Some new announcements for funding around CLT (cross laminated timber) came out of a couple jurisdictions recently, also this week a Vancouver architecture firm has submitted a design proposal for a 35 storey wooden tower to be built in Paris.
To promote the adoption of innovative wood building technologies, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) sponsored May 20 the “US Tall Wood Building Prize Competition” in partnership with the Softwood Lumber Board and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council. This competition showcases the architectural and commercial viability of advanced wood products in tall-building construction, growing this emerging market and ultimately supporting employment opportunities in rural communities, maintaining the health and resiliency of US forests, and advancing sustainability in the built environment, according to a department press release.
Additionally, the USDA is working to stimulate demand for forest products and expand the use of wood in building through research into innovative ways to use wood and fibre. The US Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), based in Madison, WI, has been an integral part of developing safe and sustainable products, including different applications for engineered wood products like CLT. Part of Forest Service Research & Development, the FPL has invested over US$2 million in research and technical support for the use of wood as a green building material for housing developments and other building projects.
As well, on May 7 Oregon State University offered a grant, as part of a USDA award of over US$1.5 million to Oregon and Washington intended to expand and accelerate wood energy and other wood product markets. The University was awarded US$249,888 to study “Utilization of Low-Value Lumber from Small Diameter Logs Harvested in Pacific Northwest Forest Restoration Programs in Hybrid CLT Core Layers”, according to a USDA press release.
Mass Timber Building
Elsewhere, in another boost for timber high rise construction in North America, the American Wood Council (AWC) was awarded May 27 a US$250,000 grant to research fire performance of mass timber buildings.
This funding has been awarded by the USDA, and underlines the American government’s increasing interest in tall timber as a future low carbon, high density construction solution. This latest development follows its announcement last October of a US$2 million tall wood building prize to encourage architects, designers and engineers to come up with new construction concepts that showcase the “architectural and commercial viability of advanced wood-based structural materials and solutions”.
In the new project, AWC partners with the US National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fire Protection Research Foundation and the Property Insurance Research Group. Its proposition is to promote the potential of taller wood buildings by demonstrating the fire safety of engineered or mass wood products. The Property Insurance Research Group, a consortium of insurance companies, is putting US$175,000 toward the project, which will be managed by the NFPA Fire Protection Research Foundation. The research is expected to last two years.
The USDA estimates that using cross laminated timber for seven to 15-storey buildings in America could be the carbon saving equivalent of taking two million cars off the road. Greater use of mass or engineered wood products, like glulam and CLT, in large-scale construction could also be a major boost for US forestry and timber industries, and consequently rural employment. Another estimate is that if mass timber can take five to 15 per cent of the US non-residential market, it would mean another 0.8 to 2.4 billion board feet of timber production from US mills, and 35 jobs are created per extra million board feet.
Over in the UK, A Scottish construction firm is investing £4.2m in a massive timber production plant following university research, said an Edinburgh Napier University press release Tuesday.
Lanarkshire-based construction firm CCG has bought a new 122,000 sq. ft. plant to make CLT. More commonly known as massive timber, it is an exceptionally strong building material which can be used in commercial and residential structures. The bold move came on the back of research undertaken by the university’s Institute for Sustainable Construction, which looked at the feasibility of the plant, assessed market demand and conducted timber engineering research for CCG.
Famed CLT advocate and architect, Vancouver, BC’s, Michael Green announced this week that his firm, MGA, was invited to take part in the bid for the Reinventer Paris competition on a team with French architects DVVD Paris and developer REI France. The Reinventer Paris competition is a bold effort by local authorities to search for innovations in urban design and sustainability capable of revitalizing Parisian architecture.
The team chose to compete for a spot on Boulevard Pershing, with a cluster of mass-timber wood buildings, in a development, dubbed Baobab, which would revitalize what is now the surface parking lot for a bus depot with a mix of market and social housing, a student hotel, and urban agriculture.
At 35 stories, the wooden tower Green’s team is proposing would have to be approved as an exception to Paris’s existing height limits for wood structures, but he hopes winning the bid could be the “Eiffel-Tower moment” for the acceptance of tall timber buildings he has been advocating for close to a decade, said the Vancouver Sun Wednesday.
Still in Canada, Quebec City’s Pointe-aux-Lièvres eco-district is getting a 13 storey tower constructed of mostly CLT, 12 storeys of apartments on top of a concrete podium. Designed by Yvan Blouin, the building is a condominium being marketed as the Origine. It is being built by Nordic Structures, which described the project as, “A long time in the making, the project has drawn on input from federal and provincial officials as well as research institutes, and will help pave the way for the development of a North American market for solid wood building products made in Quebec.”
In New Zealand, work has begun on Rotorua’s first inner city building to support Lakes Council’s new Wood First policy, by use of innovative new wood products. Local developer Ray Cook, of R & B Consultants, is taking the lead with the Wood First concept through a new design build and lease back of premises for tenants ACC, on a site R & B owns in Pukaki Street.
Cook said to Scoop.nz he had been exploring the use of CLT panels and laminated veneer lumber (LVL) on the project due to the site’s geotechnical issues — so the timing was perfect for him.
Rotorua deputy mayor and Economic Growth Portfolio lead, Dave Donaldson, congratulated Cook on his use of wood and his company’s support for the timber and wood processing industry. Work on the new ACC building on Pukaki Street is expected to be complete in November.
And finally in the US — which has been slow to adopt engineered wood like CLT and LVL into building codes — a new four story hotel being built in Alabama is the first in the US to be built with cross laminated timber. The new Candlewood Suites is being built in the place of the former troop barracks area on Redstone Arsenal.
This new way of framing has vastly reduced the number of workers needed on the job site, which turns into a big cost savings. The hotel will be 58,000 square feet with 92 rooms including studios and suites. Construction is ahead of schedule, and it is expected to be open for visitors by this coming autumn.