STORY: With its brick facade, 670 Union Street looks like nearly any other building around downtown Brooklyn – from the outside.
But the inside – filled with exposed timber beams and columns - is anything but.
Welcome to "Timber House." Here's architect Eric Lifton.
“It’s built out of a structure of wood, which is very unusual for a six-story-building like this, which would normally be built out of concrete or steel. The timber is a renewable resource. Trees are growing, we’re at a timber surplus. There’s plenty of wood available. And so, as an alternative to concrete or steel, it’s a beautiful material that makes incredible spaces to dwell in that is, is a sustainable way to build.”
Liftin hopes the building can be a model for future constructions in New York.
City College of New York’s architecture school faculty Suzan Wines says architects have a huge obligation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by opting for energy efficient materials.
“Steel and concrete have a fairly large carbon footprint in terms of their production. They each account for about 10% of the carbon dioxide emissions globally, but, you know, annually around the world, while wood, on the other hand, basically has zero or negative carbon footprint. The reason for this is because while trees grow, as you know, they sequester carbon during the photosynthesis process.”
The International Building Code of 2021 added a provision allowing buildings up to 18 stories high to use timber.
Timber House uses no natural gas, generates its own electricity from solar panels on the roof, and offers electric-car charging in its lot.
For those leery of living in what might seem like a tinderbox, Liftin says, fear not:
“Mass timber is actually not a very flammable material. Because it's large, if you've ever tried to light a log on fire in your fireplace with a match – it’s very hard to light large pieces of wood on fire. It takes a lot of heat and then flame to get the actual, to get it to burn.”
The only thing hot about it are the sales: Lifton told Reuters the 14 units inside are selling fast, and just two remain on the market.