What is mass timber?
Mass timber products, also known as engineered wood products, are thick, compressed layers of wood formed through lamination, fasteners, or adhesives. Mass timber can complement light-frame and hybrid options and is an environmentally friendly substitute for carbon-intensive materials and building systems. Because of the ability to create large, structurally sound sheets of wood, it is now possible to construct tall buildings made from wood. Oregon has become an epicenter for mass timber buildings and mass timber innovation, like this building in downtown Portland, Carbon 12, which was one of the tallest buildings of its kind in North America, when it was completed in 2018.
Mass timber construction, in contrast to a traditional light frame building method, is built using engineered wood products. One example of an engineered wood product is CLT, or cross laminated timber.
CLT is made by layering pieces of dimension lumber in alternating directions and bonding them together into massive panels several layers thick. CLT panels can be as large as 65 feet by 20 feet and are strong enough to replace concrete and steel in mid-rise and even high-rise buildings.
These wood products are becoming more and more popular in our built environment, and will soon be featured at the newly constructed Portland International Airport terminal.
Comprehensive research over the last decade has shown that mass timber buildings constructed using CLT and other engineered wood products are highly resilient to both earthquakes and fires, far outperforming traditional steel and concrete high-rise buildings.
For a deeper dive into the benefits of mass timber construction, check out this article from the Oregon State University College of Forestry.