Solid Timber Construction Markets

Solid Timber Construction Markets


Jacob GineS
Van Lewis

Associate Principal, Method Studio
Project Manager, Method Studio


Timber has always been a fundamental material for constructing the built environment. It is used to provide basic shelter, beautify through ornament, and, as in the case of Todai-ji Temple constructed in the early 8th century AD in Nara, Japan, establish a place that seeks to transcend. The opportunistic nature of wood has captured the attention and imagination of many. In 1851 the German-born architect Gottfried Semper wrote extensively on the origins of architecture in which he petitioned the primordial hut for guidance. For Semper, architecture consisted of four basic elements: the earthwork, the hearth, the lightweight enclosing membrane, and the framework. In part, our modern-day understanding of building tectonics began with Semper celebrating and exalting the timber frame. More recently, the architecture theorist Kenneth Frampton expanded our understanding of the origins of the ‘tectonic’ and established some criteria for engaging the potential of wood as a construction material in the twenty-first century.

Material constraints aside, innovation is… contingent upon a self-conscious rereading, remaking, and re-collection of tradition, including the tradition of the new, just as tradition can only be revitalized through innovation.

Studies in Tectonic Culture Kenneth Frampton

Developing innovative mass-timber products in the construction industry allows architects to envision new and sustainable alternatives to steel, concrete, and masonry. In the early 1990s, an innovative mass timber product was developed in Austria called CLT or Cross Laminated Timber.

A CLT panel consists of several layers of kiln-dried lumber boards stacked in alternating directions, bonded with structural adhesives, and pressed to form a solid, straight, rectangular panel. CLT panels consist of an odd number of layers (usually three to seven) and may be sanded or prefinished before shipping. While at the mill, CLT panels are cut to size, including door and window openings, with state-of-the-art CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) routers, capable of making complex cuts with high precision. Finished CLT panels are exceptionally stiff, strong, and stable, handling load transfer on all sides.

The Engineered Wood Association


CLT is being utilized regularly in European countries and has recently arrived in North America. Notable North American projects include the 8-story Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Vancouver, BC, by Michael Green Architects, and the recent winners of the USDA’s U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition – the 12-story Framework Project in Portland, OR by LEVER Architecture and a 10-story residential tower at 475 West 18th Street in New York City designed by SHoP Architects.

CLT is manufactured in off-site fabrication facilities utilizing state-of-the-art technology. CLT buildings have been shown to reduce overall erection times by up to 50%. Constructors for the 8-story LifeCycle Tower ONE building in Dornbirn, Austria, erected the primary structure in just eight days – one story per day. Other benefits include reducing the overall schedule by up to 50%, reducing raw material consumption and waste, increasing fabrication precision, and improving building envelope thermal performance. The solid wood building can also be utilized to sequester and store carbon – one cubic yard of wood stores 1 ton of CO2.