[Video] Michael Green on the Future of Wood & Dowel Laminated Timber

A couple months ago, we hosted our new timber facility grand opening, where Michael Green from Michael Green Architecture gave a keynote talk on the future of wood and what dowel laminated timber's potential could mean to architects and builders in North America. Below is the video and transcript of his talk.



[Start] "Hi everyone. I'm actually gonna start backwards and work our ways forwards and talk a little bit about the future. But, I thought just as a matter of sort of personal reference in what StructureCraft and Gerry Epp's work means to me. I moved from New Haven Connecticut to Vancouver about 21 years ago, and I had been working at a firm doing some of the biggest buildings on earth in steel and concrete. I got to Vancouver and I looked around at our skyline and all I saw was obviously, concrete, and I didn't get that excited, but after a little while I started finding these little gems in our community, these little tiny wood projects around that, a little bridge or a sky train station. I had started to see that really, I think the most remarkable architecture in our city was being made by structural engineers working with architects, but where the engineers were making a huge impact on how great these buildings, and these little structures were. Over and over they were wood, and it was more times than not it was this work that Gerry was doing with various architects in town, including Bing Thom and Peter Busby and others that were really showing the potential of what this beautiful material is so important to us here in BC, could really become.

I found that inspiring, very inspiring, and my career path changed pretty quickly so that now, my firm today MGA, only builds, 100% of the builds we do are made in wood. We've become so vested in wood, and I definitely think that Gerry's work was hugely influential in that sort of path that took me through a career that brought me here. More than just that, when I was working on my previous firm, which was called MGB, we started designing these buildings where we were interested in what the future might bring. I wrote this book called, "The Case For Tall" when buildings and the idea that we can start moving to very tall buildings around the world that I know many of you are now familiar with, but at the time seemed insane. A lot of people did not think these ideas were possible. But, what was intriguing, was the world was starting just a decade ago, was really starting to embrace these products like, DLT, that I'm standing on right now and early mass timber products like, TimberStrand and laminated strand lumber and laminated veneer lumber, these massive panels. We designed a project in city hall in north Vancouver that would be a sort of exploration for us into the first mass timber panel we could build. It was really fun, and we designed these prefabricated panels much like the pool that Michael just showed us.

Then, we started looking around and said, "Who could actually build this? Who was willing to take on the unique challenge of building in this new way?" Sure enough of course the only company that really could step up to the plate to bring the engineering sort of experience and this construction experience together was Gerry's firm, StructureCraft. They saved the day, and they built what's still one of the most proud buildings we've been involved in. Since then, we went on to design a building in Minneapolis called, T3, and I don't have slides today, but luckily on the cover of the brochures that you all have in your hands, that's our T3 project. On the bigger brochure on the backside you see that same project. That was built in Minneapolis for a developer in the states, that's really one of the big powerhouse developers, they own 1,800 skyscrapers, they're called Hines. They decided that they wanted to stop, not stop building steel and concrete buildings, they're still gonna do that, but they wanted to get in the game of building with wood. So we were excited to design the project, but the challenge was, that in Minneapolis, who was gonna build it, how were they gonna build it, could it be cost competitive, and so forth?

Sure enough, when the time came to bid the project out, the moment of real pride for us was that StructureCraft won the job. Not only won the job, brought ingenuity and nail laminate, that at the time, nail laminated panels to the project to be able to make it cost effective and make it real, Again, that's the project on the cover there, which was hugely important because without the innovations and the ideas, and their ability to deliver this building and build the building, it just simply would not have been built. Now the change that happened, is that building, which is only seven stories tall became the first large wood building, really of its type in the United States. In that, breaking this boundary, this kind of barrier that happened. We were building here all of us, I think a lot of us in the room were already engaged in the idea of wood, but that project crossed the border and started to expand what was happening south of the border, and the imaginations of people of allowing what the future of that kind of building, office buildings, and now residential buildings could be. Again, if StructureCraft had not delivered it, it would never have happened. More excitingly, is that that building's called T3 and since that building was built, there are now plans to build upwards of 25 more of these buildings just by that same developer.

Moreover, I'm receiving now, calls day after day from new developers all around the United States. This morning I got a call from Florida, yesterday a call from Chicago, almost every day there are new people coming to the table and recognizing that the future building is gonna be about building in wood. The joy that it brings to me, the fact that really the best companies in this continent hands down, either the designers or the engineers, or those like StructureCraft that can actually make these buildings, are all right here in our community. We have so much to be proud of. But, we don't really rest on our laurels here and that's something we should be even more proud of. So DLT is an amazing product, the product we're standing on, and I understand this panel we're standing on goes into a project that StructureCraft's gonna build with us at Oregon State University. If you did the tour, they showed some pieces right behind us, it's another one of our projects down for a forestry school at Oregon State.

This CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) is an amazing product, but the Dowel Lam product you saw today for me, is one of the most exciting introductions in the market that I've seen, certainly in North America and I believe that this is a very important moment for the future of wood buildings for a whole bunch of reasons. This product is a competitor, and it's a good product, DLT, but what Dowel Lam brings is this pure wood solution, which I love. I love the purity of it, the fact that there's no glue in it, the fact that the end of life of these panels, they can be turned into something else, or they can be reused in another building or ultimately, they can be burned and turned into a good source of energy because they don't contain glue, right? They're a very beautiful, pure, organic product. But, during their life, they also have all the things that we saw on the tour today, the innovations of adding textures that allow you to get the acoustic performance, all these sort of benefits that traditional panels don't offer us.

So I think we're all sitting here at the sort of beginning of a huge change that's gonna happen where we're gonna see lots of these buildings, I know we are because we're being flooded with requests for these buildings. Half the time when I show up to talk to developers, Lucas has already been there, which is really even more awesome because we're starting to see how BC companies are becoming sort of the leaders at all corners of this continent. But, that enthusiasm around it means that this product is going to become extremely popular. So if you're an architect in the room, get engaged with it fast because it's gonna be hard for these guys to keep with the orders that are coming, which is good news. For all of us in the room, I think share the pride that I certainly feel in the fact we have companies like StructureCraft that are leading the way in our promise and demonstrating that Canada's really a world leader in the future of wood buildings. So, it's a huge pleasure to be here and I really wanna congratulate this incredible facility and this incredible new product, and the amazing work the StructureCraft team have done to put this entire event and this future product on the market. So, that's it, but thank you very much." [end]