Uruguay will have the tallest wooden building in Latin America

This architectural milestone confirms the country as a benchmark for small and large-scale wood construction.
Publication date: 13/10/2023

In a year, the tallest wooden building in Latin America will be inaugurated in Uruguay, with a height of seven floors and a construction system that promotes energy efficiency and construction speed. This architectural milestone confirms Uruguay as a benchmark for small and large-scale wood construction.

Behind this engineering work is the company Arboreal, co-owned by American and Uruguayan investors, who decided to participate in the innovative business of Mass Timber (solid wood construction) with the purchase of a Uruguayan sawmill located in Tacuarembó in 2021. In 2023, Arboreal obtained a certification ensuring that its structural timber produced at the mill meets European standards.
U.S. investor Mark Crandall and Uruguayan Matías Abergo, president of Arboreal and CEO of Enkel Group, that specializes in Mass Timber construction, bought the Frutifor Lumber Company sawmill for more than US$ 25 million, then invested nearly US$ 12 million in the installation of drying and automatic sorting plants for lumber boards, and another US$ 22 million in a new CLT plant. The total investment for the project reached almost US$60 million.

This investment, which added to the transformation of Uruguay’s timber production matrix and positioned it in the world CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) market, increased the sawmill’s drying capacity, doubling production and exporting wood inputs for construction.

Working with Dovat Architects, Arboreal, and Enkel Group, led by Abergo, they are now in the midst of construction work, creating Latin America’s tallest wooden building, with 24 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

The building will be located in the department of Durazno and is one of more than 40 Mass Timber building projects expected to be built in Uruguay between 2024 and 2025, as Abergo explained to Uruguay XXI. In addition, the group has other engineered wood products that are sold to the United States, Brazil, and Canada.

The benefits of Mass Timber

The wood processing system, known globally as Mass Timber, makes it possible to build high-rise buildings, houses, housing complexes, sports centers, medical institutions, schools, and other projects, all with wood. In this way, investments such as Arboreal’s contribute to the creation of added value to Uruguay’s forest resources, energizing the northern part of the country and promoting the development of environmentally sustainable housing construction.

The walls of Mass Timber constructions can be made with a single wood panel that can be up to 30 centimeters thick, which offers several advantages, according to Abergo. The first has to do with the decarbonization of construction (responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions, according to studies). But wood also performs better in thermal insulation than concrete and steel and acts as a natural humidity regulator. Finally, wood constructions are increasingly used to enhance the quality of life by connecting to nature and using natural elements such as wood.

Finally, the “interlocking” style system also benefits execution times. This system includes state-of-the-art cutting robots, which operate with high precision so that they can be assembled quickly after the pieces are transferred from the plant to the construction site. Using the same number of people and in the same amount of time as the traditional construction system, a building twice the size can be built.

The construction period for the building in the department of Durazno is estimated to be 290 days, ending in October 2024.

The forestry sector has been one of the most dynamic sectors of the Uruguayan economy in recent decades. Since the Forestry Law (1987), plantations and timber extraction have increased fivefold, laying the foundations for installing essential investments in the sawmill and cellulose industry, and now faces a massive opportunity in the construction industry.

From October 17th to 20th, Uruguay XXI together with companies and institutions, will participate in the Woodrise Congress 2023 (Bordeaux, France). Look for it in our AGENDA.