Why Mass Timber Adoption in Construction is Increasing

by 

Recently, ConstructionDive reported that the demand for cross-laminated timber (CLT) is increasing in the construction industry. CLT is a product that is part of the mass timber family, which also includes glue-laminated (glulam) beams and nail-laminated timber (NLT). As far as timber construction goes, CLT has enabled many of the new architectural options. An all-wood product, dowel-laminated timber (DLT) is also being used more in construction projects.  

In today’s building construction milieu, customers are attracted to sustainability, environmental friendliness and minimal carbon footprint. There is an economic factor, too.

Timber is lighter in weight than steel or concrete and erection is faster. Although you may not expect it, according to an Informed Infrastructure magazine article, CLT has outperformed steel and concrete in fire resistance tests conducted in the U.S. and Europe, where it originated.


Learn from world-renowned Revit specialist Lance Kirby about how to avoid wasting time and money on BIM. Download the free two-volume eBook: “Avoiding the 7 Deadly Wastes in Your BIM Process.”


Carbon footprint and sustainability are driving mass-timber projects around the world. Wood is a renewable resource that can be grown in commercial forests. According to the Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers, Inc (AHMI), there are currently over 753-million acres of forested lands in the U.S. AHMI reports the average growth rate on commercial forestland is 70 cubic feet per acre per year. On timberlands managed by federal agencies that total is 35 cubic feet, and on privately owned lands it is about 30 cubic feet per acre per year.

Mass timber project at 1030 Music Row, Nashville, TN; image: Andrew Keithly

One current example of mass timber construction is 1030 Music Row in Nashville, a 100,000 square-foot office building built by Panattoni Development Company. According to a video about a year ago on the Panattoni website, using timber on the project reduced the need for labor and shortened the schedule. To construct the same size building, structural steel alone would have required 20-30 workers, while the wood-frame structure needed fewer than ten erectors. According to the Panattoni video, those erectors could do an entire floor three times as fast as the process would have required with structural steel. The wood beams and columns are prefabricated and precut to fit with precision.

Walmart mass timber office building; image: Walmart.com

Another mass timber example is the new 2.4-million square foot Walmart campus office buildings being constructed from locally-sourced timber in Arkansas. The Walmart website describes the construction as “the latest in precision engineered, design, and construction practices because it is sustainable, efficient and available regionally.” Using mass timber is described as bringing the opportunity to prefabricate the complete structural building system, saving time and money.

Mass timber project: Princeton University Art Museum; image: Adjaye Associates

Notable mass timber projects are also underway at Harvard and Princeton Universities and have been completed at the University of Massachusetts and Michigan State University.

Using mass timber not only makes the most of the natural beauty of wood, it enables projects to be more sustainable, environmentally friendly and economically viable with a smaller carbon footprint.


New call-to-action