To the question, “What can you build with cross laminated timber?” the JST Production Engineering Center in Middletown, Pa., offers an intriguing answer: just about anything you want.
The proof is a 51,563-square-foot, single-level mixed-use structure (office and manufacturing) that flows down a gentle series of sculpted swales for more than half a mile. The dendritic shape commands immediate attention, a study in fractal geometry shaped by the site’s natural conditions. Do you like corners? This building features more than 70, both inside and out.
The sharp-angled configuration only hints at the teamwork required to achieve it. Thousands of uniquely cut and milled wood components were fabricated and painstakingly assembled, from small intricately CNC-carved pieces to 83-foot-long timbers weighing over 17,000 pounds.
The architect of record, Edward Arcari, AIA, says, “There are about 5,000 individual timber pieces in this project. No two are alike.”
The three principal members of the project team were the Japan-based design architect Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects; the architect of record, Arcari, and his team at Arcari+Iovino Architects; and the Atlanta-based general contractor Shimizu North America.
The fourth member is the CLT fabricator and millworker, B&D Builders of Paradise, Pa. The 21-year-old firm has made a name for itself in custom heavy timber construction, offering nearly every aspect of fabrication and millwork in house. The company’s focus on detail proved crucial to the project.
The unique geometry presented a fair share of obvious and not-so obvious challenges. Daniel Glick, co-founder and co-president of B&D Builders, notes several:
- Site Gradation. “The soffits and large overhangs are at various angles and pitches to account for the angle of the sun through the seasons, in addition to the natural slope of the site,” explains Glick. “From the front entrance to the rear exit (612 feet) is a 20-foot difference in grade. The front entrance has 10-foot ceilings and the building rear has 20-foot ceilings. That’s a 30-foot roof gradation from one end to the other.”
- Soffit Pitch. The slope made for some tricky problem solving at the exterior corner soffits. “The overhangs average between six to eight feet in length from the outside wall. The pitch required us to warp the wood ever so slightly like a propeller blade. The narrow boards just kind of molded to the contour. If you didn’t know about it, you wouldn’t notice it,” Glick says.
- Long Beam Spans. Some of the long spans required steel reinforcement. To preserve the heavy timber aesthetic, the B&D Builders team would split the timber in half, route it, and then seat the steel I-beam inside.
Arcari, a woodworking enthusiast in his spare time, was impressed by the craftsmanship of the B&D Builders team. “I visited their fabrication shops in Paradise. They’re beautifully organized. Not just for heavy timber, either. They also fabricate doors and windows. The workmanship and advanced production technology are incredible,” he reports.
Later this year the Center will open its doors to about 100 engineers and professionals of JST, a global maker of small electrical connectors. It’s fitting a building so inspired by its connection to nature and natural materials will dedicate itself to making connections of a different sort.
Learn more about how B&D Builders and their sister brand, Mid-Atlantic Timberframes, can support the design, fabrication, and construction of your next timber application.
Design Architect Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects
Architect of Record Arcari+Iovino Architects
General Contractor Shimizu North America
Local Contractor B&D Builders
Timber Fabricator Mid-Atlantic Timberframes
Heavy Timber Engineer Fire Tower
MEP Engineer Princeton Engineering Group
Civil Engineer Hoover Engineering