mayo of Mahlum. “Given the way it can be prefabricated in huge panels, including apertures for doors and windows, it opens a whole new range of design possibilities.”

“Putting it together is a pleasure,” adds John Gilson of Walsh Construction. “Not only because of the ease of assembly, but because we know that we’re creating an uplifting environment for Seattle schoolkids.”

“We are happy to see the success of the CLT Classroom pilot projects thus far,” says Debra Delzell, project manager for the of Washington State’s Department of Enterprise Services. “Cross Laminated Timber has many applications beyond school classrooms. It is well suited for mid-rise office buildings, apartment construction and student housing. We are seeing that prefabricated panels are helpful in meeting short construction schedules. We look forward to future projects using CLT and learning more about its potential for both the economy and the environment.”

“We’ve been building with wood for thousands of years,” said Gene Duvernoy, President of Forterra. “Today is a demonstration of how, with visionary leadership, we in Washington can use wood to meet the needs of the 21st century—from giving children the room to learn to breathing new life into rural economies. Forterra is honored to help organize the coalition that’s makes it all possible.”

 

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