Chicago Tribune: “Is Chicago’s fear of fire ebbing?”

Architectural critic Blair Kamin studies Chicago’s changing attitudes towards mass timber construction; featuring the McDonald’s Chicago Flagship.

“Wood is having a moment in the world of architecture.

Other cities, including Milwaukee and Minneapolis, are going all-in on an innovative type of wood whose boosters claim takes less energy to produce than concrete or steel.

It might even be on the verge of making inroads in Chicago, where the Great Fire of 1871 incinerated vast stretches of the city as it raced from one wood building to another.

The type of wood in question is not sticklike two-by-fours. It goes by the catchall phrase ‘mass timber,’ which encompasses a series of engineered wood products that are laminated, nailed or pressed together — like a panini — to form solid, high-strength wood panels. Typically, mass timber forms the internal structure of a building and is left exposed, recalling old lofts. Exteriors are clad in other steel, glass and other materials…

A prime example: The handsome, energy-saving McDonald’s flagship in River North, which opened in 2018. Designed by Chicago architect Carol Ross Barney, the flagship uses a type of mass timber, known as cross-laminated timber, in addition to its main supporting structure of thin steel columns…”

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