2013 SEFW Fall Forum

November 21, 2013

Benaroya Hall, Seattle, WA

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Fall Forum 2013


The Structural Engineers Foundation of Washington hosted its third annual Fall Forum on November 21, 2013, at Benaroya Hall. “Tall Wood: How Timber Suddenly Decided to Grow Up” was presented by Michael Green, Principal at Michael Green Architecture, and J. Eric Karsh, Principal at Equilibrium Consulting, to an audience of approximately 275.


Michael and Eric shared the stage in a casual, back-and-forth presentation covering their many years of collaboration and current projects using timber as the primary structural and architectural system. Wood has a long history as a building material that is both sustainable and longlasting, as historic churches and temples from Europe to Japan can attest. They traced the recent history of timber, from postand- beam systems of the past couple centuries to the stick-framed systems commonly used today, to the future of wood, taking advantage of new technology and fabrication processes to extend the possibilities for this ancient material. Many of their collaborations have focused on Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) structures using panelized systems. Picture a multi-story tilt-up building with CLT panels for the walls and floors. CLT, developed in Switzerland in the early 1990’s, consists of multiple layers of wood, with each layer oriented crosswise to the next. It provides increased dimensional  stability and strength, and can be used for relatively long spans in floors, roofs, and walls. In addition, CLT is a highly sustainable and carbon-friendly material, offering carbonstorage instead of the carbon-emitting byproducts of other building materials.


Michael and Eric presented several recent projects using timber structural systems. These range from large commercial and institutional projects such as airports, municipal halls, and university buildings. With careful attention to detail, the exposed wood structures become a key component of the architecture, creating warm and vibrant spaces. Pushing the limits of wood technology and building code parameters, this duo has designed wood structures up to 10 stories and has conceptual designs for buildings of about twice that height. Wood, which Michael Green calls “the most technologically advanced material grown by the sun,” is poised to make a major impact in the architectural and structural designs of the next decade.


The evening began with a pre-function reception where SEAW members were able to mingle and network with other professionals in our industry.















About our speakers:


​In 2011, Michael and Eric joined forces to author “The Case for Tall Wood Buildings,” a study which introduces a structural concept to achieve timber high-rise structures reaching 30 stories or more. The globally publicized study has been featured by CNN, the Economist, and National Geographic, to name a few.


In February 2013, Michael was just one of 10 architects in the world invited to speak at the TED annual conference for (fellow architects include Frank Gehry, Tom Mayne, William McDonough, and Cameron Sinclair). Michael’s presentation, “Why We Should Build Wooden Skyscrapers” gives incredible exposure to the possibility of wooden high-rises. The presentation, which was just a taste of what was heard at the Forum, can be seen here:

Michael Green, AIBC, AIA and AAA, is a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and is recognized for his award winning buildings, public art, interiors, landscapes and urban environments. Michael is a recognized leader in the architecture and interior design community in Canada.  His team at MGA, which he founded in 2012, designs projects of all shapes and sizes in developed and developing countries, ranging from international airports and skyscrapers to Vancouver’s Ronald McDonald House, North Vancouver City Hall and modest but unique retail spaces and homes. The practice focuses on projects that tell a story of how to make the world a more beautiful, healthy, and happy place to live for all.




Eric Karsh, M.Eng, P.Eng., Struct.Eng., MIStructE, Ing, co-founded Equilibrium Consulting in 1998, a firm now recognized internationally for landmark timber projects such as the Art Gallery of Ontario Galleria Italia with architect Frank Gehry, the Raleigh-Durham Airport expansion, and the recently completed UBC Earth Sciences Building.  Eric has a broad experience in sustainable design, has been involved in numerous LEED projects, and helped introduce the “Passivhaus” concept to Canada.



Additionally, thank you to all the firms that sponsored the reception and the event, as well as all the SEAW members who continue to provide support for the SEFW and the Fall Forum.




Coffman Engineers

KPFF Consulting Engineers

Magnusson Klemencic Associates




Cary Kopcynski & Company

Coughlin Porter Lundeen

DCI Engineers





CT Engineering

Lane Powell

Malsam Tsang Engineering

PCS Structural Solutions

Seattle Structural

Smith & Huston




GLY Construction

Integrus Architecture

Kibble & Prentice

Mayes Testing

Shannon and Wilson





American Institute of Architects, Seattle Chapter

ASCE Seattle Section

Masonry Institute of Washington

Seattle Architectural Foundation

Seattle University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Structural Engineers Association of Washington

University of Washington Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

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Edmonds, WA  98026