AP NEWS

New mass timber building in Des Moines is the nation’s first

May 19, 2019

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A new building in Des Moines’ East Village is the first in the United States built using a unique type of mass timber — an eco-friendly material that is becoming more popular as developers look to reduce their carbon footprints.

Scheduled for completion soon, the four-story building is also the first speculative office and retail building in downtown Des Moines in more than a decade.

Roughly half of the 64,000-square-foot building has been leased, owner Tim Rypma told The Des Moines Register.

On the first floor, St. Kilda Surf and Turf and Liz Lidgett Gallery + Design are now open. DreiBerge Coffee and Clyde’s Fine Diner, an upscale diner by Chicago chef Chris Hoffmann, are expected to open this summer.

Neumann Monson Architects, the building’s architect, will soon move into a first-floor bay.

The top three floors are reserved for office spaces. Ryan Companies, the building’s contractor, recently moved in. West Financial Advisors will move in at a later date.

The development group, made up of Rypma and local businessmen Paul Hayes, Sloan Cownie, Jim Cownie and Jake Christensen, chose mass timber for its unique look, but they also tout the benefits of its sustainable design.

“Sustainability is a feature that prospective tenants like,” Rympa said. “It’s not just another office building.”

Mass timber is made by pressing smaller planks of wood together, forming one large piece, similar to wood beams found in churches and historic structures. It can be glued or nailed.

In this case, the timber was pressed together using dowels, said Gerald Epp Jr., business development engineer at StructureCraft, the Canadian company responsible for the project’s structural engineering.

There are about 200 mass timber buildings across 36 states, but the Des Moines building was the first to use the dowel-laminated product.

Each panel of mass timber is about 8 feet wide and 20 feet long. They are structurally sound, allowing for taller buildings without the use of concrete or steel.

About 11% of global carbon emissions each year come from concrete and steel manufacturing, said Mark Wishnie, director of forestry and wood products for The Nature Conservancy.

“You avoid a whole a lot of emissions” using mass timber, he said. “You also create a new carbon storage pool.”

During photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the wood. The carbon stays, even after the tree is cut down and used in building.

“When we use mass timber, we’re taking carbon out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis and we’re storing it in the building,” Wishnie said. “If it’s done correctly, mass timber could actually build climate change mitigation into our cities, and that would potentially be very powerful.”

The timber used at the building “sequestered” about 280 tons of carbon, according to Neumann Monson Architects, which is the equivalent of planting an acre of 50-year-old oak trees for 18 years.

Mass timber is also more cost-efficient than steel or concrete.

It takes less time and fewer crew members to construct because everything is prefabricated off-site, Epp said. The pieces were numbered by StructureCraft and shipped in order by semi-truck.

The construction crew then put together each piece, almost like a puzzle.

The wood panels then become a part of the building’s look. There’s no need for drop ceilings or manufactured beams.

“There was a small premium, in terms of cost up front, but you make up for that in time,” Hayes, the local developer, said. “And you get a lot of benefits, in terms of the look.”

Each office space has floor-to-ceiling windows, concrete floors and wood ceilings. The offices are built to suit tenants’ needs. Every floor has a shared restroom, shower and locker room.

Office tenants have access to the 600-stall parking garage the development team built to the south in 2017. The parking garage and office building are part of a development agreement the group has with Des Moines for one the properties.

Plans for a third phase, which is required to be at least four floors with retail, office or residential space, are still being developed.

Rypma said his team is considering using mass timber on that project. The developers receive 15 years of tax abatement in the form of tax increment financing for each phase of the project.

Des Moines will retain ownership of the western portion of the land, potentially to use for future city offices.

The same development team also constructed another building directly to the east of the first one, which houses West Elm and Lululemon on the first floor and 98 apartment units on the top five floors.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com