by Hardy Wentzel
National Forest Products Week is celebrated during the third week of October each year as a time to recognize the many products that come from our forests, the people who work in and manage forests, and the businesses that produce these products. As the leading North American manufacturer of innovative mass timber solutions for the construction and industrial markets, we at Structurlam are excited to have another opportunity to celebrate and honor our forests.
Although mass timber has been used for over 25 years in Europe, the North American market is only now earning itself a well-deserved spotlight in the continent’s mainstream construction industry, offering a more sustainable way to build without compromising on quality or structural design. In fact, we’ve been partnering with leaders in green building for the past 11 years on projects including Microsoft, Google and Walmart, plus many others, all constructed using mass timber.
So, what is mass timber? Mass timber is made from wood, using state-of-the-art technology to glue sustainably-grown wood products together in layers. The results are large structural panels, columns, beams and purlins. Mass timber products create strong, structural load-bearing building materials that can often be exposed to reveal their natural beauty.
This new way of using wood has put the material back in the spotlight following decades of the construction industry primarily using concrete and steel. Mass timber encompasses a variety of products, including cross-laminated timber panels, a multi-layer, cross-directional engineered wood product, and glulam, a glued laminated timber that forms stress-rated beams and columns bonded together with waterproof adhesives.
At Structurlam, we are committed to the goals of sustainable development and promoting responsible resource management and use, as demonstrated by our sustainable forestry policy. This policy promotes the principles of sustainable forestry and development and allows us to source all of our lumber from sustainably managed forests, allowing our mass timber products to actually be carbon negative. This leads to climate smart construction.
Between the energy they consume in operation and in their construction, buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of the world’s emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. Replacing steel alone with mass timber could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 15-20%. By some estimates, the near-term use of mass timber could have the same emissions control effect as taking more than two million cars off the road in one year.
The benefits of mass timber include:
- It allows buildings to be constructed roughly 25% faster than concrete buildings, as most of the labor and fabrication is completed at manufacturing facilities rather than on-site as with other construction projects. They can be shipped to the site, and this saves on time and labor costs.
- It performs well in fire because it is made of large, solid, masses of wood, which are difficult to ignite. In the case of fire, mass timber products tend to char in a way that effectively self-extinguishes and shields the interior of the structural component. As with all building materials, mass timber products must pass all testing to meet fire safety codes, and mass timber performs extremely well in testing.
- It reduces emissions. The built environment generates nearly 40% of annual global CO2 emissions.
Join us in celebrating National Forest Products Week this month and stay tuned for updates on new mass timber projects this fall.
Hardy Wentzel is CEO of Structurlam.