Traditions for timber

With early implementation of mass timber over 30 years ago, and a project underway for the world’s tallest mass-timber occupied tower, SHL is both a forerunner and current pioneer in the bio-material revolution. Implemented in ways that are adaptable, strategic, and versatile, our use of timber is matched to the underpinning logic of its use. 

A successful timber design is not simply a concept but lies in the detail of construction. We understand where the material can translate to multiple positive outcomes and are also sensitive to where other materials are better suited. While the industry treats mass timber as a panacea - its greatest value is realized through the application of experience and knowledge.

Framehouse Cropped Timber Detail Office

When to use timber

Shanghai Library East artwork by Ni Youyu - photo by UAP close-up

Mass timber makes sense as a construction material in many situations due to its carbon sequestration properties, lightness, toughness, and aesthetic qualities. Interest in timber has risen sharply in the building industry as a new set of engineered systems has become available in the building supply chain, and research has become available that qualifies timber for more uses.

Within the field of building design approaches to mass-timber vary widely, as does the quality of expertise. Because it is an emerging field, there is not yet a standard approach to constructive systems or details, and so what is considered impossible by some can be capably handled by others. It is standard practice with most midrise timber buildings to use concrete or steel cores instead of timber due to the capabilities of engineers to model the structural systems.

By contrast, Schmidt Hammer Lassen is designing a 100m tall timber tower, projected to be the world’s tallest, using a mass timber load-bearing structure. Timber can be a tougher, lighter, safer, and more resilient material than steel or concrete when the intrinsic qualities of the material are used to the best effect. This can not be done by substituting one material for another. A timber design needs to be the goal from day one.

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Carbon capture

Mass timber comes from a renewable source and stores carbon, and growing forests draw down carbon at a higher rate than mature forests, although other factors of equity and sustainability need to be considered when specifying the source of timber. It is not automatically a sustainable choice.

In the making of UBC Gateway in Vancouver, Canada we implemented a range of passive design strategies, with a focus on ethically sourced timber and reduced embodied carbon.

Design for Manufacture & Assembly (DfMA)

Schmidt Hammer Lassen has pioneered the design of flexible structural systems that can change and add space over time with minimal time or disruption. Specific mass-timber details can allow buildings to be premanufactured off-site, assembled in components at high-speed, and allow for modifications and changes over time.

DfMA has been implemented into Framehouse, a co-working and highly sustainable office building in the Greater Copenhagen Area. Structures were manufactured off-site, and the load-bearing timber elements are designed for disassembly being fully reusable. This system also allows for the reconfiguration of internal layouts and functions.

Bankkvartalet Material Render Mixed Use Office

Lower construction time

Mass timber components are often prefabricated, allowing for faster on-site assembly. If designed and planned in the right way, construction can take far less time and be safer and healthier for the local community.


There is a growing body of evidence that shows that timber buildings can create better performance and health outcomes for occupants.

Timber & Transformation

Mass Timber is uniquely suitable for the transformation of existing structures. It has a high strength-to-weight ratio, can easily be remanufactured and adapted on-site, and lends itself to both mass customization and design for disassembly.

Rocket&Tigerli timber tower wood timer interior


While mass timber has fire-resistant properties making them safer in some cases than steel, the thickness of members and species of wood needs to be considered to take advantage of mass timber’s self-protective properties.


The envelope design needs to be considered carefully in any mass timber building to avoid the buildup of moisture over time. This is best done with a facade that is well-detailed and respectable, suggesting a DfMA approach.

When designing the spa and wellness concept, Älvdans, we wanted to enhance the tactility of the timber structures while ensuring protection against the elements. Utilising linseed oil, a common practice for the local area, we were both able to protect the wood façade against moisture and offer a distinct and harmonious relationship with the pinewood forest which will age gracefully as time passes.

Rocket and Tigerli Structural Diagram Residential

Acoustics & Vibrations

Response modeling is needed for any critical program such as labs or industrial uses where vibration, impact, or flanking may have an effect on the operation of the users.


Due to its toughness and weight, timber can be a better choice for seismic zones than concrete and steel. This requires specific design and engineering approaches that are exclusive to mass timber and require highly specialised knowledge.

Our expertise

We can help you determine whether mass-timber is the right choice for a project based on performance needs, site constraints, financial aims, and goals. We have developed a series of digital tools and a tailored method of qualifying which approach is best suited to your needs. It requires an inquiry phase to clarify the potential options and clarify the nuances of different design approaches.