In today’s construction news, we will look into how an architect from Seattle contributed to the legalization of timber towers across the United States. On the other hand, women are essential to the success of the United States’ effort to manufacture chips. The administration of Vice President Joe Biden has high expectations that more women will follow Bell’s lead and pursue careers in the construction industry.
Timber Towers Legalized by a Seattle Architect
Original Source: How a Seattle Architect Helped Make Timber Towers Legal in the US
Susan Jones hopes to change the 20th-century construction paradigm.
A new housing complex in Seattle will be the first in the US to use mass timber—engineered, sturdy wood components—up to 85 feet, or eight or nine stories, when it opens in a few months. (A new category enables wood structures up to 18 stories with additional criteria.)
Susan Jones, its architect, considers it the culmination of a decade spent researching, creating with, and pushing for wood in modern construction. Seattle-based mass wood expert Jones operates atelierjones LLC. She used the material to build modular classrooms, a church sanctuary, and her home.
She helped design and conduct rigorous testing in 2017 to answer the concern that delayed mass timber’s adoption in the US years after it took off in Europe: Does it sustain fire? In full-scale mock apartments at a federal research lab, wood forms an exterior char layer that slows the fire and protects its center.
As Heartwood apartments reached completion, Bloomberg Green spoke to Jones. The interview was shortened and clarified.
How did you get into wood design?
Our first structural work as graduate students was a wooden pavilion. That was my only wood design assignment in graduate school.
Why Wood Is the Early 21st Century’s Breakout Architectural Star.
I revisited the concept of designing your own house later in my career. I remember how wood feels in a place from growing up in the Pacific Northwest in a little cabin my grandparents built in the San Juan Islands in the early 1950s and a house my parents constructed in the mid-1960s. I recall feeling and smelling the cedar on our living room walls. In 2010, 2011, and 2012, I was able to build my own house.
Heartwood is 126-unit workforce housing. It serves middle-class tenants. Community Roots Housing manages it. Their fundamental objective was deep affordability. Due of affordability, all their projects have been publicly sponsored. Apart for the $250,000 US Forest Service Wood Innovations award I was happy to receive in 2019, Heartwood received no public subsidies. Prefabrication and a fast building timetable should finish it in July.
Due to the lightness of wood, this eight-story building has a modest concrete foundation and a mass timber superstructure, save for the seismic bracing, which is steel.
Wood dominates the building, despite steel and concrete. Its carbon savings were calculated?
Our Heartwood mass timber building is being compared to a concrete building in a comparative lifecycle assessment. The University of Washington is undertaking lifecycle carbon footprint evaluations for both buildings. Our timber superstructure should cost 40% less than a concrete one. Jones explained that this excludes the mass timber superstructure’s trapped carbon. She predicted a net-negative carbon footprint.
How expensive was using timber extensively?
Probably a draw. Wood costs far more than concrete. To get those figures to work, you have to look at it holistically. But if you have the correct team, who understand the timber building as a holistic system and can clearly work toward the maximum prefabrication, the savings could arrive in a shorter construction schedule. If [lease] can happen early and you can have two extra months of rent, that really balances out the cost equation.
Who supplied the wood?
Our American competitors buy timber from Europe. As an architect, leaving Europe is difficult. The 1990s Northwest timber battles left Pacific Northwest forests full of wood. Mass timber can promote sustainable forest management.
I chose local providers early on. Our initiatives have been sourced from the 500-mile Cascadia biome, from southern British Columbia to southern Oregon. I’ll maintain it. The pricing is sometimes higher, but the benefits of being able to source within a 400-to-500-mile radius and visit companies and meet their owners—often two, three, or four generations—are incredible.
“The benefits of sourcing within 400-to-500 miles are extraordinary.”
They’re also enterprising and risky for their family-owned company. They understand woods.
You design buildings and update the model construction code, allowing taller timber buildings in jurisdictions that embrace it.
In 2016, the International Code Council sought mass timber architecture for its code committee. The AIA called. “Please apply,” they said. I’m not a coder. They were smart to not want me for my programming ability. My bulk timber building experience was sought. I had developed two western US timber projects. That was two more than most others.
