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Achieving Sustainability Goals with CLT Building Projects

by Emily Langner

On season 2, episode 13 of the Build Better podcast, Anastasia talked with Marc Perras, associate principal at Jones Architecture, and Jon Rossini, project manager at Bond Building Construction, about the new $23 million, 33,000sf building for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA), located on Main Street in Brockton, Mass.

Marc Perras

The building is the Commonwealth’s first project of this scale, using only public funds, to use cross-laminated timber (CLT) in its construction. Perras and Rossini talked about the sustainable design elements of the DUA building, and how CLT can be used to achieve sustainability goals in a variety of construction projects.

Perras explained that CLT is two-by-fours (or the metric equivalent) stacked perpendicular to each other which, he says, “gives it tremendous spanning strength.” This makes it a good choice for floor slabs, walls, and roof slabs. Rossini added that CLT is ideal for rectangular sites like the DUA building.

A major goal of the project was to create a sustainable building, containing flexible workspaces, that increases the ambiance of what these work environments are typically like. The upgraded interior ambiance created by the natural look of the exposed wood adds to occupant well-being and employee retention, Perras said, essentially reinventing a prototype for office workspace in the Commonwealth.

Jon Rossini

According to Perras, CLT’s real asset is in embodied energy and carbon reduction. The notable qualities of CLT are that it is inherently renewable (about one-third the embodied energy of steel and one-fifth the embodied energy of concrete), and its reduced carbon footprint. Energy use reduction in the DUA building was achieved through natural lighting and advanced mechanical systems.

Rossini commented that the success of this unique project was due in large part to the total buy in from all parties and the extensive planning and coordination process. The team’s research on this particular site in the early stages gave them confidence that CLT was a good fit for this project. He said the DUA building is already being used as an example of how CLT can be utilized in future sustainable building projects.

“It was really a team effort, Rossini said. “Everyone was pushing forward for the same goal and was excited to be a part of this and it really shone through in the final project.”

Perras said he noticed that, during construction, the consultants and engineers were intrigued by the challenge of designing their building systems to work with the structural systems of the building. “There was something about the use of this new structural material – and I think that there’s a craftsmanship that goes along with it – that I have not experienced on other buildings,” he commented. “There was an enormous pride in the way this building went together.”

Emily Langner is editor at High-Profile Monthly.