Get ready to welcome the latest engineered wood product: cross-laminated timber panels. The lightweight panels are assembled from boards made with small-diameter or low-grade timber, which are stacked together at right angles and then glued over their entire surface.
The result is an exceptionally strong product that retains its static strength and shape, and allows the transfer of loads on all sides. It can be used to build anything from single-story homes to multi-story office buildings-lessening or eliminating the need for concrete and steel, even in large structures.
Although CLT panels have been produced and used in Europe for more than a decade, they made their U.S. debut just last month-in a 78-ft. bell tower in Gastonia, N.C.
The tower, which is constructed of 70 ft. of pre-fabricated CLT panels above a three-foot concrete foundation, is the brainchild of Sustainable Cross Laminated Technologies LLC, Asheville, N.C., and White Fish, Mt. The company was formed earlier this year to initially import CLT from Europe and eventually produce it here.
“We intend to serve as the nation’s leading provider of CLT,” said Steve Cochran, SCLT chief sustainability officer. “From an environmental standpoint, the availability of this product in North America is a huge step forward in sustainable development.”
Although the 4’x4′ panels were imported from Austria, SCLT hopes to begin producing CLT at its White Fish plant by the middle of 2011.
“Wall, floor, and roof elements will be pre-fabricated in our climate-controlled facility, then transported to building sites for rapid assembly,” said Pete Kobelt, director of sales and business development in the West. “CLT panel construction will transform construction methods and materials in North America.”
WoodWorks, a program created by the Wood Products Council to encourage non-residential use of wood, provided technical assistance for the project. “We believe this tower is the first of many CLT projects across the U.S.,” said national director Dwight Yochim. “It will demonstrate the environmental, performance, and cost benefits of this unique building product.”
Last year, WoodWorks introduced CLT to U.S. designers through seminars led by Andrew Waugh. He’s the architect who designed the world’s tallest residential structure-a nine-story apartment building in Britain that’s won several wood-use awards.