10 reasons to consider cross-laminated timber for your next project

Sourcing materials for a project that meet a client’s need for durable, sustainable products that won’t have a negative impact on the project timeline can feel like a search for the Fountain of Youth. Some contractors may push back with the claim that the reliability of materials, such as masonry, concrete or steel, is worth the larger carbon footprint and increased energy consumption to produce those materials. Understanding the finite nature of some of these resources is one thing. Identifying renewable alternatives that more than hold up to the demands placed on these structural materials is another. This is why it is worth the time to learn more about the resilient sustainable product known as cross-laminated timber.

Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) has been used in Europe for decades, and has proven to be a green alternative to traditional, industrial building materials. This engineered wood building system, made from several layers of solid lumber boards, is stacked crosswise and bonded together, providing dimensional stability, strength and rigidity.

Using CLT in place of the old standards, such as steel or concrete, is one way to reduce the environmental impact of your structure without compromising on the advances made in modern structural integrity. Wood is a naturally growing, renewable construction material that requires less energy to produce. In fact, wood is the only renewable building material. It’s only right to question the true benefits of CLT. The following are 10 reasons why commercial contractors should consider this product for their next project.

  1. Durability—With proper design and maintenance, wood structures can provide long and useful service lives equivalent to other building materials. The key is careful planning and understanding of environmental loads and other external factors likely to impact a building over its lifetime.
  2. Strength and stabilityCLT panels form a robust, structurally strong building system that outperforms anything currently available in the United States. Cross-lamination provides for superior dimensional stability and offers significant shear strength performance at a very unique weight to strength ratio compared to other common structural materials.
  3. Seismic resilienceBecause of their dimensional stability and rigidity, CLT panels create an effective lateral load resisting system. Researchers have conducted extensive seismic testing on CLT and found panels to perform exceptionally well with no residual deformation, particularly in multistory applications. For example, In Japan, a seven-story CLT building was tested on the world’s largest shake table. It survived 14 consecutive seismic events with almost no damage. CLT also offers good ductile behavior and energy dissipation.
  4. Fire resistanceCLT’s thick cross-section provides valuable and superior fire resistance. Due to its mass, CLT panels char slowly. Once charred, combustion slows and eventually stops as the oxygen source is removed.  CLT assemblies also have fewer concealed spaces, which reduces a fire’s ability to spread undetected. CLT structures suffer less degradation than concrete and steel structures in a catastrophic fire event.
  5. EnvironmentalCLT has a lighter carbon footprint as wood products continue to store carbon absorbed by the trees while growing, and engineered wood manufacturing requires significantly less energy to produce than concrete and steel. This represents a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  6. Life cycle analysisThe longevity of CLT components ensures that the future value of any structure remains high. CLT buildings are easily altered and remodeled and are also fully recyclable once they reach the end of their useful life. With the utilities located to the interior of the building, not enmeshed with structural and insulating systems, buildings can be easily remodeled.
  7. Cost effectiveness—Comparing the cost of CLT versus certain concrete, masonry and steel building types and including the advantages of faster construction time and lower foundation costs, the estimated total costs of CLT structures can be very competitive.
  8. Design flexibility—CLT has unique structural properties that allow architects and designers increased flexibility of design allowing for distinctive and innovative projects. Due to wood's inherent ductility and unique strength to weight ratio, wood offers many advantages over the other common structural materials, such as masonry, concrete and steel.
  9. Speed of buildFrom one-person builders to large construction companies, CLT structural systems arrive on-site ready to assemble, saving time and money with a swift and accurate building process.
  10. Reduced wasteCLT panels are manufactured for specific, end-use applications, which results in little to no jobsite waste. Plus, manufacturers can reuse fabrication scraps for stairs and other architectural elements.

A resilient, sustainable building future is rooted in our construction technology past, proving that sometimes the simpler solutions are better.