The Sights of City Sites: Timber is Seattle’s First Choice

Wood a normal way of life. I dream one day we will be the same.

Sun 02 Apr 23


The American Plywood Association brought a collection of international delegates to the mass timber conference in Portland.

Countries represented, including Australia, were Chile, Columbia, Panama, Mexico, Taiwan and Uruguay.

The purpose of the tour was to expose participants to American engineered wood products.

The well-managed tour kept the focus on the purpose of the trip and highlights for me were buildings under construction in Seattle.

You just don’t know the impact of mid-rise timber construction in the US if you don’t visit Seattle.

Looking across the hills of this seaport city on the West Coast, the distinctive yellow exterior plasterboard cladding (Densglass) covering timber-framed buildings hits you.

They are everywhere, and I mean everywhere! We passed 10 projects to get to one project.

Nonetheless, the APA team had us sorted. The first was a ‘5 over 2’ podium, meaning two storeys of concrete with five storeys of timber over. The project was a classic timber framed apartment building, with sawn timber throughout.

Why timber? Well, it’s just cheaper, evidenced by all the yellow-cladded buildings under construction.

Our next building was an office structure sitting over, of all things, a lumber storage yard.

And. even more freaky, it was Dunn Company’s wood!

This building, intended to support laboratories with sensitive microscopes, was your traditional post and beam system with a concrete screed for acoustic and vibration control. The project was nicely done, well looked after in a city where it seems to be constantly raining.

Our final inspection was a low-rent apartment building made from CLT, the difference being a post and beam system was used to support the CLT floor, and it was left exposed.

The tiny apartments were offset by the beauty of wood.

The building had a mixture of timber; even mass plywood panels were used for the staircases. MPP is sticking its head up everywhere!

The highlight for me was the project’s manager who said the wood used in the project took just four minutes to grow!

Also, that he had been inundated with prospective buyers for the project.

Seattle is certainly an excellent and vibrant city. It embraced timber as the normally way of building … and life.

I dream that we will one day be the same.


  • Andrew Dunn

    Andrew Dunn is the CEO, of the Timber Development Association (TDA). The TDA is an industry-funded association representing all segments of the timber industry, from forestry, manufacture to supply. Andrew is regarded as one of Australia's foremost experts on Engineered Wood Products (Mass Timber) and is conference convenor of both the Australian Timber Design Awards and the Timber Off-Site Construction conference.


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