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Wood and Sustainability in Construction

Back in February Summit Design + Build was presented with the 2021 WoodWorks Design Award for Regional Excellence for 1040 W. Fulton, our new home, and headquarters in the historic Fulton Market neighborhood of Chicago. It was an honor to receive an award that highlights excellence in mass timber construction, particularly in Chicago as the city catches up with the latest architectural trend. In fact, the project required a special council with officials of the Chicago Building Code to allow for specifications toward new technologies like glulam, CLT and NLT. After 75 years without a project using mass timber, Summit helped to break new ground for Chicago.

For Summit Design + Build, wood is not merely a novelty or a trend. It speaks to one of the core commitments in our mission: sustainability. With new technologies behind timber harvesting and production, wood is more sustainable than ever and it also gives back to the health of those that interact with it long-term. Here are a few reasons how:

Wood is a renewable resource.

It might sound like an oxymoron to some, but forestry that prioritizes renewability is possible and achievable, with the proper management and investment from logging contractors around the world. The simple fact that trees grow back is in stark contrast to other natural resources like steel. With certified farmers diversifying ways that wood is harvested, including “buffer zones” for unharvested and shelter-giving trees, wood has established itself as the primary renewable construction material.

Wood structures can have a lower carbon footprint than concrete or steel.

As man-made materials accelerate climate change, wood provides a different path. Certified sources of timber have the capability of achieving NET 0 carbon emissions if sustainably harvested. Wood also naturally traps carbon from the atmosphere, holding on to those emissions for years after its installation in a structure. A combination of its natural characteristics and forest owners committing to smart and sustainable forestation make wood a frontrunner in essential materials in the fight against climate change.

Humans love it.

In terms of a healthy, happy and comfortable working environment, wood is the answer. A report from Forest & Wood Products Australia concluded that just the presence of wood in the interior architecture of a structure led to lower stress levels in employees and greater satisfaction with their working life. A sense of confidence and potential comes from us when we feel closer to nature. The same study reported that overall moods improved, and that people were less likely to call in sick.

Our thanks to the committee at WoodWorks for the award. We are proud to be on the cutting edge with other forward-thinkers as the city approaches a more sustainable future.

1040 West Fulton Imagery