Cross-laminated timber: Is it becoming the construction material of choice?

By Josh Knoll and Brittany Hallak

With new enabling legislation passed and more proof-of-concept projects completed every month, cross-laminated timber (CLT) may just be edging its way into mainstream construction.

NASF has highlighted the momentum behind CLT before, but recent developments may bring about more rapid change in the construction field.

Last year, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan introduced the Timber Innovation Act, a piece of legislation that directs the USDA Forest Service to conduct “performance-driven research and development, education, and technical assistance” to increase the use of innovative wood products in construction on a national scale. Since passed as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, the bipartisan legislation also tasked the department with identifying the costs, safety considerations, market potential, and ecological impacts of CLT if it were to become widely used.

Positive developments on the legislative front related to CLT have been occurring at the state-level too. Utah passed a bill into law in March requiring “the state’s Uniform Building Code Commission to recommend building standards for use of mass timber in residential and commercial building construction.”

The new $30-million, 4,700-seat sports arena to be built out of mass timber at the University of Idaho received a USDA Wood Innovation Grant to help with construction costs.

Washington State has since followed suit, passing SB 5450 to require the State Building Code Council to adopt rules for the use of mass timber products for residential and commercial building construction.

Universities are getting in on the CLT movement too. Michigan State University is currently building its new STEM Teaching and Learning Facility using CLT for the floors and ceilings, while the University of Idaho is using mass timber for its ICCU Arena and multiple other buildings.

Construction on the new education facility at Clemson University’s Snow Family Outdoor Fitness and Wellness Center reached a milestone just a few weeks ago when stakeholders gathered to celebrate the near-completion of the university’s 16,500-square-foot timber installation.

Stay tuned to the NASF Blog and @stateforesters on social media for more updates on CLT and mass timber. Have questions about this post? Contact NASF Summer Intern Brittany Hallak at intern@stateforesters.org.