Mass Timber ConferenceChanging the Way America Builds

Mass Timber Conference, March 29 – 30

By Lindsay R. Mohere

U.S. timber products and manufacturers took center stage at the Second Annual International Mass Timber Conference, at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. The purpose of the event was to explore the entire supply chain for mass timber and the opportunities and obstacles for mass timber building in North America. The event attracted an audience from 23 countries and drew more than 800 architects, engineers, builders, lumber executives, and others, including a few loggers.

Mass Timber refers to a new wave of engineered wood products designed to be stronger than conventional timber and easier to build with because of their uniformity and straightness. The technologies include Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), Nail Laminated Timber (NLT), Laminated Strand Lumber, and Laminated Veneer Lumber, along with newcomers Dowel Laminated Timber (DLT) and Mass Plywood Panels (MPP).

A prominent building material in Europe since the early 90s, the advancing technology can be used as an alternative to steel, concrete, and masonry in a variety of mid- and high-rise building types. Mass Timber/CLT buildings are structurally sound and less expensive to construct. Mass timber construction has significant environmental benefits, such as storing carbon dioxide, is fully renewable, and prevents pollution associated with the manufacturing of concrete and steel.

Currently, there are several buildings in the U.S. that are constructed with CLT, with more going up, including the Albina Yard building in Portland, Oregon, and T3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Framework, a 12-story mixed-use high-rise in Portland, is also scheduled to begin construction in the summer of 2017.

Mass Timber ConferenceArchitects’ model of a 12-story mixed use high-rise build with CLT, scheduled to begin construction in summer of 2017.

Changing the Way American Builds

Steve Marshall, assistant director of Cooperative Forestry, USDA Forest Service State & Private Forestry, opened the conference with a keynote discussion on “Changing the Way America Builds.”

Marshall explained that, for the past four years, the Forest Service has been working toward that overall theme, and they believe that mass timber has the potential to change the way America builds.

As an example, Marshall cited the doubling of Forest Service wood innovation grants to aid mass timber projects from a year ago. “In 2015-2016, we had 20 separate mass timber/CLT projects that we put money into. This year, we’re looking at 46 separate proposals. And there’s some absolute killer proposals in the group,” he said.

In addition to fostering legislation as part of its intentional strategy to support the development and integration of mass timber/CLT construction, the Forest Service has also conducted blast testing with the Department of Defense and will be doing larger scale fire testing to clear the path for possible significant changes to the building code in the U.S.

“The main focus of the Forest Service is sustainable forests. In much of the U.S., we have over-stocked forests because we have been so successful at putting out fires over the last 100 years. We’re looking at the ways we manage the forests,” Marshall said, noting that sustainable forests creating sustainable structures built with mass timber will have a positive effect on the environment, social structures, and the economy.

Northwest Plays a Big Role

The Northwest has figured prominently in the mass timber revolution in the U.S. Currently, there are two engineered wood products companies producing CLT and one producing MPP. Marshall indicated that there are several more operations that are considering moves into manufacturing mass timber products.

All three Northwest companies were major exhibitors at the conference and drew huge crowds to their respective displays.

DR Johnson Wood Innovations of Riddle, Oregon, is the first lumber company in the U.S. to be certified to manufacture CLT. Its first CLT building project was the Albina Yard building in Portland. The other CLT manufacturer is Smartlam Inc. of Columbia Falls, Montana.

Mass Timber ConferenceThe newest innovations to the mass timber mix are Mass Plywood Panels, created and engineered by Freres Lumber Company of Lyons, Oregon.

Throughout the rest of the event, other topics such as Mass Timber Markets – How Big Can They Be, Improving the Project Delivery Model, Tall Wood Examples, Current Mass Timber Projects, and Is Mass Timber a Solution for Housing Equality? delivered standing-room-only audiences.

The International Mass Timber Conf-erence is owned and produced by Forest Business Network. The company’s sole focus is to help forest product businesses grow and prosper.

TimberWest November/December 2013
May/June 2017

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