Mass Timber Schools

 A Multi-Story Prototype for Flexible Learning Environments

AIA Continuing Education Provider

1 LU / HSW

Mass timber holds untapped potential to radically reduce carbon emissions in the built environment while at the same time create stimulating, biophilic environments that can improve learning outcomes. So why aren’t there more mass timber schools being built? This session is led by an expert mass timber architect and structural engineer who will answer this question. Along the way they will provide research and built examples of best practices for creating stimulating, cost effective mass timber learning environments that can adapt to user needs and create a new model for educational spaces. The session draws on both a collaborative 2-year USDA funded research grant exploring the use of mass timber for large K-12 schools, as well as examples of built work in the Pacific Northwest. Key aspects of mass timber for educational spaces will be covered, including design flexibility, embodied carbon, indoor environmental quality, acoustics, mechanical distribution, structural framing, specifying, constructability, and cost. At the heart of this session is a demonstration that the use of natural, carbon sequestering materials can offer a broad benefit for climate health, as well as the health of building occupants and our communities. What’s more, taking a holistic view of construction and cost shows mass timber can compete economically with other standard building materials. Schools of the future must be net carbon neutral and capable of supporting all learners, and this session will highlight a compelling path we can take TODAY for this goal.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Investigate mass timber structural systems appropriate for school buildings and understand impact to forest resource management, sourcing and specifying sustainable mass timber materials in the Pacific Northwest.
  2. Identify building code pathways for use of mass timber in K-12 buildings and integration of services and structure within architectural spaces that maximize health, well-being and connection to nature.
  3. Flexible planning strategies to facilitate long-life, loose fit paradigm reducing economic and environmental burden of demolition and new construction to adapt physical environment to support changing learner needs.
  4. Explore cost and constructability issues related to mass timber K-12 schools, including scheduling, coordination with mass timber manufacturers, procurement, erection and moisture management strategies.
Joe Mayo
Joe Mayo, AIA, LEED AP
Associate, Mahlum Architects,

Joe is an architect in Seattle at Mahlum, co-chair of the AIA Seattle Mass Timber Committee, and author of the book Solid Wood: Mass Timber Architecture, Technology and Design. He has completed a half dozen mass timber academic buildings in Washington, as well as two mass timber federally funded grant projects. He worked with the AIA WA non-profits to successfully change Washington State Building Codes to allow greater use of mass timber.

Dustin Willms
Nathan Tirk
Structural Engineer, Fast + Epp,

Nathan is a structural engineer in Fast + Epp’s Seattle office, managing mass timber projects across the country such as the Walmart Home Office in Bentonville, AR and Ballard Hotel in Seattle, WA. He is passionate about finding a harmony between form and function to create expressive and efficient structures. As a project manager at Fast + Epp, he relishes the opportunity to leverage his previous design experience to incorporate mass timber into schools.

Karen Wood
Karen Wood 

Track: The Experience of Place

The built and natural environments have profound impacts on our behaviors both for better and worse. How do we cultivate a sense of place for better? How might the built and natural environments be made to enhance teaching and learning? How might school buildings and grounds foster a sense of community by reflecting those they serve?

Primary Core Competency
Design of Educational Facilities: Acts as a resource to the design team in providing ongoing guidance and support to ensure that the emerging and ultimate design aligns with the established community vision, education goals, future programming, written design standards, best/next practices and education policy.

Learning Units/Health, Safety, Welfare (LU/HSW)
The presentation will discuss Health through optimizing indoor environmental quality using biophilia, acoustical controls, hybrid cooling, and passive ventilation. Environmental concerns will be addressed by covering strategies to reduce both operational energy use and embodied carbon. The project demonstrates Welfare through interior space planning and the development of diverse learning environments supporting a broad range of students and different modes of learning. 

learningSCAPES 2022

October 5-9
Marriott Rivercenter | San Antonio, TX

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