Take a walk through one of the first mass timber buildings going up in Utah

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Heralded as a way to reduce the emissions of construction, speed up projects and, frankly, make them look more attractive, mass timber construction is spreading across the U.S.

It is arriving in Utah, in the Draper section of Silicon Slopes. 

The Gardner Group is underway with a new six-story commercial building on the corner of Future Way and Highland. It is being heralded as among the first modern mass timber buildings in the Beehive State, but not the last.

Salt Lake City is likely to see mass timber projects in the near future, and builders are likely to continue pitching mass timber projects throughout the region. So Building Salt Lake took a tour of the Gardner’s project in Draper alongside a team of architects and others in the industry.

Mass timber construction essentially involves buildings made from pieces of cross-laminated timber (CLT) glued together into beams and panels that are all used to construct the buildings. The wood is laid out in varying directions to enforce each component’s strength.

States have been moving to update building codes to allow for bigger buildings made out of mass timber, acknowledging its potential benefits for efficiency and sustainability.

The method cuts down on the use of steel and cement, which are both energy-intensive to create. Rather than steel or cement pillars and beams, the building will have exposed wood throughout the building.

It also means that virtually no cutting or sawing is needed — the panels and beams arrive pre-assembled. Construction crews then fit it into place with the necessary bolts and steel reinforcement 

That means that, if the panels are manufactured correctly before they’re shipped, crews can quickly assemble each level of the building. (Okland Construction teams are working at a pace of about one level every 10 days.)

Construction Details

  • Owner: Gardner Company
  • Architect: Method Studio
  • Construction: Okland Construction
  • Structural Engineers: BHB Structural
  • Civil Engineers: Ensign
  • Landscaping: ArcSitio

The result, at least in the case of the Gardner building, is a building with wide open spaces for office tenants, tall ceilings and attractive wood finishes from floor to ceiling.

Construction via mass timber isn’t necessarily less expensive than conventional methods, and because it’s a newer practice teams are likely to run into issues explaining which building codes apply in different scenarios.

The building itself will have environmental benefits. That doesn’t account for the fact that virtually all employees will have to drive a car to get to it. (Draper station is about five miles northwest, on the other side of the ever-expanding Bangerter Highway and Interstate 15.) 

The two levels of parking even influenced the design of the building, with engineers working on a grid of 30-feet by 30-feet, rather than 24-foot grid, as a result of the parking layout.

But if suburban greenfield is to be developed near the area branded Silicon Slopes, mass timber is a way to make the building stand out while advancing the conversation around design and construction at the same time.

And more projects will create a kind of hive mind that teams (and cities) can benefit from as more projects are built. BHB Structural led the tour last week, with team leaders answering questions about unique design challenges and engineering novelties.

Sugar House is likely to see a mid-rise mass timber project in the coming years. Harbor Bay recently closed on the Wells Fargo building at 1095 E. 2100 S. in the heart of Sugar House with plans to construct a mass timber mixed-use building on the site.

Scroll through photos of the Gardner Company’s mass timber project in Draper.

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Building Salt Lake Pro and Premium Members can search for any building permit in Salt Lake City. Stay in the know in the market by becoming a Member today.

Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.