The new headquarters of a clean energy company in Charlottesville, Virginia has claimed the title of largest mass timber structure on the East Coast.

The mass timber Apex Plaza under construction in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Apex Clean Energy commissioned the eight-story, 187,000-square-foot building with a focus on sustainable materials and building methods in mind. They worked with Hourigan Group developers and architectural firm William McDonough + Partners to eco-consciously build from the ground up.

Construction workers erect a wooden pillar as part of the new Apex Plaza HQ in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“The design of the building required an imaginative and creatively challenging process. Our direction was clear: to achieve financial efficiencies that met, or even reduced, our current obligations while setting a new benchmark in terms of sustainability,” explains John Bahouth, Apex Senior Vice President of Administration. “Fortunately, our process led to a partnership with world-renowned architect Bill McDonough, who literally wrote the book on sustainable design.”

In fact, McDonough wrote a text 20 years ago outlining the “possibility of developing healthy and creatively interactive relationships between human settlements and the natural world.”

Close-up view of the cross-laminated timber (CLT) beams comprising the new Apex Plaza building in Charlottesville, VA.

According to their website, WD+P “have been at the forefront of the ‘green’ architecture and Circular Economy movements for more than 30 years, creating pioneering architecture and many recognized flagships of sustainable design” like YouTube’s Silicon Valley headquarters and NASA’s carbon positive Sustainability Base. The company focuses on “Cradle to Cradle Design,” a philosophy that utilizes safe and healthy materials while taking its cues from the life cycles of living organisms.

McDonough’s firm used cross-laminated timber (CLT) to construct the Apex building, which not only houses all 150 of the clean energy company’s employees but also features retail space on the ground floor. That sustainably harvested wood will help the structure realize a potential carbon benefit of roughly 3,000 metric tons compared to traditional concrete and steel builds.

Close-up view of the cross-laminated timber (CLT) beams comprising the new Apex Plaza building in Charlottesville, VA.

Close-up view of the cross-laminated timber (CLT) beams comprising the new Apex Plaza building in Charlottesville, VA.

“It’s essentially a wood building that will last forever and can be built quickly and efficiently and replaces the carbon intensive methods for building that we’ve used for decades,” Apex Clean Energy’s President and CEO Mark Goodwin told local media outlets. Notwithstanding its wooden makeup, CLT is known for its fire-resistance properties, making it a safe choice for a building material overall.

The exterior is clad in a high-performance envelope of DensElement weather barrier, Thermafiber rigid insulation, and a rainscreen shell. A green roof terrace helps create a bio-diverse habitat complete with built-in rainwater retention systems, and the parking lot includes charging stations for electric cars.
The HQ further reduces its environmental footprint with 875 roof and canopy-mounted solar panels for a carbon-neutral energy calculation.

Completed exterior of mass timber Apex Plaza building in Charlottesville, VA.

“A building that has over 300 kilowatts of solar power on it — what that will do is enable Apex to be net zero in this office, so we will generate as much power as we use in the building,” Goodwin adds. “What we want to do with a building like this is show how a company like ours, which works on the utility side of the economy, how we can help show an example of transitioning in other sectors.”