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Mass Timber Construction Approved For Use In New York City, Basement Apartments See Changes

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New York, New York – Mass Timber Advances, Basement apartments get overhaul. The New York City Council approved changes to the city’s building code on Thursday, October 7, allowing for the construction of cross-laminated timber (CLT) structures throughout the five boroughs (up to 85 feet).

This may not seem like a significant change in a city filled with supertall skyscrapers, but prior to the change, such projects were subject to a lengthy individual approval process.

Additionally, the council considered a change that could have a significant impact on the legalization of basement apartments, a popular housing typology that frequently skirts code compliance.

After Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc on the region last month, killing eight residents in such units, the City Council reduced the required ceiling height for basement apartments to just seven feet. This may make it easier for building owners to bring those units into compliance and complete the necessary emergency egresses.

Why Mass Timber?

Timber construction firms believe that, when compared to traditional construction materials such as steel and concrete, timber is easier and more affordable to use, as well as more durable in the long run.

The best part is that it may be beneficial to the environment.

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While it may seem counterintuitive to use timber construction to help the environment, an increasing number of timber buildings constructed in the United States over the last few years demonstrate otherwise.

Typically, construction is one of the largest sources of carbon emissions. According to the most recent Global Status report, building and construction contribute more than 35% of total global carbon emissions, and 40% in the United States. This figure is expected to nearly double by 2050, as millions of new residential and commercial structures are constructed each year.

To offset these construction-related emissions, real estate developers and construction firms turn to wood to sequester carbon and enable sustainable housing projects. Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by trees.

When trees are then converted to mass timber for construction, the carbon is ‘locked-in’ for decades, if not centuries, in the buildings, reducing the amount of carbon available in the atmosphere.

Along with removing carbon from the atmosphere, mass timber enables builders to avoid the emissions-intensive building materials such as concrete and steel.

According to experts, mass timber construction could help us avoid between 14% and 31% of global annual emissions by avoiding emissions associated with the use of concrete or steel in construction.

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