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Industry Leaders Bullish on CLT In PNW

As the world continues to tally the economic damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic, cross-laminated timber is gaining in popularity because of its relative inexpensiveness and sustainability.

Those benefits  — and a few concerns — of CLT were discussed during Bisnow’s The Rise of Mass Timber & CLT webinar in the Pacific Northwest last week.

This rendering was used for the Seattle Mass Timber Tower Case Study.

“We are very bullish that CLT is the way of the future,” Kaiser + Path owner and principal Ben Kaiser said. “Coming out of this time we are in, the world will yearn for cleaner air and cleaner water and CLT will launch forward with more momentum than it’s had over the last couple of years.”

The benefits of CLT are numerous: It is lighter, fewer workers are needed to install it, it has consistent pricing, and it is usually environmentally friendly.

“The crew that are needed to install this product is significantly smaller,” Truebeck Construction Project Executive Ryan Wood said. “In a downtown area, it’s easier because there are fewer trucks needed to deliver products. From a construction standpoint, there are loads of benefits.”

Beam Development Project Manager Leonard Barrett said the product is definitely popular.

“In terms of leasing, tenant response has been phenomenal,” he said. “Especially for the developers who have gotten in on the front end of it.”


Clockwise from left, Cairncross & Hempelmann's Lindsey Pflugrath, Kaiser + Path's Ben Kaiser, Beam Development's Leonard Barrett and Truebeck Construction's Ryan Wood.

The CLT product weighs 75% less than concrete, Kaiser said, which plays into how many trucks you need and the size of the crane.  

But it does come with challenges. There is a concern with moisture, given the wet nature of the Pacific Northwest. It’s amazing to see these panels stabilizing in terms of moisture, Kaiser said.

The moisture problems with CLT is nothing new, Barrett said.

“I worry more about adaptive reuse,” he said. “It’s a much simpler system than we are used to dealing with. In regards to defects, CLT does not keep us up at night.” 

Kaiser agreed. 

“It’s not the act of gluing together pieces of wood that’s risky, it’s the staining,” he said. “In regards to damaging the building, we are confident that that’s not at all a risk.”

Wood said that if CLT gets wet, it won’t affect the structural stability, but it could change the architectural aesthetic. 

“CLT is less prone to shrinkage and swelling than some other products,” Wood said. “The best thing to do is to come to an agreement before the job starts so if there is damage, what is the correct path forward?”