UW Foster School’s Founders Hall is built for a climate-friendly future

Founders Hall, the spectacular recent addition to the Michael G. Foster School of Business, is much more than a space for learning and community building. Forget for a moment that this year-old, privately funded, 85,000-square-foot facility provides some of the most state-of-the-art classrooms, conference rooms and social spaces on the campus in Seattle. It is the only University building fully constructed of mass timber. This sustainably sourced composite hardwood has the promise of reducing the costs of construction while increasing a building’s sustainability and reducing carbon in the atmosphere.

As the first UW building that meets the University’s Green Building Standards to reduce its carbon emissions by more than 90%, Founders Hall employs cross-laminated timber decking. The new technology means Founders Hall sequesters more than 1,000 tons of carbon.

It is a monument to innovative, less-costly and healthier structures that could benefit the environment. And it shows how the UW is helping lead the way in making this innovation a regular part of our lives.

The College of Engineering, College of Built Environments and the College of the Environment are some of the UW units currently exploring the possibilities for mass timber, to great result. Jeffrey Berman, professor of civil and environmental engineering, was the principal investigator on a project testing a 10-story mass-timber building designed to withstand Seattle-area earthquakes.

Then there is the College of Built Environments’ Carbon Leadership Forum. The UW team works with architects, designers and industry to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of building materials. They are exploring how mass-timber buildings can have a positive impact on the environment. And a team from the School of Forest Resources developed regionally specific life-cycle assessment models to evaluate the environmental impact of potential cross-laminated timber production in the Olympic Peninsula—a region that lives by timber production.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded a $1 million grant to the UW, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University to explore expanding the use of mass timber. It looks to be a great building block for the future.