By Frederik Laleicke – Extension Specialist and Assistant Professor, NC State University Wood Products Extension
Upon its founding in 1958, Wood Products Extension at NC State was the first of its kind in the United States. Our mission ever since has been to increase the competitiveness and profitability of North Carolina’s wood products industry, improve markets, and increase consumer understanding of wood products and their proper use.
Frequently, my colleagues and I give talks and presentations about the newest wood product trends. A topic that keeps drawing a lot of attention is mass timber, engineered wood panels that came to the United States from Europe in the early 2000s. Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is the most popular type of mass timber panel, typically 10 feet wide and up to 60 feet long. It is made from layers of 2 x 6 dimension lumber in alternating directions, glued together using a moisture resistant adhesive. CLT can be used as premanufactured walls, floors and even roof elements. Using a computerized cutting machine or robot, all openings, such as windows and doors, are cut out as part of the manufacturing process.
What excites people so much are the endless possibilities this relatively new type of wood construction offers. Mass timber can be used for highly customized and modular homes.
Due to the high degree of prefabrication, mass timber has the potential to address some of the affordable housing challenges. With the use of modular designs, mass timber can provide a timely solution. On-site, a handful of people and a crane are enough to assemble a building within days.
“Landowners now provide the resources needed to manufacture some of the most advanced wood products the industry has to offer.”
As mass timber replaces some of the concrete and steel for tall buildings, the forests are at the center of attention. Landowners now provide the resources needed to manufacture some of the most advanced wood products the industry has to offer. With mass timber, 19 out of the 25 stories of Milwaukee’s Ascent tower were built out of wood.
For landowners, any new product that uses dimension lumber is an opportunity! Mass timber is simple enough to make so local sawmills can engage with moderate investments. Thus, mass timber can stimulate and grow your local economy.
Mass timber is an opportunity to further diversify our mix of construction technologies. It will not completely replace any of the existing ways we build in the near future, but it uses wood and that’s good for the environment, our forests, and us.
If you’re interested in learning more about NC State Wood Products Extension visit us at www.go.ncsu.edu/wpe