What Are Mass Timber and Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) & Why Is Use Increasing?

Updated: Jun 22


The demand for sustainable building materials is growing as concerns over climate change have become increasingly top of mind. These concerns are reasonable — and even expected.


There are some building materials manufacturers that are actively working towards producing supplies that meet carbon emission reduction requirements and are both renewable and sustainable. Lumber is no exception and can exceed these expectations far beyond alternative materials like concrete and steel.


Mass timber and cross-laminated timber (CLT) are set to revolutionize the building industry. As professionals increasingly turn to these building materials, they are looking for FSC-certified options to ensure their products are sourced from well-managed forests.


In taking these steps, professionals are seeking to be innovative, contribute to a climate change solution, and ensure their clients’ budgets are balanced without sacrificing quality.


What Is Mass Timber?

Mass timber is an innovative building material that can be superior to concrete and steel alternatives.


While there are a variety of mass timber products, generally they are engineered into structural panels, posts or beams that are glued under pressure or nailed together in layers. These layers are stacked in a perpendicular orientation for added strength.


The final product is an extremely durable and efficient material that is suitable for many types of building projects.


What Is Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT)?


Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a large-scale, prefabricated, solid engineered wood panel. Lightweight yet very strong, with superior acoustic, fire, seismic, and thermal performance, CLT is also fast and easy to install, generating almost no waste onsite. CLT offers design flexibility and, when the wood is sourced from an FSC-certified forest, it can greatly reduce the environmental impact of the product compared to other materials.


CLT can be manufactured in custom dimensions and can be used in many different design styles from office buildings to schools to multi-family residences.


Why Is Its Use Increasing?


The use of CLT has been increasing worldwide since its inception in Austria over twenty years ago. There are multiple reasons for this; we’ve highlighted the top ones below.


Environmental Benefits

A major reason why architects, developers and other industry professionals are turning to mass timber and CLT is because it can be a very green product. From wood sourcing to manufacturing the final product, mass timber and CLT can result in significantly lower carbon emissions than typical concrete and steel construction, as long as the wood is sourced from responsibly managed forests.


Interestingly, wood from “worst case sourcing” - which involves deforestation and long transportation distances - can be almost as carbon intensive as the alternatives, according to a study by engineering firm Arup.


As the construction industry is one of the largest consumers of resources, many manufacturers and industry professionals are seeking alternative materials that are renewable and sustainable. Concrete and steel contribute considerable carbon emissions; FSC-certified forest products can actually reduce carbon in the atmosphere, storing it in the long-lived building materials.


Safety


Because mass timber and CLT is structural, they can be safely used in tall buildings and large construction projects. At the time of writing, the tallest CLT building in the world - Mjøstårnet in Norway - is 18 stories.


Surprisingly, mass timber is also more fire resistant than other building materials. During a fire resistance test of a 5-ply CLT panel, the material lasted for over three hours under extreme temperatures exceeding 1,800 Fahrenheit. This is because during fires, mass timber chars on the outside while leaving the inside structurally sound. When mass timber is layered with gypsum wallboard, this results in a nearly damage-free structure.


Structural Durability


Not only is mass timber lightweight, it is incredibly durable, making this a building material that is becoming increasingly popular among industry professionals. CLT is particularly well-suited for large floors, walls and ceilings, and it can withstand heavy traffic and multi-purpose buildings. Its lightweight properties also offer flexibility, meaning superior resilience against wind loads.


Cost-Effective

Mass timber and CLT are some of the most cost-effective of all the structural building materials available, including other hardwood products, concrete and steel. Mass timber panels are prefabricated and assembled on-site and because it is so enormous, the construction process is roughly 25% faster than concrete and requires 90% less construction traffic.


This means cost savings on time, labor and equipment. It also means that buildings can get up and running that much faster, ensuring clients can start making a profit on the building.


It’s Clear Mass Timber and CLT Are Revolutionary


Mass timber and CLT are revolutionizing the way the building industry thinks about production and construction. Working towards constructing not only more sustainable buildings but a sustainable and ethical industry is top priority.


Want to learn more about sustainable building materials? Head over here to find out how we can help you.


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