As construction schematics take shape, procurement priorities come into sharper focus.

Specific to timber as a structural element in construction, early design decisions include:

  • Selection of the lateral system, preferred floor assembly, optimal grid spacing for tenant fit out and system fabrication.
  • Method of facade attachment.
  • MEP routing.
  • Acoustic performance.
  • Fire performance.
  • Early integration of architectural space program with structural layout.
  • Early optimization of wood fiber use based on the structural approach.

As the approximate quantity and type of wood products begin to be identified, this is an opportunity to move from sourcing concepts to commitments.

Establishing the criteria/metrics to be applied during the design and procurement process should happen at this stage. Potential wood criteria/metrics could include any number of elements from the CSF definition that align with the project’s goals, for example:

  • Forestry practices that are above business-as-usual and regulatory baselines
  • Ecologically restorative forestry
  • Locally or tribally produced wood
  • Wood with a transparent, traceable embodied carbon benefit

Preliminary conversations with trade partners should begin and evolve through SD to ensure that project goals can be evaluated in an informed manner.

  • Begin outline specification or preliminary project description of wood scope and procurement options.
  • Revisit and validate sustainability goals developed during the Conceptual Design process.
  • Creation of a financial scenario analysis to development committees and/or lending institutions to secure project funding.

Grid spacings and preferred floor assemblies may be informed not only by the architecture but also the availability and cost competitiveness of various mass timber assemblies and their manufacturers’ dimensional parameters. Structural engineers, the GC/CM, or other consultants/partners can assist in providing parametric studies to compare the pros and cons of various timber solutions, factoring in cost, lead time, architectural constraints, embodied carbon, etc.

  • During this stage, constraints or features of materials based on the manufacturing process are optimized – Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA)
  • Utilizing DfMA for the mass timber structure design development provides the best opportunity to realize maximum value from the Mass Timber system, as opposed to trying to adapt a traditional design to a mass timber solution.
    • Features of DfMA include: Working to the manufacturer’s module, minimizing waste between components, reducing the number of unique components (fewer pieces), maximizing opportunities for repetitive pieces, utilizing member sizes that consider smaller equipment (or no equipment) needed for installation, etc (i.e. crane utilization analyses).


Where wood is to be used in a project, the CSW Procurement Options  should be considered and one or more procurement strategies should be prioritized at this time. General solicitation to the supply chain should start to validate strategies, assess availability of sizes and material types, and drive healthy competition during the bidding phase. CSWG is building partners across North America who can inquire about the array of CSW availability options in real-time and, if desired, procurement options within the local area where the project is located. A consultation with CSWG  will help determine what range of options might exist.

Procurement approaches can also help with “why” a developer should pick one (or some combination) of the CSW procurement paths over another. This ideally involves a quantitative decision-making process. Developers are typically motivated to manage their risk and maintain optionality. Tracking cost, schedule, embodied carbon (and other sustainability metrics), and risk implications of procurement pathways allows the project team to find the best approach to achieve the overall project goals.

Procurement guidance should recognize and work with this risk framework and show developer value (and risk reduction) in order to encourage establishment of a more comprehensive climate smart criteria.  For example:

  • Are standard pro forma assumptions the most appropriate?
  • Can a building with a high level of climate-smart wood command higher rent/sale value/return on investment?
  • Can climate-smart wood sourcing aid in defining and prioritizing project ESG goals, such as by engaging local minority- or women-owned businesses?

While some studies will continue to be vetted into Design Development (DD), the end of SD typically coincides with clarity on large scope items such as the preferred framing schemes, species of wood, etc, — although it is not uncommon for some of these studies to continue into early DD.

Project teams are encouraged to reach out to the CSWG network  for assistance, guidance, and help locating consultants, contractors, and vendors. Sample specification language options  are under development and will be open for case study-based utilization in early 2024. Until that time, CSWG is also available to review and assist  with specification approaches on a project-basis.