Wisconsin claims world's tallest mass timber building

The 284-foot-tall building surpassed the previous record-holder in Norway

MADISON, Wis. – The Lake States can claim the honor of having the tallest mass timber building in the world with the topping off in March of the 25-story Ascent building in downtown Milwaukee. Ascent has begun leasing its 259 apartment units and plans to allow tenants to occupy the building around June 30.

The building at 700 E. Kilbourn Avenue is 284 feet tall, only slightly taller than the Mjostarnet building in Brumunddal, Norway, which previously claimed the title at 280 feet since 2018.

Ascent was developed by New Land Enterprises, LLP. Its managing director Tim Gokhman described the topping off as the “culmination of years of determination and innovation.” Ground was broken for the new structure in August 2020. Construction of the building was 25% faster than normal construction because of the method of connecting prefabricated columns and beams, according to C.D. Smith Construction, the general contractor for the project. The apartment units will feature exposed wood ceilings and columns, adding a distinct appearance to the building’s interior.

Adherence to fire safety standards of a Type I building was demonstrated by a three hour fire test of glulam beams at the USDA Forest Products Laboratory in Madison. (Glulam is an abbreviation for “glued laminated timber” formed by layers of dimensional lumber bonded together with durable structural adhesives.)

There is already international competition for Ascent’s leading position as the tallest wooden building in the world: Sumitomo Forestry of Japan is planning a 70-story structure in Tokyo called the W350 Project. It is planned to commemorate the company’s 350th anniversary. But that is not until 2041, so there is time for others to join in the competition. There are taller wooden structures already in place, including antenna towers and religious towers.

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