The city of Milwaukee Plan Commission and the Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee have all agreed to the changes to New Land Enterprises’ Ascent residential project that will increase the tall wood building in North America’s height, parking space and residential units to the tall wood project. Thornton Tomasetti will be the structural engineer. Executive secretary of the Plan Commission, Rocky Marcoux, said the changes were driven by a redesign of the parking area that required an increase in “solid wall area” to comply with energy codes. The new designs will offer an increase of 26 units,making 231 residences and 50 additional parking spaces, bringing the new total to 310. The changes also increase the structure from 21 stories to 23 but add only 9 feet, according to city documents. The more than 8,100 square feet of ground-floor commercial space will not be affected by the changes.
Despite the International Code Council and some U.S. jurisdictions incorporating tall wood structures into their building codes, some in the construction and design industries are still unsure about the safety of tall wood structures when it comes to fire. Bill Parsons, a licensed engineer and vice president of operations at WoodWorks, a company that provides education around wood buildings, as well as free support for those developers pursuing tall wood projects, said that once completed, projects such as the Ascent will help change that insight. Judging by attendance at WoodWorks’ recent education events, use of the organization’s technical resources and the number of those asking for project support, Parsons said, interest in tall wood buildings has continued to grow, so much so that WoodWorks invited an in-house tall wood expert to meet the demand for information and support. Mass timber may also become more prevalent in the construction industry thanks to additional capacity coming on stream from investor Katerra, which is opening a 29-acre, 270,000-square-foot factory that will produce cross-laminated timber.