Miller Hull

Mass timber building spotlights Washington’s roots

8-31-2023 | News

New Olympia capitol campus building showcases salvaged lumber, celebrates Douglas fir and includes world’s first all non-toxic acoustic system.

By Nick Clesi, Chris Hellstern and Gabrielle Peterson

Over the past decade, responsibly-sourced mass timber has proven absolutely essential in the journey towards decarbonization — its lower embodied carbon, seismic resilience, and fast build times giving clients and designers alike a reason to endorse it.

Miller Hull started incorporating mass timber into its projects as early as the 1980s. The firm has worked with mass timber in a variety of hybrid iterations, from the structural system of the Bullitt Center to the FSC-certified wood of Bainbridge City Hall, and has used not only cost and program to dictate the wood’s treatment, but also the concept of Biophilia; how can this material help to create a memorable and inviting place?

Someone who enters into a space and is met by soaring beams or a reclaimed wood stairwell is much more likely to experience the benefits of Biophilia, or the sense of wellbeing that is created through exposure to natural elements like wood, stone and daylight.

As designers who prioritize sustainability, we typically try to incorporate biophilic elements into our projects using low-carbon materials to reconnect users with the natural world, and lessen our impact on the earth. For the Newhouse Building replacement effort on the capitol campus, the use of timber was just as innate to the project as it is to our designers.

For one, the project is located in a region where timber is plentiful, giving us an opportunity to showcase Douglas Fir, one of the state’s most precious natural resources. Secondly, invigorating regional economies and incorporating this local wood throughout the design is a nod to the hundred-year-old beloved building Newhouse is to replace, a callout to the region, and a safeguard for its future.

The Newhouse Building Replacement takes the innovative use of mass timber a step further, exploring the ways a building might reflect the region through its material structure, and introducing the world to the first all non-toxic acoustic system.

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