Cross Laminated Timber Transforming Building Industry

By February 15, 2017 May 30th, 2017 Construction

A Portland architectural firm will break ground this spring on a 12 story wood building using a new building product called cross laminated timber.  The building will be located in the city’s trendy Pearl District and will be the tallest all-wood building in the world constructed in a seismic zone.

This new wood product is drawing a lot of attention from the construction industry. Proponents of cross laminated timber (CLT) say the panels made from this product are lighter and less energy-intensive than concrete and steel and are faster to assemble at the work site than any other building material including regular timber. D.R. Johnson Lumber Company is one of two U.S. timber mills making the new wood product. Rafts of 2-by-4 beams are aligned in perpendicular layers, then glued together to make the CLT panels. “We believe that two to five years out, down the road, we could be seeing this grow from just 20 percent of our business to potentially 60 percent of our business,” said John Redfield, D.R. Johnson’s chief operating officer.

Those experts in the building industry, including architects, engineers and researchers, say that the new wood product could potentially help struggling forest communities with new economic growth while reducing the carbon footprint of new construction with a renewable building material.  Blemished wood that is normally discarded due to visual defects may be used in the middle layers of the CLT panel. Supports of the CLT panels say the new product could boost forest management through thinning dense stands and making use of low grade wood and local tree species.  Trees that are damaged by wildfire or pests, and are smaller in size could be utilized in the new building wood material.

Not all builders are sold on utilizing the cross laminated timber when constructing new buildings.  U.S. building codes in general place height limits on all wood structures. The International Code Council is considering changes however to deal with the potential widespread use of CLT in taller buildings.  There still are questions and research to be done to determine how well these buildings would withstand fire and earthquakes in high-seismic areas of the country. Oregon has building codes which allow cutting edge designs and the use of new technology after a rigorous testing and approval process. Early findings have been positive which has enabled the new building constructed with CLT to proceed in Portland.

Source: AP Wire Service, “CLT could transform building industry,” by Dillian Flacus and Phuong Le, January 3, 2017

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