Interior of a living room looking out towards downtown brooklyn

Timber House is New York City’s Largest Mass Timber Building

Designed by Mesh Architectures, Timber House features a glulam and concrete structural system and is clad with custom-made brick.

Mass timber is certainly having its moment. From the Pacific Northwest to New England, the material is being used for projects of ever greater scale and complexity. Within this growing ecosystem of timber projects, New York, one of the largest construction markets in the country, remains something of an anomaly. However, the winds of change are blowing, and projects such as the recently completed Timber House, in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, portend the growing application of the material across New York City.

The Timber House is designed by local architecture firm Mesh Architectures for developer Brooklyn Home Company. The 27,000-square-foot mid-block condo building rises six-stories and features a glue-laminated timber (glulam) post-and-beam structural system and floor plates. The timber systems are supplemented by lot-line walls and structure core built of concrete masonry. It is the largest mass timber building built in New York City to date.

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Navigating the City’s building code for mass timber proved an onerous task. Mesh Architectures initially filed the project to be constructed of cross-laminated timber floor plates (CLT), but, at the time, the material was not approved by the Department of Building’s (DOB) building code. That uncertainty, coupled with a drawn-out process with the DOB, encouraged the team to opt for GLT instead. “We reverted to GLT, which was permitted as an older, legacy material,” notes Mesh Architectures founder and principal Eric Liftin. “Modern GLT looks just as beautiful as CLT and is just as strong, but, because it’s not a two-way material, it requires support around floor openings.”

Vaagen Timbers, an operation based out of Colville, Washington, fabricated all the mass timber components. Although the components range in size, the columns all measure approximately one foot square and 11.5-feet in height, the same as the floor-to-floor dimension. The beams are about 20-feet deep and 30-feet-long and they support the floor plates which run four feet- by-eight-feet and measure just under 1.5-feet thick.

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Mass timber projects resemble something of oversized IKEA sets, and those tight tolerances require extensive preparation on the front end to ensure that every connection and dimension was accurately milled for assembly. All in all, the timber frame was erected in just three months.

This being Park Slope, it was imperative for the design team to meld the facade of the structure with the surrounding historic context. To that effect, Timber House is clad with custom-made bricks produced by Petersen-Tegl, a centuries-old manufacturer of brick and tile products in Denmark, that rest on steel angles supported by the glulam structural system.

Timber House is also built to Passive House standards and includes those typical features such as Energy Recovery Ventilators and heat pumps for temperature control, and, in line with the new city building code, does not rely on any gas or combustion of any kind. Mesh Architectures also paid particular attention to the building envelope and material-to-material connections.

“We insulated the walls and roof in excess of code requirements and installed continuous air sealing, using an Intello ‘smart’ air barrier, that runs from timber slab to slab,” says Liftin. “The windows are triple-glazed, Passive House-level wood windows from Yaro, and the balconies receive a timber performance benefit: typically, a balcony makes a thermal bridge to the floor slab inside, but wood is not very conducive, so Mesh Architectures did not grapple with that problem here. “

The project opened its doors earlier this month.

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