The Hottest New Thing in Sustainable Building Is, Uh, Wood

Sunday, February 16, 2020
Using wood, but like Legos, is the hottest thing in architecture this century. "Mass timber," which involves sticking pieces of wood together to form larger pieces, is a generic term that encompasses products of various sizes and functions, but the form that has opened up the most new architectural possibilities is cross-laminated (CLT) timber.
First developed in Austria in the early 1990s, CLT continues to explode in Europe and is now accelerating in Canada. The reduction of carbon emissions is among the benefits of CLT. For all but the most poorly managed forests, the overall impact of using CLT in place of concrete and steel will be a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. A recent University of Washington analysis compared a CLT commercial building with a reinforced concrete building and concluded that it represented a 26.5 percent reduction in global warming potential.
In the U.S., CLT would have to compete with cheap stick-frame construction. Limited domestic supply, and anachronistic and overly prescriptive building codes also may be obstacles to the growth of mass timber.
David Roberts (Vox) 2/16/2020

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