As interest in CO2 reduction and sustainability gains momentum, it’s not surprising that mass timber in construction is getting the spotlight. In a Forbes article entitled, “Is Mass Timber the Path to Sustainable Construction?” manufacturing veteran/advocate/writer, Jim Vinoski, took an up-close look as to why?
The Carbon Storage Element
“The production of steel or concrete emits large quantities of carbon dioxide.” Not the case for wood. “A study published in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry calculated that a 14 to 31 percent reduction in global CO2 emissions could be realized by substituting wood for concrete and steel in building and bridge construction, because using wood as a building material keeps the carbon captured until the building is destroyed and the wood degrades.”
- “Mass timber has better thermal properties than steel or concrete. Plus it’s better in seismic conditions – it has ductility. The strength of a tree isn’t in its rigidity, but its flexibility. It maintains its strength despite movement. And mass timber has a charring effect and is self-extinguishing. Try lighting a log on fire. Concrete becomes brittle and steel fails.” (Casey Malmquist, Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder, SmartLam North America)
- “Fire prevention research and design are a big part of making mass timber more feasible. Mass timber is thick. It burns slowly and predictably, and commonly puts itself out. It can be engineered to last through a fire, with designs to have it last two or three hours so people can get out and the fire can be extinguished.” (Mark Rudnicki, Ph.D., Professor of Practice for Forest Biomaterials at Michigan Technological University and Executive Director for the Michigan Forest Biomaterials Institute)
An opportunity for Hardwood?
“At Michigan Tech right now we’re exploring using different hardwoods like maple, ash and oak, and CLT (Cross-laminated Timber) panels that are a mix of hardwood and softwood like maples and white spruces. Other schools are working on hardwood CLT too. Virginia Tech, for example, is working with tulip poplar, a lighter hardwood. I could see things changing to where hardwood is only put on the outside of mass timber, for both aesthetic reasons and durability advantages. I expect that eventually there will be a wide variety of wood combinations depending on customer, application and local availability.” (Mark Rudnicki)
Bottom Line: “Wood is our only renewable building resource. In a nutshell, this is a proven, sustainable model for building.” (Casey Malmquist)
Jim Vinoski is a Contributor to Forbes, a global media company, focusing on business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, and lifestyle. To read the entire article, visit www.forbes.com.