An up-and-coming construction material with potential to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint is known as mass timber. This category of engineered wood is gaining attention in the U.S. for its resiliency and efficiency—so far, mostly for large-scale construction projects. Mass timber products consist of fibers, shavings, and other thin layers of wood bound together using resin or industrial glues to make large slabs that fit together easily. The layering process makes an engineered wood stronger than traditional wood, as well as fire- and earthquake-resistant.
Though mass timber, also known as cross-laminated timber, was introduced in Europe in the 1990s, the U.S. construction industry is still learning about it. Projects using the material are moving forward, especially in the multifamily sector, but building code and supply issues remain impediments to major expansion. At the start of 2020, the U.S. had 784 mass timber multifamily, commercial, or institutional projects constructed or in design, according to the Wood Products Council.
Industry observers say as familiarity increases and materials become more available, mass timber has the potential to replace masonry, concrete, and even steel as a go-to material for flooring, walls, or entire buildings. It’s also cost-effective, as large prefabricated panels can be assembled quickly at a building site. Akin to giant Lego pieces, the panels are constructed to fit the precise dimensions needed for a project.
“We had to find a way to build smarter with science and innovation to create engineered wood products,” says Scott McIntyre, North American business director for performance materials manufacturer Hexion. The company creates resins for engineered wood products that are environmentally responsible and thermally stable. “In building and construction, we manufacture resins that allow you to use a solid tree,” notes Sydney Lindquist, sustainability leader at Hexion. “Prior to engineered wood products, only about 60% of the tree was used and the rest would be waste.”
A common environmental question around mass timber is whether forests are being cleared to produce it. Lindquist says that’s not an issue. “Sustainably harvested wood is grown very quickly. It’s not a well-known fact that sustainable forestry helps increase new growth,” she says.
Source: National Association of Realtors, Realtor Magazine,
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