State’s First Large-scale Mass Timber Building Offers a Greener Alternative to CO2 Intense Steel and Concrete Buildings
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (March 22, 2023) — Gardner, a commercial real estate developer and management company, celebrated the final phase of framing today on the first large-scale mass timber building in Utah. Advancements in wood products have created a greener option from the carbon-intense steel and concrete materials ubiquitous in commercial structures today.
Located in Draper, immediately off 1-15, the 5-story office building is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023 and has brought together a team of designers, engineers, contractors and mass timber advocates and experts to bring the Baltic Pointe project to fruition.
“Part of Gardner’s mission is to discover more sustainable ways to build,” said Christian Gardner, CEO of Gardner. “To do this, we need to venture from the status quo and embrace new innovations and building materials. This building will be the first commercial project in Utah to be built with mass timber, and we are optimistic that it will be the first of many.”
Mass timber is a class of wood products made by tightly layering soft lumber boards into columns and panels. The resulting products are strong enough to replace steel and concrete in load-bearing applications, currently approved for buildings up to 18 stories under the International Building Code.
When forests are managed sustainably, wood is a renewable resource and easily sourced in North America. For perspective, it takes about 16 minutes for the amount of wood used in the Baltic Pointe building to be grown in existing U.S. and Canada forests. Gardner has received a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service in support of Gardner’s efforts to incorporate this sustainable medium into its commercial construction projects.
Because of its many advantages, over 1,500 mass timber projects have been constructed or are in design in the U.S., although few in the Mountain West. Mass timber is largely prefabricated off-site and pieced together like a giant puzzle, so it facilitates shorter construction times completed by a smaller labor force.
“We are excited about Baltic Pointe and its ability to kickstart the adoption of this sustainable and efficient new building style in Utah,” said Steve Marshall, former assistant director of Wood Innovation at the U.S. Forest Service and consultant to Gardner and its affiliate, Philo Ventures. “Not only is mass timber conducive to Utah’s climate initiatives, it also provides for faster builds that are just as strong and safe as traditional buildings, providing one more tool to help meet the region’s growing construction needs.”
Around 40 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions come from the building industry with the manufacture of concrete and steel — each contributing about 5 percent. Replacing these traditional materials with wood allows for a significant reduction of the release of CO2 associated with construction. The use of mass timber at Baltic Pointe reflects a decrease in carbon impact equivalent to taking 1,562 cars off the road for a year or powering 780 homes for a year with renewable energy.
Mass timber’s high strength-to-weight ratios and natural flexibility enable excellent performance during seismic activity. It also meets or exceeds fire code requirements. During a fire, the exposed wood chars on the outside, forming an insulating layer that protects the interior from damage the same way redwood trees survive fires.
Mass timber’s aesthetic and environmental appeal are market differentiators that increase a project’s value and lease rate. Research indicates that when people are surrounded by natural materials, it lowers their stress response and improves cognitive function.
Pelion Venture Partners and Gardner are investment partners in Baltic Pointe. Pelion will be moving its headquarters to the building and the company’s name will crown the building. HB Workplaces (formerly Henriksen Butler) will be another anchor tenant with its headquarters and showroom located on the entire first floor.
“In many ways, building using this new technology embodies our vision as a company,” said Blake Modersitzki, managing partner at Pelion Venture Partners. “We value creation, vision and positive disruption as we build successful communities, and the Gardner Group has been an amazing partner to work with as we embrace this innovation.”
Baltic Pointe also serves as a pilot project with Utah-based startup studio Philo Ventures to explore the practicality of mass timber for future commercial construction throughout the Mountain West.
After completion of its initial building, developed with support from Method Studio, BHB Structural Engineers and Okland Construction and Celtic Bank, Gardner will continue to work with Philo Ventures to drive innovation in the use of mass timber in order to bring the benefits of the technology to multi-family housing, industrial applications, and office spaces throughout the Mountain West.
“While adoption of mass timber as a replacement or supplement for steel and concrete has increasingly been embraced in commercial office construction throughout the world, the use of this sustainable building method remains far too limited,” said Chad Staheli, CEO of Philo. “Our continued research and development is focused on leveraging innovative design and manufacturing processes to achieve price parity with traditional construction methods, making it more economically feasible to bring the benefits of mass timber to a broader range of projects.”
Gardner is a full-service commercial real estate development and management company headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah with offices in Boise, Idaho and Henderson, Nev. Gardner has developed over 30-million square feet of commercial properties spanning retail centers, multi-family residential, office, industrial, medical campuses and senior living. The real estate company is part of Gardner Group, which builds better communities through thoughtful, sustainable practices in developing and managing real estate, renewable energy, investing in innovation and providing results-oriented philanthropy.
About Philo Ventures
Philo Ventures, with support from the Gardner Group, offers a unique approach to driving early-stage innovation and economic growth through its Utah-based startup studio, Philo Studio. Focused on building new companies from inception to early operations, Philo Studio executes on high-potential ideas and is empowering a new generation of entrepreneurs. The studio portfolio includes innovative businesses in various industries, including aviation, outdoor hospitality, and sustainable infrastructure.
About Pelion Ventures
Pelion Venture Partners is an early-stage venture capital firm. Pelion invests in Seed and Series A software companies across the United States. Notable investments include: Cloudflare (NYSE: NET), Riverbed, Divvy (acquired by Bill.com), and Weave (NYSE: WEAV). More at www.pelionvp.com. Overstock (NASDAQ: OSTK) is a Limited Partner of Medici Ventures, L.P.