Think wood: Using mass timber in hotel construction


Ben Symons, the senior vice president and general manager of communications and infrastructure at Lendlease, shares insight on why mass timber is setting new trends in hospitality.

“The construction industry is ripe for revolution. Mass timber is easier, faster, safer, and better without added cost.”

How would you describe the architectural style of using mass timber in commercial properties?

Mass timber has opened new opportunities of architectural expression. When using solid wood panel elements such as Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) in a beamless application, it can exhibit a modern minimalist aesthetic. The high degree of fabrication potential also leaves the medium open to various forms of expressionism. However, the exposed wood enables a vein of tradition to be present in these modern architectural styles.

In the U.S., Lendlease is utilizing mass timber as a structural medium for specific Candlewood Suites® hotels as part of the 50-year Privatization of Army Lodging (PAL) program. These hotels are designed and built to brand standards as outlined by our operations partner, IHG® (InterContinental Hotels Group). Due to brand standards, the mass timber is completely concealed behind other finishes to maintain a universal look across the U.S. While we are looking to expose more of the structure in future projects, the value of mass timber for these projects is not in the architectural style, but in the quality and speed of construction.

What are the structural benefits of using mass timber?

Mass timber provides for a strong, robust and high-quality structure. We utilize CLT for the floors, roofs, exterior walls, stair and elevator shafts and some of the interior walls. CLT is fabricated to a high level of precision and very dimensionally stable, resulting in a tight building envelope while providing exceptionally straight and plumb surfaces for high-end finishes. CLT also provides a high degree of blast protection, which is required for our military projects and allows for reduced building setbacks and larger building footprints.

What are the environmental benefits of using mass timber?

Wood is a highly sustainable material because it is the only mainstream building material that is renewable. It is a carbon negative raw material, meaning it sequesters more carbon dioxide in its growth than it uses in its manufacture. The embodied energy of mass timber products is significantly less than concrete and steel over its life cycle. The growth of mass timber also provides a much-needed opportunity to improve the economic health of rural forest communities that have been in steady decline since the mid-1900s.

What types of commercial properties is mass timber most popular?

With the housing shortage in many major cities, market rate and affordable housing make up a significant segment of interest. However, student housing, office and institutional are also growing markets that recognize the advantages of speed and quality that mass timber offers.

Can you foresee the utilization of mass timber increasing in commercial properties?

Numerous companies are investigating mass timber as an option for new office spaces and residential developments. The opportunity to expose the wood structure provides a differentiator in this increasingly competitive marketplace. However, the real advantage in this technology is the ability to erect a building faster with fewer people. This has both cost and safety advantages necessary to keep up with the world’s building infrastructure needs. As both a builder and an owner, we pride ourselves on creating the best places, so the exceptional quality and environmental performance of these structures align with our core values.

What advice do you have for hotel owners on how to make their properties stand out?

Guests have a variety of choices when it comes to lodging accommodations, and design innovation is a key attribute in enhancing the guest experience and differentiating a brand. Lendlease, the exclusive developer for the U.S. Army’s Privatized Army Lodging (PAL) program, together with PAL program hotel operator InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), build and operate IHG Army Hotels, a portfolio of hotels located in 40 U.S. military installations. Utilizing a strong and durable building material with added conservation and sustainability benefits is a great example of innovative design. The CLT material can also withstand temperature swings and helps to lower energy costs. It’s definitely a material that other hotel developers should consider. If you want to stand out, you must either do something different or better…and mass timber does both.      ■


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