Mass Timber Takes Off
Industry Leaders|December 2019
Wood is back in fashion as construction material with architects and is increasingly being used to replace steel and concrete in buildings as a sustainable choice.

A new type of engineered wood known as mass timber, which is stronger than wood, is being used to construct buildings. Mass timber is prefabricated structural panels, beams, and posts that are glued together under pressure. The wooden grains of the panels are kept perpendicular to each other to give extra strength. These are known as cross-laminated timber or CLT. There is another mass timber known as nail laminated timber or NLT, where the wooden planks are placed at 90 degrees to each other and nailed together.

Architects and builders are touting the material as it is supposed to be fire-resistant, strong, and ecologically relevant. Using this material helps in sequestering the carbon that is released into the atmosphere with the mineral sourced construction material used. Wood has the added advantage of storing the carbon dioxide that the trees absorb from the atmosphere in their growth process. Additionally, compared to other construction material it is faster to build and economical.

Many believe CLT is the future of construction and mass timber the new steel. Advocates of the material say that steel and concrete constructions have an emission profile of 2000 metric tons of Co2. A mass timber building replaces this carbon-emitting structure and saves the Co2 from being released in the atmosphere.

Approximately, 11 percent of the global footprint can be attributed to construction material. The urban population is increasing and it is believed that in the next 40 years nearly 2.5 trillion square feet of new construction will be needed to accommodate the needs of these masses, according to the 2017 Global Status Report published by the United Nations Environment Program.

“The 17th century was the age of stone, the 18th century was the peak of brick. The 19th century was the era of iron. The 20th century was the century of concrete. The 21st century will be the time for timber,” says Alex de Rijke, a director at the London-based firm dRMM. The firm has been using mass timber in its buildings for the past 10 years.

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