19-storey plywood tower nears completion in Oakland

A rendering of the tower, courtesy of oWow
After just seven months on site, work is nearly finished on a high-rise apartment building in Oakland, California that the developer calls the “tallest beamless mass plywood panel structure in the world”.

The 19-storey tower in downtown Oakland will have 222 flats, a fifth of which will be affordable. 

The 1510 Webster Street project was developed and designed by Oakland-based oWOW, with assistance from Californian design firm DCI Engineers. The two are also handling its construction.

oWOW is using what it calls “a unique mass-timber construction system” that allows it to “build high-quality housing in less time and at lower costs than our competitors”. It has already built three projects in the San Francisco Bay area, and has 600 more in construction or in the pipeline.

Mass plywood construction may deliver housing “at reasonable cost” to San Francisco Bay (oWow)

Broadcaster Fox KTVU reports that the project has progressed with remarkable speed. The design began about a year-and-a-half ago, ground was broken in October 2022, and construction is expected to top out by the end of June, according to CEO and project manager Jeff Brink.

Jeff Brink, the chief executive of DCI Engineers, said of the project: “This is groundbreaking in terms of environmental impacts, in transitioning from concrete to mass timber.”

He added that mass timber allowed developers to pass cost savings on the residents. “The goal of developers is to figure out a way to build more residential units at reasonable costs,” Brinks said.

Rental units in the block are expected to be available early next year.

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