River Beech Tower

Chicago, Illinois
Revolutionizing Sustainable Skyscraper Design

When designers at Perkins&Will, researchers at the University of Cambridge, and engineers at Thornton Tomasetti teamed up to explore the concept of a mass timber skyscraper, they sought to prove that a structurally sound tower could be both made of wood and safe enough for residential use.

Conversations in sustainable architecture continue to zero in on mass timber. Of course, the first thing that comes to many peoples’ minds is fire resistance. Is mass timber safe? With our extensive research, and structural and fire resistance tests, we aim to prove that the answer is “yes”.

The next step? We plan to build a full size modular unit in River Beech using the nodes we’ve constructed and tested. As we continue pushing this concept, we hope to arrive at a sustainable, beautiful solution that pushes materials to their limits.

What It Is
A research project demonstrating how mass timber is a safe, sustainable building material.
Tower Overall
Mass timber construction is highly sustainable, because of the renewable materials and modular fabrication which produces very little waste and carbon emissions.
Exterior Atrium
What Makes it Cool
Unique structural diagrid & modular design with external cores push mass timber to new heights.

Weight is a major consideration with timber construction: wood is lighter than steel or concrete, so special care must be taken when laying the foundation to ensure the structure is weighted properly.

Interior Atrium

Our project team traveled to AutoDesk Build Space in Boston to fabricate the large heavy timber nodes designed for structural support. These full scale mockups currently are located in the Chicago studio, displayed for all to observe. They serve as key components of any life-size module construction that the team tests out next.

Project Team

Todd Snapp