How can engineered timber revolutionize how we build?

With the advance of technology and material innovation, we now have the ability to radically rethink the way we have been building. For over a decade Peter Rose  + Partners has been committed to research into sustainable solutions and investigating the possibilities of engineered timber, a renewable and sustainable building material that is strong, malleable and beautiful and that offers the best form of industrialized building

As the environmental conversation becomes less about mere energy and more about carbon reduction, and with the construction sector generating nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, we need to avoid materials and methods with massive amounts of embedded carbon in order to repay the carbon debt. 

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From studying engineered timber more broadly, we are now refining the focus of our research on exploring how to create a fast and efficient system that deploys engineered timber as a manufacturing material in the process of building housing at scale.

 

We are prototyping an end-to-end, modular construction process in which each part is designed, fabricated, transported, and assembled on-site; a system will allow for full flexibility to meet the program and design needs of individual projects.

We will use mass timber not only for structure—as is standard—but for all major building components including walls, ceilings, floors, and partitions (everything but cabinetry, HVAC, MEP, appliances, and fixtures).

 

By increasing the percentage of machine-made mass timber components, this strategy will dramatically cut down on the number of parts that go into a building while simultaneously increasing the precision of each part. This will allow the modules, and the building itself, to be quickly and easily assembled to exact specifications. 

 

This precision allows much of the building assembly to be moved offsite, into a factory, dramatically reducing the inefficiencies and uncertainties inherent in outdoor construction sites.

 

By designing modules that can be assembled easily, precisely, and without specialized equipment, they can be assembled in a factory—or even a rented warehouse— local to the building site. Crucially, this avoids the prohibitively expensive long-distance shipping of modules to the site that is often required in modular systems. Once on-site, the modules can be quickly dropped in place and fit together using no other specialized equipment than a two ton crane. Pre-integrated mechanical and HVAC components would require only final hookups to the main systems. 

 

This redesigned process should result in a dramatic reduction in the number of components (we believe 80% fewer parts as compared to conventional construction), far simpler building assembly, a corresponding reduction in labor, and weather-independent construction times that are 30%-50% faster. The resulting building should be of much higher quality (potentially, defect-free), be far more environmentally sustainable, and be of lower overall cost.