First United Bank wanted its new American offices to align with the bank’s sustainability initiative. Gensler architects responded with an innovative design and building materials. “The bank wanted buildings that really showed how they were built and related to their customer base,” according to Gensler project architect Taylor Coleman. “Using mass timber was the best way to accomplish those goals.”
In addition to the use of CLT panels for the roof, the 8,500-square-foot design for the first building in Fredericksburg, Texas, structure includes glulam columns and beams.
It also meant that the build phase was 50% to 60% faster than with concrete or steel. Overall, the projects are expected to be completed 25% faster than they would have been using a different material. “The roof was set on the Fredericksburg branch in a day and a half. The slowest part was repositioning the crane,” added Coleman.
The use of mass timber required more upfront work with the contractor for the drawings. Coleman says the exacting manufacturing process leaves no room for error. “Whatever you put down is exactly what you’re going to get, so you need to get it right,” Coleman said. “But the extra time we spent at the front end we more than got back during erection.”
Despite the lack of experienced mass timber tradespeople in the fairly rural locations, assembly was made easier with help from the manufacturers. Gensler brought in local home builders in Texas who had experience adding mass timber elements to residential construction. International Beams, the manufacturer of cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glulam for the Texas branch, also sent an expert to help train those workers on panel installation, and by the third panel, they had it down cold.