Mass Timber

75-unit apartment building, made largely of wood, in Mission, British Columbia (Wikipedia)

Mass Timber (aka Engineered Wood, Composite Wood) is widely viewed as “the future of wood construction” or something like that, and is touted as a major tool for reducing carbon emissions associated with the building industry, potentially  replacing even concrete and steel in buildings.  However, whether it is beneficial or destructive environmentally will depend very much on how the supply chain is configured. We are only at the beginning of its large scale use.

For a quick-read intro to what it is & environmental implications, see Mass Timber Construction: Friend or Foe? by Julianna Widlund Jul 25, 2022 on structuresinsider.com

I have been “following Mass Timber” for some time, specifically in relation to my “quest to understand forests and forestry in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada” and the related Blog/Website: Nova Scotia Forest Notes which I maintained 2016-2022. Overall, I am a ‘big fan’ of Mass Timber and the potential it offers to Nova Scotians to resolve long-standing controversies over how we use/manage our forests; to reduce the cost of housing in NS/address the ‘housing crisis’ and to contribute to our well-being economically in both rural and urban settings, and to do so with a high degree of equitably… (more to follow)

Subpages to Mass Timber:

‘Hard to find references to Mass Timber
in Nova Scotia. It is surely known to sawmill
operators and other industry players  in NS,
but it appears that as yet, there has been
little consideration of it from a broader,
strategic perspective.There are at least two
Mass Timber projects in NS; and… Big Plans – see subpage Mass Timber in Nova Scotia

 

A just-released book on this topic is especially pertinent, likely to be widely referenced, discussed:

Designing the Forest and other Mass Timber Futures
By Lindsey Wikstrom, 2023. Routledge/Tylor and Francis.

If we want to continue existing on this earth, an era of renewable energy and materials is urgently needed. What role could mass timber, with its potential to replace concrete and steel, have in ensuring the planet’s survival?

This book retraces wood’s passage from stewarded seed in the soil of forests, to harvested biomass, to laminated walls in a living room, through to its disassembly, pausing at each step in the supply chain of mass timber to consider the labor and economies involved, looking closely at the way wood is grown, sourced, and transported, and its impacts on the biodiversity of the forest and the health of our ecosystems. It explores why historically entrenched contexts of extractivism make such sensitive approaches difficult to cultivate across landscapes and industrial frameworks. Along the way, common assumptions about mass timber are debunked, including its fire performance, its strength, and its role in carbon sequestration. Having identified contemporary technical, cultural, and spiritual gaps preventing the transition towards a fully timber built environment, it outlines how we might move forward. A more sensitive species-based methodology is essential, with designers as choreographers of carbon, transferring and trading between forest, factory, site, and beyond.


In an excerpt from Designing the Forest and Other Mass Timber Futures, Lindsey Wikstrom relays how storytelling shapes our environment

By Lindsey Wikstrom • November 30, 2023 • Environment, Excerpt, Sustainability
In The Architect’s Newspaper.

Lindsey Wikstrom: “Designing the Forest, and Other Mass Timber Futures” (Video)
Architecture Spring 2023 Lecture Series – February 28, 2023 at Slocum Hall Posted Sep 24, 2023 with Lindsey Wikstrom, Founding Principal, Mattaforma; Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia GSAPP

In the News

Feb, 2024
Mass timber reduces construction’s carbon footprint, but introduces new risk scenarios
Report, https://commercial.allianz.com/

Fb 8, 2024:
Mass Timber Has A ‘Chicken-And-Egg’ Problem As Green Building Grows
By Robert Davis BusNow – Denver Real Estate News “With 767 mass timber projects under construction across the U.S., there is more demand than ever for a more sustainable alternative to traditional building components. But this surge in demand is running into a supply chain marred by pandemic-era economics and trade policy that makes an already more expensive product even pricier. These challenges are holding up the entire industry just as sustainable builders need it to take off.”


Some other overview items are cited below. View Wood Construction on NS Forest Notes for more in the period 2017-2022

Mass timber and taller wood construction
Page on www.naturallywood.com. “Faced with climate change and the need for low carbon solutions, mass timber is opening new design possibilities from long-spanning roof structures to tall timber towers”.  Provides a quick overview of technical/construction aspects. Also view InfoGraphic
Re: NaturallyWood.Com: “Developed by Forestry Innovation Investment, naturally:wood is a comprehensive information resource promoting British Columbia as a global supplier of quality, environmentally-responsible forest products from sustainably managed forests.”

Mass Timber can be a great option for construction – if it’s sourced sustainably
FSC, May 10, 2022

Technical Guide for the Design and Construction of Tall Wood Buildings in Canada
Updated 2022 Edition. FP Innovations. Free download. “The definitive guide for the mass timber design and construction of tall buildings has been updated to align with changes to national codes and standards. It builds on 12-storey mass timber gravity systems as an Acceptable Solution in the 2020 edition of the National Building Code, and targets supporting Alternative Solutions that will enable wood to be used beyond 12 storeys”

The Dezeen guide to mass timber in architecture
Tom Ravenscroft for dezeen.com. Nov 12, 2021 “Thinking of using engineered timber in your project? Our latest Dezeen guide includes the most regularly used types of mass timber including CLT, glulam and dowel-laminated timber.”

Buildings: The decarbonisation elephant in the room
April 14, 2020 by Matthew Linegardecarbonisation, Engineered timber, Director of R&D and product management, Stora Enso
On pbctoday.co.uk “According to the World Green Building Council, buildings account for 39% of global emissions. This splits into 28% for operation of buildings and 11% comes from “embodied carbon emissions associated with materials and construction processes throughout the whole building lifecycle”…Engineered timber is a genuine alternative. This is not standard timber frame construction, but rather advanced materials made from wood that boast comparable structural properties to traditional building materials, with other supplementary benefits too.”

Mass Timber: Overview and Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service, Oct 12, 2023. 25page doc, overview.

As Mass Timber Takes Off, How Green Is This New Building Material?
BY JIM ROBBINS • APRIL 9, 2019 for Yale Environment 360. “Mass timber construction is on the rise, with advocates saying it could revolutionize the building industry and be part of a climate change solution. But some are questioning whether the logging and manufacturing required to produce the new material outweigh any benefits…The forestry part is what has some skeptical of how ecologically sound mass timber is and, if and when it’s scaled up, whether it will truly provide a planetary climate solution. In a letter to the city of Portland last year, representatives of Oregon environmental groups — including the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility — raised serious doubts about mass timber as a green climate solution and questioned the city’s plan to use it. First and foremost, they said, is the need to certify that wood is logged sustainably and certified as such. “Without such a requirement,” the letter stated, the city “may be encouraging the already rampant clear-cutting of Oregon’s forests… In fact, because it can utilize smaller material than traditional timber construction, it may provide a perverse incentive to shorten logging rotations and more aggressively clear-cut.” Such industrial-type forestry — large-scale plantings of trees selected to grow fast — creates a “biological desert,” said Talberth, of the Center for Sustainable Economy. “And it’s driving the extinction of thousands of species. Mass timber is mass extinction.” “We must ensure that mass timber drives sustainable forestry management, otherwise all of these benefits are lost,” agreed Mark Wishnie, director of forestry and wood products at The Nature Conservancy. “To really understand the potential impact of the increased use of mass timber on climate we need to conduct a much more detailed set of analyses.”