Build­ing a greener of­fice

Con­struc­tion uses more wood, less steel in bid to help planet

The Dallas Morning News - - STATE - By JOSH BAUGH

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.

Rebecca Slezak/San An­to­nio Ex­press­News

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.

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