Building a greener office
Construction uses more wood, less steel in bid to help planet
SAN ANTONIO — 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 140,600squarefoot, sixstory 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.
The Soto, named for the Spanish word for “grove of trees” or “small forest,” is the latest building to use unconventional methods here.
The wood for the Soto comes from trees farmed specifically for mass timber production.
“The trees we’re building with, as they grow, they’re taking carbon dioxide out of the air, and then when the tree’s cut at about 10 years old, you build with it and you’ve just sequestered all of that carbon into the building,” Beauchamp said. “Then new trees grow, they take carbon out of the air, they’re cut when they’re young — somebody else builds with them, so you’re sequestering this carbon in your buildings.”
Jack Spector, president of Hixon Properties, acknowledged that there are emissions generated from the transportation of the wood product, but that’s no different from shipping steel.
The development team is seeking the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification. The project will include other green features, such as LED lighting and advanced heating and cooling systems.
Much of the sixstory Soto office building is being constructed of wood — and less of concrete and steel. Proponents see it as an innovative way to offset greenhouse gases.