Cultivating Timber

STUDENT   Christopher Gardner, University of Texas at Austin

FACULTY SPONSOR   Ulrich Dangel, University of Texas at Austin

JUROR COMMENTS   This winning design carefully and creatively responds to the conditions of Red Hook and its history. This design yields fitting urban solutions and demonstrates an understanding of the neighborhood scale with well-proportioned residential units and a successful streetscape. This scheme demonstrates efficient thinking through the outlined stages of construction, which indicate that the prefabricated elements of the residence will be built on-site in the manufacturing facility. The design and organization of the site uniquely celebrate the warehouse; the lower structure, containing the digital and wood production, is animated and quite successful. Additionally, the inclusion and embracement of the existing building on the site is nicely done. This design starts to introduce long-span structure, which creates more interesting spaces in the warehouse and would be suitable for timber construction.

DESCRIPTION   Timber has yet to enter the mainstream of building technology in the US, but with its clear advantages it deserves better. Rather than typical construction, which focuses only on the completed building, phasing the building would consistently encourage public interaction through the entire process of manufacturing and construction. Timber is different, and the building community needs to experience this difference for timber to truly be recognized. The seed of timber will be planted in Red Hook, reestablishing it as a center of relevant industry in the 21st century.

The entire development is constructed of cross-laminated timber (CLT) a leading timber technology. Currently, the means of production for CLT exist mostly overseas and typical construction methods would require outsourcing the production. While the means are remote, the supply of softwood lumber is readily available in the Northeast. Many of these forests and lumber mills are located along the Erie Canal and Hudson River, allowing shipment of the raw lumber to the site via barges thereby revitalizing a historical artery of New York while also drastically reducing greenhouse gases and embodied energy. Since a production facility is part of the program it only makes sense to establish that first and have it manufacture the rest of the development on site with local materials.

The first phase would see the renovation of the existing building as a hiring facility and showroom, inviting locals and the public to engage the development early. While the concrete foundation is poured, the production machinery and local lumber are shipped to the site. Temporary canopies will shelter the facility while the framing for the factory is manufactured and assembled around the means of production. Once completed, the production facility will construct the CLT panels that will make up the rest of the site and the tower.

The digital and wood production facilities are placed on the second floor to protect them from the flood damage while also allowing the first floor to be almost completely filled with public program. The simple open plan of the factory permits later adaptability of the facility to accommodate future timber technology, thereby keeping it relevant. Also, an onsite cogeneration plant will utilize off-cuts from the factory to power the entire site and possibly even create a heating district for Red Hook.

The centerpiece of the first floor is the public lawn that brings people up to the level of the factory to peer in on the timber production while also sheltering a large bike storage facility. The surrounding commercial areas stimulating local businesses to reinvest in Red Hook, better connecting the site to the community.

The tower, constructed entirely out of CLT, demonstrates the most innovative use of timber on the site. The shear walls at the center provide rigidity and centralize services while the perpendicular party walls stabilize the building laterally. These party walls allow for a modularity of the unit placement. As the building is leased, the floor plans will change depending on the demand for each type of unit.