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JSD Tackles Tallest Timber Tower in the World

Is mass timber the future of construction? JSD can certainly share its unique perspective being part of Ascent’s 25-story TIMBER building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The building will go down in the books as the tallest timber tower at 283+ feet, moving the Mjostarnet Tower in Norway to #2 at 277+ feet.

Located at 700 E. Kilbourn Avenue in Milwaukee, the project was a two-year journey to complete the issuance of permits, while drawing attention from worldwide engineers, architects and investors. JSD, in partnership with New Land Enterprises, led the way on the existing property with surveying and civil site design. This included the demolition plan for the existing restaurant and parking lot, grading design, utility design, and landscaping design. The major challenge early on with this timber tower was coordinating all the access points to the building on this sloped site, as the building footprint is encompassing a majority of the property. The site has an approximate three-foot change in grade from one corner to another, so door and interior floor elevations had to be varied to match existing sidewalk elevations. Special attention had to also be given to the design at interfaces with neighboring properties, which are built right up to the property lines.

As the project broke ground in August, 2020, the unique construction will feature digitally designed timberpanels, estimated to shave about four months off construction time, require fewer people on site, and reduce emissions associated withconstruction. Anticipated completion date is Summer 2022, with residential space already being pre-leased.

Interestingly, there are many advantages of using timber as opposed to steel or concrete. From an engineering perspective, mass timber performs better than other building materials in earthquake, wind conditions and even fire (the timber chars on the outside, forming an insulating barrier that protects interior wood.) In addition, wood is lighter and stronger meaning buildings can build taller witha smaller footprint as is the case with this project.

Environmentally, wood buildings are sourced from a sustainably managed forest, meaning that if the wood dies on the forest floor it releases carbon. By building with it, we're essentially trapping that carbon in the structure. Additionally, mass timber is prefabricated and delivered to the site ready for assembly, resulting in about 90% less construction traffic, reducing emissions and creating a safer worksite.

A six-story podium at the base of the structure will house retail, parking, lobby, and amenity space. The remainder of the structure will house 259 luxury apartments and a 7th floor wellness/pool area with retractable glass walls, poolside kitchen/bar, sauna, steam room, fitness center, wellness studios and more! The rooftop amenity space features sky decks, a wine tasting room, lounges, and even an outdoor movie screen.

The project has been presented at the 2018 international CTBUH conference in Dubai, the 2019 international CTBUH conference in Chicago, the 2019 International Mass Timber conference in Portland, and has been featured by publications across the globe. Check out the renderings by Korb + Associates Architects, and click here to see the full brochure of this record-breaking timber building!

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