A Comparative Exploration Into Mass Timber and Conventional Construction Methods
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The Neutral Project
February 23, 2024

The Neutral Project is excited to share the result of months-long research into the environmental, economic, and scheduling performance of a hybrid mass timber structural design.

"Bakers Place Case Study: A Comparative Exploration Into Mass Timber and Conventional Construction Methods” focuses on Bakers Place, a mixed-use building project developed by The Neutral Project - a sustainability-focused real estate development company. The project will provide 206 residential units and 9000 square feet of retail space in Madison, Wisconsin.


Image: Bakers Place mass timber-steel hybrid structure under construction, January 2024

The analysis is studying different structural framing materials applied to the same Bakers Place architectural massing. It compares mass timber-steel hybrid structure (as used in the actual project) with hypothetical structural designs made of all mass timber, all steel, and post-tensioned concrete. The case study team designed alternative structural models, ran embodied carbon life cycle assessment, and obtained construction estimates to compare each approach.

Image: Bakers Place mass timber-steel hybrid structure schematic diagram and photo on site.

Why this matters

Recent technological developments made using timber construction in tall buildings a practical alternative to less sustainable structural materials like steel and concrete. This technology involves laminating lumber to create larger structural elements and is commonly referred to as "mass timber".

The limited accessibility of data regarding the costs, schedule, and environmental consequences of implementing mass timber in commercial real estate ventures has hindered the adoption of this sustainable technology.

Financial constraints typically make detailed comparative studies of different structures unfeasible for one-off commercial development projects due to the significant additional design and estimation work required. The Neutral Project set out to solve this with the help of funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wood Innovations Grant Program in 2021 and funding support from the Softwood Lumber Board (SLB).

The Neutral Project has assembled a world-class team of experts in construction and sustainability to conduct the necessary research, including: EQUILIBRIUM, Priopta, Rivion, Arup, RDH Building Science, WoodWorks - Wood Products Council, Michael Green Architects, Angus & Young, C.D.Smith, and other esteemed industry organizations.

This case study provides rare project-based insights and is intended to spread the learnings and best practices of building sustainable mass timber projects in North America. The project team hopes that it will help guide developers, policy-makers, and other industry practitioners in evaluating and creating new sustainable mass timber developments. As an industry, we must change the paradigm and work together to promote information sharing and advance the use of mass timber and sustainable development practices in North America.

You can read the case study in its entirety by downloading a free copy of the case study report by completing the form below. In the coming weeks, The Neutral Project will be publishing dedicated blog posts exploring specific findings of the underlying research. In addition, our team plans to share exclusive behind-the-scenes stories of implementing mass timber-steel structure in the Bakers Place project. 

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Download a free copy of the case study report by competing the form below.