San Antonio Express-News
On warming, building might be a cut above
Wood for Soto seen as better for environment
Walk onto the Soto construction site at the former Cavender Cadillac dealership on Broadway downtown, and you’ll be struck by the unmistakable fragrance of freshly cut wood.
“That’s a common comment,” said Hunter Kingman, development manager for Hixon Properties.
What’s uncommon is that much of the 140,600-squarefoot, six-story office building is being constructed of wood — and less of concrete and steel. Proponents of what is called mass timber construction see it as an innovative way to offset greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Not everyone is convinced of its environmental benefit, while much is still unknown about the production methods.
The Soto is the first largescale mass timber project in Texas and the fourth in the U.S., said John Beauchamp, chief investment officer for Hixon. It’s more common in Europe.
The building will have about 640 cubic meters of wood that can sequester, or hold, more than 540 tons of carbon dioxide.
“It’s the equivalent of taking 290 cars off the road for a year or enough energy to operate 129 homes for a year,” Beauchamp said.
Hixon is aiming to be at the forefront of using mass timber for commercial-scale buildings. It has partnered with the Cavender family on redevelopment of 8½ acres along both sides of Broadway near Eighth.
The Soto, named for the Spanish word for “grove of trees” or “small forest,” is the latest building to use unconventional methods here. Another, the Credit Human headquarters, farther north on Broadway, will be the first commercial building to tap geothermal energy in San Antonio.
The wood for the Soto comes from trees farmed