CTBUH announces the ascension as the tallest wooden building in the world

Wooden structures are seeing new heights — quite literally, with the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats (CTBUH) naming the 25-story climb in Milwaukee as the tallest wooden structure in the world. The mixed-use luxury project has also been rated as the tallest hybrid concrete and wood building. Its first five floors, which include retail and parking on the ground floor, rise on cast-in-place concrete.

This 284-foot-tall wooden tower, designed by Milwaukee-based Korb & Associates Architects, has stolen the title of the world’s tallest wooden structure away from the 280-foot Mjøstårnet in Brumunddal, Norway, and has also surpassed the 276-foot HoHo in Vienna. Building as the tallest hybrid concrete and wood building, according to CTBUH.

Although Ascent beat the previous record by just four feet, a small marginal win for tall timber means a giant leap toward more sustainable cities. This tall wooden triumph also represents a major advance in timber collective building in general and a greater effort to build healthier and greener cities under the increasing pressure of climate change.

Collective timbers are fixed with steel connectors. (courtesy CTBUH)

“We didn’t plan to break records,” New Land Enterprises CEO Tim Gokhman said at the certification ceremony, “We just wanted to create the best experience within the built environment for our residents. Timber is faster, more refined, lighter, more sustainable, and more beautiful.” and underpins our commitment to biophilic design.”

The ascent was the result of nearly two years of research, testing and planning, along with the collaboration of external stakeholders and experts from around the world. The tower has also received city support: In 2019, the project received unanimous approval for a site redistricting from the Milwaukee City Council City Planning Commission.

According to CTBUH, the use of mass timber for Ascent’s structural system also reduced construction time by nearly 25 percent, compared to a conventional concrete building of the same size. Using “Dual Digital” construction technology, each beam, column and panel arrived on site with pre-drilled holes with 1/16″ precision and is ready for assembly. Collective timbers are fixed with steel connectors.

The building opened just two years ago in August 2020, topped out in December 2021, and opened last month, as tenants began moving into the luxury development on July 15.

The mixed-use timber tower consists of retail stores on the ground floor, parking, and 259 residential units, with a swimming pool on the sixth floor. Korb & Associates also noted that about half of the wooden elements were left exposed inside the building, giving the interior a warm touch.

People holding a certificate outside the building
When complete, CTBUH hosted an adoption ceremony on the site of the building that has officially designated the Ascent the tallest wooden building in the world. (courtesy CTBUH)

“The Ascent is a very exciting project,” said CTBUH Director of Research and Intellectual Leadership Daniel Savarek. “It helps advance the conversation about how to build more sustainable and healthier cities, particularly in the face of mass urbanization and the increasing impacts of climate change.”

From now on, Ascent will serve as a model for mass timber construction, a building method that has seen significant growth in recent years. The building is a key case study in the CTBUH research project, “Future Timber City: An outreach and education program for future, sustainable, dense cities.” On September 28 AN Hosted by TimberCon in partnership with the Mass Timber Institute, the online event will showcase exemplary lumber projects across North America – including Ascent in discussion with Korb & Associates Director Jason Korb – and highlight emerging technologies in this exciting field.


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