New York City Vows to Bring Mass Timber to the Masses

The Mass Timber Studio is operated by the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Mayor's Office for Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ) in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service and the Softwood Lumber Board.

Fri 08 Mar 24


New York City has picked seven projects for its “Mass Timber Studio,” an incubator that pledges to bring mass timber to the masses.

The “Mass Timber Studio” is a technical assistance program initiated by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), “supporting active mass timber development projects in the early phases of project planning and design.”

Launched in September, NYCEDC and the Mayor’s Office for Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ) operate the studio in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service and the Softwood Lumber Board. 

The first projects range from the Brooklyn Public Library to an affordable housing development in Jamaica, Queens, spearheaded by MURAL Real Estate Partners and Curtis + Ginsberg Architects.

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The announcement is part of New York City’s Green Economy Action Plan to Decarbonize Buildings and Construction. (Photo Credit: Supplied as part of a New York City Economic Development Corporation media release)

Projects involved in the nine-month incubator will receive technical support from several city agencies and other experts on mass timber construction, including the Wood Products Council and the American Institute of Architects New York. They’ll also receive a $25,000 grant for their efforts.

“For a developer or design team to put themselves through a nine-month studio with us, we expect that all of them will be able to go to the finish line,” according to Cecilia Kushner, the EDC’s chief strategy officer, who added that “we already know that these projects can be permitted, so they will not have any issue on that front.”

The EDC launched the mass timber incubator to encourage developers to consider mass timber construction systems instead of traditional construction materials. 

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Participants in the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s “Mass Timber Studio”. (Image Credit: Supplied by EDC and Willis Chen)

The participants include Hoek Place, a five-story residential building in Red Hook, Brooklyn; Mass Timber in Harlem, a seven-story apartment building; 1160 Flushing Avenue, an industrial development in Bushwick, Brooklyn; The Grafted Home, a three-story residential building in Crown Heights, Brooklyn; and the Walter Gladwin Recreation Center, a public facility in the Tremont neighbourhood of the Bronx.

Even with the relatively small scale, the EDC hopes the pilot will help New York catch up with cities on the West Coast and Europe that have started embracing mass timber construction – which until recently has remained unfavoured and unloved by New York City developers.

Nonetheless, past mass timber projects delivered in the city include the Evergreen Charter School in Hempstead, Long Island, the High Line’s Moynihan Connector, and the New York Climate Exchange, a mass timber structure designed on Governors Island.

“It’s just making sure that more New Yorkers in the building construction trade have firsthand experience with it,” Mr Kushner said. “It’s a game of numbers and scale.”

The $700m Climate Center (AU $1b) is one of a growing number of cross-laminated timber-rich projects proposed for New York City – footage courtesy of  @CBSNewYork.

To start the incubator, New York City had to amend its building code to allow the use of cross-laminated timber. Aside from code restrictions, cost and lack of familiarity have until now been huge disincentives for builders to embrace mass timber construction systems.

According to Justin Den Herder, a structural engineer from Silman Structural Solutions, one of three working on the incubator projects, “Integrating mass timber into buildings is a big step forward.”

Part of that step stems from design and construction teams discussing challenges with the New York City Department of Buildings when using mass timber. “Sharing information can make it easier for others to file permits down the road,” Mr Herder added.

“What obstructions are they encountering in implementing mass timber? What questions do they have about its benefits?” he said, adding that “we will share across projects to disseminate that information so more builders can follow this path.” 

Dubbed the Moynihan Connector, the new addition extends the elevated park's reach from its current endpoint at West 30th Street and 10th Avenue to a public plaza within the Manhattan West development. (Photo Credit: Andrew Fraaz from the High Line)
The Moynihan Connector, which opened last year, is a 300-foot (or 100-metre) mass timber bridge connecting New York City’s West 30th Street and 10th Avenue to a public plaza within the Manhattan West development. (Photo Credit: Andrew Fraaz from the High Line)

Beyond the Mass Timber Studio, EDC launched a new Circular Design and Construction Guideline yesterday. It said it was a template to lower carbon emissions throughout the design and construction process.

It will now seek proposals for projects that follow this guideline, which aims to divert at least 75% of construction materials from landfills. According to New York City Mayor Eric Adams, the guideline is already being used on the new SPARC Kips Bay Lice Sciences Hub, which will reduce 26,400 tons of carbon emissions.

According to Andrew Kimball, the EDC CEO, the guideline and mass timber studio is part of the city’s “bold action plan.”

“If we want to decarbonise our built environment and lower our carbon emissions,” Mr Kimball said, “we must prioritise scaling up the clean construction industry.”


  • 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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