Six of the 18-person committee were scared of fire safety experts. Listening to them talk about designing wooden high-rises that would burn down would make you cry. Their concern was clear.
To watch 18 individuals, including myself, gather around the table and honor the rule was fascinating. We collaborated for two-and-a-half years, including a year of fire tests, and were more successful than expected.
This building would survive a four-hour fire without sprinklers. You could do it again without burning it.
What is the mass timber supply chain? Do sawmills and specialist fabricators meet demand?
Today, probably not. But it’s changing fast. And dynamic. When I started obtaining bids for my house ten years ago, we had one factory west of the Mississippi and one east. We have additional suppliers and timber buildings. The forest capacity is there, but ensuring the wood is responsibly extracted is another issue.
We’re striving to be completely transparent about the wood’s origins, harvesting, and forest practices. We’re attempting to be straightforward, honest, and transparent about these buildings’ life cycle analyses. We’re still figuring it out, like the supply chain. We’re learning and researching.
The industry realized, “Wait a minute, we’re paying a lot of carbon to manufacture a lower-carbon building.”
Life Cycle analysis methods?
A building’s sustainable footprint. A sustainable building used to be LEED Platinum with very low operational carbon. The industry realized around five years ago: Wait a minute, we’re paying a lot of carbon to construct a lower-carbon building, right? Industry changes that rapidly.
What would North American mass timber look like in five years?
I hope we’re shifting construction’s 20th-century paradigm. We are permanently introducing a biophilic material with a smaller carbon footprint into the building sector.
U.S. chip manufacturing needs women
Natalie Bell was considering an art profession after graduation when a welding class and four pizza deliveries changed her mind.
Bell, from Columbus, Ohio, encountered an ironworker while delivering to a construction site. “Hello, are you searching for apprentices?” But I’m a welder. He answered, “Sure,” and handed me the ironworkers union number.”
Bell, 23, initially worried about acceptance.
“I was very scared during my interview because I thought they wouldn’t accept me. I’m a woman attempting to build. “I had no idea,” she said.
Bell, who joined the business in 2019, said construction has many hurdles but gives a wonderful lifestyle and health insurance.
“I live well… She stated she was traveling to Iceland in July because she could. I’ll go. I can travel annually. I don’t worry about medical bills because I have great insurance.”
The Biden administration hopes more women like Bell appreciate construction employment. The administration intends to hire a million more women in construction over the next decade to help build infrastructure and semiconductors. Federal regulations and industry developments will determine the success of that initiative.
In 2020, 1.2 million women worked in construction, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, while a University of Michigan investigation indicated that women have acquired jobs “at three times their share of the industry” since the epidemic.
Before the epidemic, Betsey Stevenson, an economist and professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan, and Benny Docter, a senior statistics and policy analyst, found that women were joining increasingly male-dominated fields. According to their analysis, women lost jobs in education and the service industry during the pandemic and returned to work in new occupations that reflect shifting market conditions.
Stevenson wrote in an email that women can be a valuable source of construction labor. Child care is crucial for women, but construction risks losing more male workers owing to child care disputes. The CHIPS Act’s child care regulations assure an adequate workforce for sponsored work.
Last year, President Joseph Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act to boost chip production, which is vital to the military and economy due to their use in cars and electronics. Intel is building a megaproject near Columbus, Ohio, using the bill’s $40 billion for plant construction. Yet, to earn federal incentives, corporations must provide inexpensive and high-quality child care to their employees, including plant construction workers.
Construction workers often have trouble finding affordable, high-quality child care because day centers operate after work. Single parents struggle with that.
Grecia Palomar, a 29-year-old single mother of two from Little Canada, Minnesota, taught drywall at Finishing Trades College of the Upper Midwest after seven years hanging drywall at Reshetar Systems, a commercial drywall and carpentry company. She only managed while her children were younger because her company let her arrive and work later.
Palomar said she hadn’t considered construction as a career until she moved back to Minnesota from Illinois with two small children. She required more than $8 an hour as a preschool teacher since one child needed occupational and speech therapy. Her father proposed building. She started at $13 an hour and now makes $40.
