timber city










Joe Weisbord

Director, Credit and Housing Access

Fannie Mae


D. Michelle Addington


Yale University


Kyoung Sun Moon, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Yale University


Jeff Spiritos


Spiritos Properties



"At its most effective, architecture is a way of thinking: it maintains parallel, disparate, and often complex pieces of information simultaneously in four dimensions to reach a holistic solution. The Timber City project is a valuable and important example of this multivalent, simultaneous approach to some of the most significant problems of our time. I expect it to yield a foundational body of work that transcends the boundaries of disciplines, professions, and sectors of industry and commerce.  In doing so, I believe that it will have a critical impact on the way we conceive and produce our cities.


As both a teacher and a professional with a diverse practice, I welcome this deep and broad reevaluation of our approach to the resources and processes that form the built environment.  As incoming Dean of the Yale School of Architecture I fully endorse this work for its pedagogic, environmental and social import."

Deborah Berke, FAIA, LEED AP

Dean-Designate, Yale University School of Architecture

“Conventional wisdom regarding the embodied energy for buildings has for too long considered that embodied energy is negligible in comparison to operating energy.  Indeed, many sustainable building strategies go so far as to recommend an increase in embodied energy during construction in favor of reductions in operating energy down the road.  This position is flawed.


The current practice of accounting for the embodied energy of buildings under the industrial sector, not the buildings sector, renders the full environmental impacts and consequences of building materials under-projected and inadequately accounted for.  This is particularly true and risky regarding projections of material use for new building stock in developing countries, where buildings are rapidly becoming larger on a per capita basis.  The United Nations has just recognized this issue and has recently projected that the embodied energy of new buildings and infrastructure will be the largest single consumer of energy through 2030.  And perhaps the greatest flaw is the assumption that sustainable strategies require highly engineered materials and systems with high embodied energy.


The Timber City project challenges these weaknesses and assumptions on all fronts.  First, the methods proposed by the project not only foreground the embodied energy of building materials, but also directly address the positive potential for carbon capture as integral steps in the building design and construction process.  Second, the multiple modes for incorporating timber products establishes sustainable and potentially lower-cost systems for developing countries that could bring local economic benefits while providing robust buildings. Third, and perhaps most importantly, Timber City demonstrates that embodied energy and operating energy need not be in conflict; indeed, timber based systems can be more efficient than the highly engineered material systems that we are using today. The project has my full support and also the support of the Hines Fund for Advanced Research in Sustainable Architectural Design.”

D. Michelle Addington, Dr. Des, P.E.

Hines Professor of Sustainable Architectural Design

Professor of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Chair, Hines Fund for Advanced Research in Sustainable Architectural Design

Yale University


“How will we suitably house growing populations, effectively address climate change, and ensure a vibrant and sustainable economy? Timber City engages an architectural exploration of these most urgent challenges facing the urban built environment. Timber City contemplates new materials and methods that will necessarily drive commercial innovations in raw material extraction, supply chain management, labor force and financing strategies. The New Haven pilot will provide an important learning laboratory for regulators and industry. I am pleased to endorse the Timber City initiative. We look forward to the opportunity to participate and learn from this important exploration into the future of building technology, urban infrastructure and design.”

Joe Weisbord

Director, Credit and Housing Access

Fannie Mae



“Timber City will build on the work that Gray Organschi Architecture has already done to advance wood construction as a sustainable approach to the built environment. This work will advance a crucial approach for reducing the extent and impact of global climate change, and will help set the stage for sustainable forestry in New England and beyond—thereby supporting rural economic opportunity and long-term forest health. The work will resonate from the urban core to the wild forests of northern Maine, sounding a note of hope for the future.”

Frank Lowenstein

Deputy Director, New England Forestry Foundation

Senior Fellow, US Department of State, Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas

Lecturer in Environmental Studies, Brandeis University





"The Timber City Initiative brings to demonstration and fruition three elements of focus of the Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry at Yale University:


1. the use of wood, which is much less polluting than the traditional urban building materials such as concrete, steel, and brick;

2. the provision of many rural, skilled jobs of good wages in harvesting and processing the wood in environmentally sound ways;

3. the appropriate management and monitoring of forests to provide the environmental services of biodiversity, fire protection, water quality, and others.


The Global Institute has studied the relation of forests and wood use to carbon sequestration. We have found that wood construction can dramatically reduce the CO2 emissions and fossil fuel consumption when used as a substitute for concrete, steel, and brick.


The lack of skilled jobs in rural areas forces many people to move to cities and creates a downward spiral in the rural economy. We are working on ways that appropriate technologies in wood harvesting and manufacturing could provide good wages to many people. The emphasis is on greater skill in more workers and less investment in heavy, expensive, and potentially damaging logging equipment.


We have found that relatively little of the world’s annual growth of wood is being harvested; much of it is increasing forest biomass, dying, or burning up. The result is that forests are becoming uniformly overcrowded. Consequently, there is a growing lack of diversity of habitats and the crowded forests are burning and releasing CO2 to the atmosphere. Appropriate silviculture done by skilled woods workers (#2, above) in conjunction with removing and utilizing the excess wood can enhance the forest’s ecosystem services. The Global Institute is working on technical tools including G.I.S. that enable people to plan, manage, and monitor their forests sustainably while providing more ecosystem services."

Chad Oliver

Pinchot Professor of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Faculty Directory, Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry


Mary Tyrrell

Executive Director, Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry

™ 2016  Gray Organschi Architecture