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When Mass Timber Meets Pre-Fab Design: Affordable and Sustainable Housing

Fueled by the emergence of mass timber construction techniques, the wood structures that we once thought would be relegated to an antiquated past are instead pointing the way to the future. The material is poised to revolutionize the architecture field as businesses and communities realize that timber is an affordable, low-carbon alternative to steel and concrete.

Like its name suggests, oWOW Design is not content with following conventional architectural practices and seeks to design creative solutions to combat the high-cost of housing in the United States. To do so, the vertically-integrated firm is intent on doing away with the status quo, starting with which materials are being used and how the buildings themselves are constructed. By combining mass plywood floor panels that are point-supported on mass plywood columns, the team creates lightweight and environmentally friendly structures that can be erected at record speed, bringing down the cost for the end-user.

If you are an architect looking to continue your career in this emerging field — including all the opportunities that mass timber is bringing to the worlds of prefabrication technologies, affordability and sustainability — we have the right job for you. oWOW Design is leading the charge for building affordable and sustainable homes in the United States. The Oakland, California-based firm is looking for a Project Architect with experience in mass timber, prefabrication and systems thinking who is motivated to break the traditional mold with creative solutions and new materials.

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316 12th Street by oWOW Design, Oakland, CA

oWOW Design is not a firm simply bent on meeting a deadline or merely satisfying the strict requirements of a project; they value the broader importance of their work, both in how their design coheres with the rest of the neighborhood and how it addresses pressing social and economic inequities within an urban environment.

Take for instance their current development at 316 12th Street in downtown Oakland. This retrofit to an existing property adds five stories of mass timber construction behind an existing historic façade. Not only does the project help preserve the historic character of the neighborhood, it also adds sensible density to the downtown core with twenty-seven new multifamily units on the upper floors of the building.

For one, the point-supported mass timber structure designed by the firm conveys a warmth that doesn’t overshadow the architectural details of the pre-existing below — something much harder to accomplish with concrete or steel. The use of timber throughout also ensures significant cost savings (on average between 20% and 30% for most of the firm’s projects) during the construction phase, meaning more affordable unit prices down the line. In the end, this retrofit will bring new life to the historic street and with it, new business opportunities for the neighborhood.

1510 Webster by oWOW Design, Oakland, CA

In addition, all of oWOW Design’s use the same standard kit of parts in order to reduce costs and timelines across all stages of the project — from design through construction — helping achieve consistent high-quality construction, reduce engineering costs and streamline supply chains. Bringing it all together is the firm’s adoption of new construction delivery technologies, helping improve coordination between design team, consultants and subcontractors.

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Another ongoing project is 1510 Webster in the heart of downtown Oakland: an 18-story mixed-use tower which, once completed, will be one of the tallest mass timber structures in the United States. Besides that impressive architectural feat, oWOW Design is using this project among others to push the boundaries of mass timber construction technology. The firm is using factory-built, prefabricated components (including façades and structural brace frames) wherever possible to reduce site labor costs and construction time.

Prefabricated construction by oWOW Design in Oakland, CA; images by oWOW Design

These innovations are helping distinguish oWOW Design as one of the architectural leaders of emerging technologies and materials in the United States. The firm’s rapidly growing portfolio showcase projects adapted to the pressing needs of the present, affordability and ecological sustainability among them, and a determination to provide a template for the future of architecture.

What is more, oWOW defines itself as “a Team of passionate people who share a common goal of making a real difference.” It’s a statement they don’t make lightly since all members of the team share equity in the firm — and are thus held accountable for their contribution.


If this firm seems like the right fit for you, don’t miss your chance: apply to join the team as a Project Architect today:

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The post When Mass Timber Meets Pre-Fab Design: Affordable and Sustainable Housing appeared first on Journal.

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