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A net-zero, cross-laminated timber apartment complex will rise in Boston

Did Somebody Say Timbah

A net-zero, cross-laminated timber apartment complex will rise in Boston

Thanks to support from the U.S. Forest Service and the Softwood Lumber Board, developer Placetailor and Boston-based architecture firm Generate have collaborated to design a carbon-neutral apartment block in Roxbury, a neighborhood in the south end of Boston. Named Model-C, the 5-story, 19,000-square-foot building will contain 14 residential units above an affordable co-working space on its ground floor.

Model-C will be assembled using a cross-laminated timber (CLT) kit-of-parts and will be net-zero energy and net-zero carbon for its first decade of operation. The CLT rooftop will allow for the easy installation of solar panels, and the building’s walls will be insulated with natural mineral wool. The entire building, including bathroom “pods,” will be prefabricated in sections off-site and assembled from the ground up to reduce the need for scaffolding. Its plans have been certified by PassivHaus and meet the standards of the new Boston Department of Neighborhood Development’s “Zero Emissions Standards,” part of the city’s Climate Action Plan. Once complete, Model-C will be one of the only totally timber buildings in Massachusetts, and one of the least energy-intensive buildings in America.

A mass timber building built from cross-laminated timber, with jagged roofline with skyline in the distance
The project will be fabricated off-site in sections, including bathroom “pods” that will be plugged into the structure after it is assembled. (Courtesy Generate)

Generate sees Model-C as a demonstration of a modular cross-laminated timber system the firm will apply to other sites in response to different topographical conditions and coding requirements. “Over the past year,” the firm’s website states, “Generate has been transitioning out of the academic setting of the MIT Mass Timber Lab, and into industry by actively seeking progressive developers to deploy its first demonstration project, which they hope will serve as a catalyst in the Greater Boston area, and eventually in North America.” While mass-timber buildings are currently limited to six stories in North America, Generate is currently exploring the application of their system to buildings as tall as 18 stories tall in response to the 2021 Tall Wood building codes.

The project received zoning approval last September and construction is expected to begin this June. Given the expediency of the prefabrication method developed by Placetailor and Generate, as well as the elimination of an interior framing system, the project can be completed as early as winter of next year.