The Portland Design Commission has approved Framework, a Cross Laminated Timber building that is likely to become the tallest mass timber building in the USA. The 11 story, 142′-2″ tall building by Lever Architecture will include 31,260 sq ft of office space on levels 2 to 6, and 60 apartments on levels 7-11. The apartment units, operated by Home Forward, will all be reserved for those earning less than 60% of area median family income. The developer for the building is Project^, acting for the owner Beneficial State Bank. 69 bicycle parking spaces will be provided on the ground floor of the building, and 40 in the studio apartments above. No vehicular parking spaces are proposed.
Framework will be located on a quarter block site at NW 10th & Glisan, directly adjacent to the now under construction Canopy Hotel. The site is currently occupied by a branch of Albina Community Bank (which is 90% owned by Beneficial State Bank). After construction is complete the bank will move back into the ground floor retail space facing NW 10th Ave. The ground floor of the building will also contain a double height lobby, with an exposed timber structural frame, and an exhibition space about tall wood buildings. A small cafe is proposed for the lobby space.
Though used in Europe since the 1990s, Cross Laminated Timber is still new to the USA. CLT panels are made by gluing together many smaller pieces into a larger assembly that has sometimes been described as “plywood on steroids”. Portland is on the leading edge of CLT adoption in the US, with under construction projects that include Albina Yard (also by Lever Architecture) and the 8 story Carbon12 (which will itself will briefly be the tallest CLT building in the USA).
Framework is one of two projects (the other is in New York) that received funding as part of the 2015 U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. The $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is being used conduct the fire and seismic testing necessary for the building to obtain permits from the State of Oregon and the City of Portland. The building is being designed to be repairable after a major seismic event, through the use of “replaceable energy dissipating “fuses,” steel post-tensioned rods along the length of the building’s core, and non-proprietary floor-to-wall connections providing self-centering characteristics that allow the building to sway and return to its prior position following a seismic event.”
Because wood sequesters carbon emissions, the designers hope that the building can pave the way to carbon neutral construction. As building codes get revised to accept CLT as a structural material it could offer an alternative to steel or concrete, which would normally be used for buildings of Framework’s height.
The primary material for the skin of the building will be Aluminum Composite Material (ACM), with deeply punched openings for operable fiberglass windows. Other materials include board formed concrete, aluminum curtain wall and storefronts.
At the 12th level of the building a roof terrace with a community garden may be provided, depending on budget considerations.
Framework had a total of three Design Review hearings. After the first hearing on July 7th minor changes were made to the generator screening and loading dock entry. At the second hearing, held on August 18th a Staff Report and Recommendation to the Design Commission [PDF] recommended approval for the building. During the deliberations, Commissioner Savinar offered his thoughts on the building, in response to public testimony that the building didn’t match the “warehouse character” of the Pearl:
I think it’s an extraordinary design. I could care less that it’s timber; I mean, the point I’m trying to make is that it’s a good building. It’s a lovely design and oh, by the way, we get this benefit of the structure being exposed, this just incredibly warm, natural material. It’s a wonderful blend of the contemporary, and, if you will, old timey-ness, which is our heritage. It’s just a fantastic addition to the neighborhood. There are many many buidings in the Pearl that do not subscribe to the warehouse tripartite aesthetic. I am happy to see buildings coming into the Pearl that will diversify the personalities of the architecture. For a number of years we had everything looking the same, and the same material. I think if somebody steps back and starts to realize that this is going to be an extremely diverse neighborhood, that will have aspects of some ’80s apartment buildings, some old industrial buildings rehabbed, some faux-Deco buildings, some glassy towers, then it bodes well for the city. Thank you for your hard work.
A vote was not held at the second hearing, due to a request by neighbors to hold the record open, in order to allow additional evidence to be submitted into the record. In the following weeks a petition opposing the building was submitted, signed by 61 people, most of whom live in the nearby 937 Condominiums and Elizabeth Condominiums. A letter from the Pearl District Neighborhood Association was also submitted, reaffirming their original support for Framework, but noting the opposition group’s “right to participate in Portland’s public process”. At the third hearing held on September 8th the Design Commission unanimously voted to uphold the Staff Report and approve the project.
Building permits, to be reviewed by the State of Oregon and the City of Portland, will need to be approved before work can commence on site.