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In early June, the Framework Project, LLC received approval for a building permit allowing construction of the first wood high-rise structure in the U.S. The permit, awarded by the State of Oregon and the City of Portland, designates Framework — a 12-story-tall wood resilient building planned for Portland’s Pearl District — as a “shovel ready” project, marking a landmark decision for the U.S. construction industry.

“Receiving a permit is a critical juncture for Framework and demonstrates the feasibility of using wood to build high-rise buildings in the U.S.,” said Anyeley Hallova, developer, project^. “With our path now clear to start building, Framework will start to unlock the demand for mass timber products at all scales, justifying new investment into rural manufacturing and job creation.”

Framework, stemming from a collaboration between project^, Home Forward, Albina Community Bank, and Beneficial State Bank, aims to develop a pioneering model for a sustainable urban-rural ecology by promoting sustainable building practices and economic opportunity in rural Oregon and ultimately across the U.S.

Structural model. Image: courtesy of LEVER Architecture

The official permit approves a regulatory pathway for Framework and, potentially, similar projects within the U.S. The building permit for Framework was approved following completion of a performance-based review process that included a series of fire, acoustic, and structural tests and oversight by an expert peer review team. The tests, which were carried out over several months in 2016, have proven that buildings constructed with mass timber, including cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glu-laminated timber (glulam), can perform to fire and life safety requirements and, in some cases, exceed current standards.

Seismic tests conducted on behalf of the Framework Project at Portland State University and at Oregon State University have been completed to validate Framework’s resilient structural design, which goes above and beyond the basic life safety requirements of the building code. This included full-scale tests on the project’s primary beam-to-column connection, along with tests on the CLT shear wall panels to be used in the completed building. Structural seismic damage following a major earthquake is expected to be limited to replaceable “fuses,” which should allow for the building to be quickly repaired and limit downtime relative to conventional structures.

“The innovations in wood construction that are part of the design of the Framework building will help change how America builds in the years to come,” said Steve Lovett, CEO of the Softwood Lumber Board, a lumber industry organization that contributed $1 million to the research and development phase of the Framework project as part of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Competition. “Modern wood-based building systems create opportunities to increase the use of wood products, which is better for both the environment and rural communities.”

Mass timber beam-to-column seismic testing at Portland State University.
Photo: courtesy of KPFF Consulting Engineers

Fire tests also provided proof that a mass timber assembly using CLT and glulam timber can be used safely as high-rise construction materials within the U.S. and meet stringent fire code requirements. In addition, the Framework project has completed extensive fire testing and computer modeling to demonstrate that select areas of wood in the Framework building can be exposed, adding to the overall aesthetic. Acoustic testing was also utilized to develop a solution that achieved the required sound insulation between apartment units. This is a departure from other high-rise projects around the world, which typically cover all of the wood product with drywall to meet fire and acoustic requirements.

“It is no accident that a first-in-the-nation project like Framework would be built in Oregon. Oregon’s unique building code system encourages innovation while ensuring projects comply with robust safety standards. We are proud to partner with local governments and industry on this and other groundbreaking projects,” said Mark Long, administrator, State of Oregon Building Codes Division.

“The Framework project is literally a laboratory for the revival of building with mass timber, an investment for which Oregonians will be grateful for many generations to come,” said Valerie Johnson, president of D.R. Johnson. “The rural-urban divide in Oregon has existed too long. We hope our young people (in Douglas County) will now grow up believing there’s a future for them doing this type of work. It is inspiring for all of us to know that all together we are providing a more environmentally friendly, lower carbon-emitting, renewable and sustainable product for mass timber construction in urban areas.”


Information provided by The Framework Project, LLC                                  (www.frameworkportland.com).

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