What is Mass Timber?

Building any sort of tall structural wood home or design is at the forefront of what many like-minded building professionals are seeking out this day and age. Today, big timber is sprouting up in cities all across North America and abroad. After years of feasibility studies and design proposals, buildings six stories or taller constructed primarily from pre-engineered wood products are being considered in cities around the world.

There has always been a debate as to what type of home is more energy efficient and has the least amount of impact on the environment. A lot of testing is continuing to be done to prove that timber structures can perform equal to or better than structures made of materials like concrete and steel. Regardless of this, Mass-timber has made huge headway here in North America and there are no signs of it slowing down.

But what is Mass Timber?

Mass Timber is a category of framing styles typically characterized by the large solid wood panels for wall, floor, and roof construction. They are and can be formed by mechanically fastening and or/bonding with adhesive smaller wood components such as dimension lumber or wood veneers, strands or fibers from large pre-fabricated wood elements. It also includes innovative forms of sculptural buildings and non-building structures formed from solid wood paneling or framing systems of six feet or more in width and depth.

Utilizing the high strength to weight ratio of wood, hybrid construction pairs mass timber with concrete and/or steel to create a cost-effective and sustainable building system. Advancements in hybrid building systems have definitely enabled the design and construction of taller wood buildings including the 18-story mass timber hybrid student residence building at the University of British Columbia, Brock Commons Tallwood House.

What is considered a Mass Timber product?

Some of these products include glue-laminated timber (glulam), cross-laminated timber (CLT), glued-laminated timber (GLT), laminated strand lumber (LSL), laminated veneer lumber (LVL), nail-laminated lumber (NLT) and other large-dimensioned structural composite lumber (SCL) products. They are diverse with proven performance and safety, showcasing the wide range and variety of opportunities with wood products.

What exactly defines a mass-timber project?

The simple analogy to know if something is a mass-timber project is that if the primary load-bearing structure is made of either solid or engineered wood, it’s a mass-timber building. A building that uses mass timber as an accent and not a primary structural element isn’t mass timber.

The benefits of mass timber:

Because mass timber components are fabricated with high levels of precision to ensure a tight fit, together with wood’s natural insulating properties, mass timber construction offers strong thermal performance, which is critical for tall buildings. Due to many of these factors, mass timber is helping wood make a comeback for many of these reasons…

  • Costs may be lower with mass timber than with traditional concrete and steel materials and methods. Initial research indicates that mass timber projects can be completed approximately 25 percent faster than a similar concrete project. What does this mean? Significant savings!
  • Mass timber is more environmentally friendly and more compatible with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified construction. Wood is a renewable resource (unlike concrete or steel), has a smaller carbon footprint, and takes much less of an environmental toll at the point of extraction.
  • Mass timber offers a huge economic potential for the lumber industry and manufacturing jobs, especially in forested areas, such as the Pacific Northwest in the United States and Canada.

With that being said, there are also some risk factors to consider when you consider mass timber construction. Many of these factors are going to be similar to other construction risks, while some are from just the ‘newness’ of mass timbers emergence.

Possible risk factors when considering mass timber construction

Insurers may want to know about the building’s construction plan, exposures to catastrophes and other events, and details of exterior and interior design.

Factors to consider include:

  • source of material
  • the moisture content of wood and construction sequencing
  • combustibility and fire resistance
  • presence and effectiveness of automatic sprinkler systems
  • performance under wind and earthquake stress
  • ability to hold up to water damage
  • mold and fungus exposures
  • insect and pest exposures
  • types of wood adhesives used
  • replacement costs
  • long-term performance

If you’re interested to know more about Mass Timber and weren’t already aware, the International Mass Timber Conference is happening in Portland, Oregon. This conference attracts professionals from across the forest, manufacturing, design, development, and construction industries.

Are you wanting more information on designing your very own log or timber home, or have additional questions? Send us an email at info@artisanlog.com and we would be able to answer any questions you have.