Honorable Mention
2013 Skyscraper Competition

Michael Charters
United States

“Big Wood” is a prototype on mass timber construction that offers the possibility to build more responsibly while actively sequestering pollutants from our cities. Sited in Chicago; “Big Wood” aims to write a new chapter in high-rise construction.

Steel and concrete structural systems have been the primary materials of choice in skyscrapers construction over the years. Unfortunately, these materials have a heigh energy production and recycle costs considering the entire life of a structure.

Understanding that the construction industry accounts for 39% of man-made carbon emissions, it’s imperative that we develop more intelligent and less environmentally destructive strategies for construction. Recent studies had proved the success of 20-30 story mass timber structures with the potential to go higher using hybrid systems.

“Big Wood” is a mixed-use university complex sited in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. The structure consists of a mass timber system utilizing lumber grown and manufactured on a brown-field site in South Chicago.

Known as “South Works”, the tree farm site was once home of a steel mill, where raw materials were brought in via barge on Lake Michigan. A majority of the steel used to build Chicago’s famous towers (including Willis and John Hancock) came through the South Works steel mill. Implementing a tree farm will extract toxins from the soil as well as carbon dioxide from Chicago’s air.

The university complex consists of three different housing types, retail, a library, a media hub, sports complex, parking, as well as a community park and garden.

Known as the birthplace of the skyscraper, Chicago is an optimal location for a prototype in mass timber construction. Similar to the rapid innovation in building technology that occurred in the early 1900s, “Big Wood” is positioned to be a catalyst for a new renaissance in high-rise construction, changing forever the shape of our cities.

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