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Rice University Nails A $100K Grant To Build On-Campus Timber Housing

Rice University professors Jesús Vassallo and Albert Pope encouraged the university to consider the technique in the redevelopment of Hanszen College.

Rice University is redeveloping a residential building, and it's going timber.

The five-story, 50K SF building will feature 165 beds and common areas and replace a wing of Hanszen College, one of Rice's first residential colleges, which was built in 1957.

The Department of Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service awarded $1M for 10 institutes to construct mass timber buildings. Each institution was awarded $100K for the planning and approval process. 

“These grants are really to help push these projects over the line,” Rice Architecture professor Jesús Vassallo said in a release.  

Construction is pending approval by Rice’s board of trustees and its Buildings and Grounds subcommittee.

Vassallo and Rice professor Albert Pope have been longtime supporters of mass timber, an eco-friendly construction method, according to Rice University. 

Mass timber uses engineered wood products as the structural components in construction, including load-bearing beams, panels and posts. It replaces concrete, which during manufacture is a significant generator of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

In 2016, the duo submitted a model of a timber skyscraper for Detroit, which was accepted to the 15th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Vassallo also teaches a graduate course, Tall Timbers.  

Other Rice professionals assisting with the grant are Vice President of Administration Kevin Kirby, Associate Vice President of Housing and Dining Mark Ditman, Director of Sustainability Richard Johnson and Assistant Director for Project Management and Engineering Anzilla Gilmore.  

This grant validates the university's enduring efforts toward environmental responsibility, Johnson said. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education ranked Rice as one of the top 10 universities for sustainable research.  

In the grant proposal, the team wrote that the Hanszen expansion was “the perfect opportunity to catalyze a new, sustainable mode of design and engineering that reflect Rice's commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2038.”  

“Rice as an institution is committed to becoming carbon neutral, and the Rice School of Architecture is a recognized leader in mass timber research,” Johnson said. “In my view, constructing a mass timber building on the Rice campus, where it can contribute to pedagogy and research as well as be a visible representation of our climate commitment, makes perfect sense.” 

The Department of Agriculture awarded similar grants to two other schools in Texas, San Jacinto College in Pasadena and Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.

Related Topics: Rice University, mass timber