As sustainability measures become increasingly important in new construction, architects around the world are turning toward mass timber — even for large-scale projects. A workshop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is dedicated to exploring the design and engineering potential of wood-based technologies and recently unveiled one such example that can even be turned into an energy producer. Dubbed the Longhouse, the mass timber-building prototype is modeled after the traditional building type of the same name that has been historically used as a place for community gatherings.

Led by research scientist John Klein, the cross-disciplinary team at the MIT Mass Timber Design workshop that developed the Longhouse prototype studied how mass timber products can be used to create modern buildings. Research has shown that mass timber structures have a lower carbon footprint than their conventional building counterparts and can be engineered for substantial strength and fire resistance. Moreover, greater use of mass timber technology could lead to improved forest management and restoration.

The MIT Longhouse prototype would serve as a multifunctional building that could accommodate a variety of events, from co-working, exercise classes, social gatherings, exhibitions, lectures and more. To create a flexible and open-plan interior, the building would be engineered with a series of timber laminated veneer lumber (LVL) arches that are 40 feet tall at the central peak and span 50 feet across. Each arch uses a thin-walled triangular profile and would be prefabricated in sections and then assembled on site for a fast and efficient construction process.

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The building is also designed to follow passive solar principles while its sawtooth roof would allow for ample natural daylighting and could accommodate solar panels. The MIT Mass Timber Design workshop will present its Longhouse design at the Maine Mass Timber Conference this October.

+ MIT Mass Timber Design workshop

Images via MIT Mass Timber Design