Environmentally Responsible Wood Cladding

Aligning building envelope with institutional environmental responsibility



Photo of Pratibha Chauhan

Pratibha Chauhan

Workplace Strategist


Photo of Doug Bergert, AIA, LEED AP

Doug Bergert, AIA, LEED AP

Senior Project Designer, Associate




This case study focuses on the solutions provided for the Bell Museum at the University of Minnesota. Our design team worked with the client to create a wood facade solution that meets their institutional requirements for durability, cost, and maintenance - and embodies their commitment to sustainability and climate resilience.

Often, university facilities departments prioritize cost, durability, and minimal maintenance when evaluating facade materials for their new building projects; and struggle to include sustainability in their calculations. Despite good intentions, university leadership often feels compelled to lessen sustainability goals to meet budget and maintenance requirements. Our team designed and specified an environmentally responsible building facade assembly that aligned with the client’s budget, values, and aspirations; while meeting institutional durability and maintenance requirements.

Several wood cladding products were evaluated for cost, durability, source, warranty, and appearance. A single product met the client’s criteria. Thermally modified wood cladding was installed on their new building within a learning landscape and urban wildlife habitat. 98.5% of the wood in this building is FSC Certified. This sustainable solution enabled the university client to meet the project budget while embodying the values and cultural goals of the institution within the building facade.

The initial project-focused research has evolved into a larger research topic that continues to bring together a variety of local academic and industry experts, as well as architecture firms interested in employing sustainable wood products in their projects. As we continue to learn more about the capabilities of these wood products, we hope the demand for them helps to grow the environmentally responsible wood products industry so that we have continued and enhance opportunities to use them on our building projects.


Figure a: A gateway to university research. Photo by James Steinkamp.

The new Bell Museum building is positioned as a strategic gateway to the Saint Paul Campus of the University of

Members Only

Background – Design Process

The client challenged the design team to incorporate local materials and environmentally responsible design strategies into the building project. Because of its renewability and local sources, wood was identified as

Members Only

Exterior Cladding Composition

Focused on sustainable forestry, the design team worked closely with our supplier, Arbor Wood, to define a set of board lengths and member sizes that maximize the utilization of eastern

Members Only


As a consequence of the team’s integrated approach, the Bell Museum exceeds the State of Minnesota’s B3 Sustainability requirements through extensive use of native and adapted landscaping; a 70% reduction

Members Only

Further Research

Our firm expanded the project-specific research by collaborating with the University of Minnesota’s architectural research consortium, which offers a unique opportunity for local firms and students with similar interests to

Members Only


Developments in environmentally responsible forestry and building envelope technology offer sustainable opportunities for capital projects. This research project is driven by our firm’s passion for sustainable, innovative cladding systems. We

Members Only


David Dimond, of Perkins and Will Minneapolis, led the design effort for the Bell Museum.

Jacob Mans, of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, provided invaluable guidance for the consortium research project.

Douglas Pierce, of Perkins and Will Minneapolis, championed the sustainability and resiliency strategies for the project, especially bird-friendly glazing.

Rights and Permissions

Bastin, Jean-Francois, Crowther, Thomas et al. The potential for global forest cover. Science (2019) 365: 6448, pp. 76-79. doi: 10.1126/science.aax0848

Candelier, K., Thevenon, MF., Petrissans, A. et al. Control of wood thermal treatment and its effects on decay resistance: a review. Annals of Forest Science (2016) 73: 571. doi:10.1007/s13595-016-0541-x

Homan, W. J., & Jorissen, A. J. M. (2004). Wood modification developments. Heron, 49(4), 361-385.

Hillis, W.E. Wood Sci. Technol. (1984) 18: 281. doi:10.1007/BF00353364

Homan W, Tjeerdsma B, Beckers E, Joressen A (2000) Structural and other properties of modified wood. Congress WCTE, Whistler, Canada, pp 3.5.1-1–3.5.1.-8