Who’s entering construction?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics poll does not explain the employment background of women entering construction, however numerous construction workers reported seeing women from service jobs.
Mary Ann Naylor, communications and marketing director for Oregon Tradeswomen, an apprenticeship-readiness program in Portland, noted that women who apply generally come from retail, hospitality, restaurants, and child care, which pay poor wages and give little benefits. After the pandemic, she has noticed more unemployed people and health care workers switching to skilled construction.
Paid training and no student debt attract new construction workers. Joy Merryman, a plumber and pipefitter from Pickerington, Ohio, who works in Columbus, appreciates knowing that her work on leisure centers benefits the community. She loves her profession so much that she plans events, job fairs, and school visits for Central Ohio Women in the Trades.
John Burcaw, director of academic education and CEO of the Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest in Little Canada, Minnesota, has seen workers with comparable job experiences as Naylor. He added that construction workers starting out today have more options to become project managers, estimators, entrepreneurs, instructors, or labor leaders than 33 years ago.
Recruiting and retaining women in construction remains difficult.
Unions, women’s trade groups, and foremen who fight gender-based discrimination can help women’s careers.
Workplace sexual harassment can occur alongside child care needs. States Newsroom asked all women in construction who had experienced sexual harassment on the workplace, including unwanted comments about their appearance, nonconsensual contact, and “jokes that go too far.”
The welder, Bell, said she has quit jobs and filed a sexual harassment complaint, but she has also talked to foremen and had issues resolved.
“I was uninvitedly touched on the job. Face-to-face yelling. I’m unwelcome. Palomar stated, “I’ve been belittled and made fun of because I’m a minority.” “But I had a fantastic contractor who always had my back and if I didn’t feel safe anywhere, I could simply contact them and they would be there for me and I think that helped me get through that. Without their support, trust, and union backing, I don’t think I could have had the patience and determination to continue there because it’s overwhelming.”
Merryman, 37, who has worked in construction for 10 years in Ohio, said having supporting people around you helps, and she can see why women without that advantage leave construction.
“You start to feel quite alienated, you feel very alone and you question yourself,” she said. “Am I insane for being freaked out by what that dude said to me? Am I weird for not wanting to hear what he thinks about my body at work?”
Burcaw said educational efforts made workplaces more welcoming to women. In the fall, the Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest will teach men how to support women in construction against gender-based harassment and discrimination.
At a Tradeswomen Build Nations meeting last autumn, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said she had heard from women about site issues. “Women don’t want the BS,” she said. They want to work.”
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission must monitor and enforce sexual harassment and discrimination to prevent underrepresented workers from losing their jobs.
“Because of these other barriers, it is in all of our interests to make sure that these investments are supporting good jobs, safe jobs, because we just won’t have the workforce that we need to translate these investments into successful outcomes without also prioritizing equal opportunity enforcement and making sure that women are safe and in these roles,” Gruberg said.
“To promote equal opportunity by federal contractors in the building trades on big federally funded projects,” the Department of Labor said this month. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will work with the General Services Administration and the Department of Transportation to provide contractors and subcontractors with free assistance to improve recruitment and hiring practices to attract more women and underrepresented workers to the construction industry.
The OFCCP’s Mega Construction Project Program recognizes one-year projects that boost local economies. Gruberg stated roadway, semiconductor, and transit construction may qualify.
Gruberg said the Mega projects include 16 affirmative action steps to help corporations comply with equal opportunity standards. “Increasing qualified personnel from underrepresented groups in the construction trades, including women.”
Summary of today’s construction news
Overall, we discussed that when it opens in a few months, a new housing complex in Seattle will be the first in the United States to use mass timber, which refers to designed and sturdy wood components, up to a height of 85 feet, which is equivalent to eight or nine storeys. (Wood constructions can now be up to 18 stories tall if they meet additional conditions thanks to a new category).
Meanwhile, the government of Vice President Joe Biden is hoping that more women will embrace construction employment like Bell has. It is the goal of the current administration to increase the number of women working in the construction industry by one million over the course of the next ten years. The success of that program will be determined by advances in the sector as well as federal restrictions.