How Gensler Uses Big Data to Pinpoint Mass Timber Projects!

Gensler has identified more than 1000 buildings across 120 cities that are suitable for retrofit.

Wed 20 Mar 24


Research from Goldman Sachs suggests that architecture and engineering are among the top 3 industries impacted by the push to AI and automation. At the same time, the construction industry is under pressure to “retrofit” and decarbonise millions of buildings, with global leaders’ last week signing “The Buildings Breakthrough” – which aims to make ‘near-zero and resilient buildings’ the new normal by 2030.

Now, the world’s largest architecture practice, Gensler, has released new AI software to help global investors and landlords “analyse their global portfolios and identify properties best suited for conversion.”

Gensler, which has commissioned over 100 mass timber buildings, claims that office building conversions have a “major effect on climate change.”

Already, Gensler is working with JLL and international asset managers to design projects like the Iris, a four-story, 130,000-square-foot office building in New Jersey that is partially made of mass timberannounced yesterday.

Its software has assessed more than 1,000 buildings from 120 cities worldwide and determined that 32% of assessed buildings are suitable for conversion, saving about 3.3 billion kilograms of carbon emissions.

“There is an inherent sustainability story in being able to find new uses for old bones” of a building, according to Jordan Goldstein, who, with Julia Simet, was earlier this year appointed Gensler’s co-CEO.

“Every day, we are using [the algorithm] in every way, shape, and form,” Mr Goldstein said before confirming that “conversion of outdated, vacant office buildings to new property types helps limit carbon emissions.”

What’s more, conversions are typically 30% cheaper than greenfield buildings, providing a “compelling” reason as global developers commit to schemes like the World Green Building Council’s (WGBC) “The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment.” 

“In 2024, expect more government municipalities to incentivise adaptive-reuse strategies and conversions whose renovations breathe new life into cities,” Gensler said in its Design Forecast 2024 released last week.

Last year, Wood Central reported that governments are turning to brownfield projects to convert mid-rise office and hotel accommodations to meet the demand for affordable housing.

Wood Central understands the new software will help developers ensure that the assets selected don’t have “nasty surprises in the building core.” 

Four of the seven projects selected for the first round of the NYC mass timber incubator programme were located in Brooklyn. (Photo Credit: wirestock via Envato Elements)
Earlier this month, Wood Central revealed that four of the seven projects selected for the first round of the NYC mass timber incubator programme were located in Brooklyn. (Photo Credit: wirestock via Envato Elements)

According to Wood Central Contributor Mark Thomson, who judged the World Architecture Festival in Singapore last month, “conversion provides an ideal opportunity to use low-carbon materials in refurbishment to drive decarbonisation of the world’s most at-risk building assets.”

Often, the older buildings targeted for retrofit are the assets with poor embodied (emissions in building construction) and operational carbon. 

“But this is the opportunity, and why low carbon materials like timber in construction, but also design methodologies like “design for deconstruction” and “design for disassembly” play an important role.”

Gensler is behind Under Armour’s Global Campus – footage courtesy of @ImeUmoh.

In June, Wood Central reported that Gensler architects “were like kids in a candy shop” after unveiling plans for a massive cross-laminated timber-inspired campus for sports apparel giant Under Armour in Baltimore.

The 26,012 square metre mass timber superstructure sets new standards for cutting-edge design, sustainability, and efficient construction techniques.

“We talk about these sustainability systems all the time, but very infrequently, they all get employed,” according to lead architect Joseph Rivers, “I think this building will help lead the region towards a more sustainable future.”


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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