The use of mass timber construction is gaining momentum in the US; however, its aesthetic, construction, and sustainability advantages remain largely unexplored for hotels. This is the final entry in our series exploring the development of a realistic, hypothetical mass timber hotel. Don’t miss parts I to III: the developer, architect and operator points-of-view!
Spread-eagle on the bed after an exhausting day of meetings, I exhale deeply. I used to feel excited about the prospect of work travel — the luxury of jet-setting around the country to visit places far from where I was raised. The image was always one of exploration: running through a beautiful city park, strolling along a quiet street and wandering into little boutiques, dining at the bar of a dimly lit bistro and listening in on nearby conversations of first dates and family celebrations. All too often, the reality is that I am too drained of energy after a long flight and often stressed after a day of meetings that all I can muster is room service and half an episode of Seinfeld before I nod off to sleep in preparation for the day ahead.
There is something different about this room I’m in tonight, in the way this space is making me feel. Fluffy pillow beneath my head, I stare up at the wooden ceiling and sink into the patterns of grain. The alternating lines of light and dark remind me of a topographic map: in some areas the lines are very close together and in other places they are far apart. Some of the dark lines are straight, eventually curving around a dark-circled knot, as if the grain were a river flowing around a large rock.
The wood is a light whitish-yellow color, and I notice that a few of the boards are streaked with a denim blue. What is that from? I reach for my phone and learn that blue staining is signature of a fungus lodged in the head of the mountain pine beetle, an invasive species that has decimated pine forests in the western United States. The beetle tunnels into the bark and disrupts the movement of food and water through the tree – killing it, turning its green needles to rust. Huh. So that means the tree was dead before it was harvested.
I glance over at the alarm clock and realize I have been staring at the ceiling for an hour. My smart watch tells me my heart rate is at its lowest all day. I feel relaxed, calm, centered.
Marveling at the grain patterns, I wonder if the wood is just an aesthetic design element adhered to the surface beneath. The wooden columns suggest a different story. I walk over to a column and rest my hand against the surface. It feels to be the same temperature as the air around me, and the face is smooth to the touch. Up close, I see that it is adorned with cracks along the face. This is not just a veneer; this is the structure.
This is the first memorable hotel stay I have had in a while. I will be coming back.
Erica Spiritos is a Preconstruction Manager for Swinerton Mass Timber. Erica has long been interested in the design of urban environments in ways that honor the natural resources on which our lives depend. In her role at Swinerton, she provides project-specific expertise to support appropriate and optimal mass timber design, estimating, and procurement strategy. She has helped grow SMT from four people to 29 full-time staff dedicated to accelerating the mainstream adoption of mass timber by providing turnkey engineer, procure, construct (EPC) services across the US commercial construction market.
The Mass Timber + Hospitality research team includes: