The climb reaches new heights with the tallest wooden building in the world


Ascent, a 25-story mixed-use luxury development in Milwaukee, USA, has been officially certified by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) as the tallest log building in the world.

At 284 feet tall, Ascent, located at 700 E. Kilbourn Avenue in the East Town neighborhood of Milwaukee, was also named the tallest hybrid concrete-wood building with the podium containing the first five stories rising over concrete. The title of the tallest mass timber structure in the world was previously held by the 280ft Mjøstårnet building in Brumunddal, Norway.

Designed by Korb + Associates Architects for developers, New Land Enterprises LLP and Wiechmann Enterprises, Ascent redefines luxury living, with retail and parking on the first five floors, a swimming pool on the sixth floor, 259 residential apartments and a impressive 25th floor community space with two terraces, two entertaining kitchens, outdoor cinema, residents-only bar, fire pits, game room, semi-private workspaces and more. Other amenities include a sauna, indoor/outdoor fitness center, indoor dog agility center, dog spa, electric car charging stations, and bicycle storage.

Thornton Tomasetti, who provided structural design services to Korb & Associates Architects for the building, also led the mass timber design program, including providing mass timber system inspections and worked with the USDA Forest Products to complete the world’s first three-hour column. fire test program for glulam columns.

According to Thornton Tomasetti, the solid wood residential floors are built above five levels of concrete parking. A system of glued laminated timber (glulam) beams and columns supports the glued laminated timber (CLT) floors. Two concrete cores provide lateral stability. The design exposes solid wood construction wherever possible to display its natural qualities. Fire tests have proven that wood structural members meet or exceed code requirements for fire resistance.

“An efficient post-tensioned concrete beam system transfers the loads from residential wood floors to the concrete garage structure below. The superstructure is supported by steel tube piles filled with concrete – the highest capacity piles ever built in Wisconsin. This system minimizes the quantities of materials and reduces installation time, for substantial savings,” explained Thornton Tomasetti.

CD Smith Construction, the general contractor overseeing mass timber construction at Ascent, said using mass timber for the structural system reduced construction time by approximately 25%. Ascent was built using a digital “twin” model, so every beam, column and panel can arrive on site ready to assemble, with holes pre-drilled to 1/16 inch accuracy . The wood in Ascent’s frame is sustainably sourced from Austria.

“It’s history in the making,” says Justin Smith, President and CEO, CD Smith Construction. “All stakeholders contributed to this pivotal moment. Despite a global pandemic, this team has achieved building milestones and delivered on promises made over two years ago. Congratulation to all participants !”

New Land Enterprises CEO Tim Gokhman, whose company co-developed Ascent with partner Wiechmann Enterprises, said, “We weren’t looking to break records. We just wanted to create the best experience in the built environment for our residents. Solid wood is faster, more precise, lighter, more durable, more beautiful and supports our commitment to biophilic design.

“This building sequesters enough CO2 to be equivalent to taking 2,400 cars off the road for a year,” said architect Jason Korb, whose firm designed the massive timber structure.

Inaugurated in August 2020, after approximately two years of research, testing, planning and collaboration with external stakeholders, the development of Ascent brought together experts from around the world and established a model for high-rise timber that could help pave the way for future projects.

Ascent welcomed its first residents on July 15, 2022.

Images: Korb + Associates Architects


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