By Matt Burow
May 27, 2022

After some brief initial skepticism across the industry, mass timber framing is quickly becoming the new gold standard in building systems technology for the commercial construction sector throughout North America. Reasons for this are many and varied but some of the most advantageous features for mass timber’s ever-increasing popularity including improved construction speed, labor and noise reduction, and of course, sustainability.

Mass timber projects have seen a roughly 25% reduction in superstructure completion time as compared with concrete, steel, or light wood framing systems. Such a substantial improvement in the overall project completion time is almost invariably accompanied by a reduction in the overall project cost. Additionally, there can be an up to 90% reduction in the number of heavy-duty vehicles used on-site compared to the number used on project sites that are using more traditional framing materials like concrete. And by using prefabricated timber panels for a structure’s decking system, active deck labor can be reduced by as much as 25%. Combined, these factors can substantially reduce site noise and, subsequently, have less of an impact on the local community.

What Are My Options?

Mass timber didn’t reach it’s status as the go-to building material by being the proverbial one-trick pony. There are several panelized products in the mass timber family that enhance the strength and the aesthetic of the finished structure. We’ll take a look at just a few of them here.

Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT)

Cross-laminated panels are generally considered the flagship product in the mass timber family due to its versatility and robust aesthetic as it is typically used for floor, wall, and roof paneling and is often kept at least partially exposed. CLT panels are laminated together in an alternating crossing pattern which allow them to be utilized in building lateral systems as shear walls or diaphragms.

Nail-Laminated Timber (NLT)

Having been used since the early 20th century, NLT panels are the oldest in the mass timber product family. They are manufactured, simply enough, by being stood on edge and nailed together side by side which can be done on-site by a licensed carpenter or fabricated in a shop environment.

Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL)

Combined with adhesive and fabricated from flaked wood strands with a nearly ideal length-to-thickness ratio, Laminated Strand Lumber (LST) panels have the strands “Molded” into a large billet and then pressed together. While not used as commonly as some of the other mass timber options, the relatively substantial size of typical LST panels do allow for large structural component to be constructed from a single piece which makes for fewer connections needed.

Mass Plywood Panels (MPP)

Mass Plywood Panels are a newer product in the mass timber lineup and are manufactured with smaller diameter trees which allows for the same aesthetic and structural features as Cross-Laminated timber but using up to 30% less wood, making it much lighter. The lighter material reduces transportation costs compared with other mass timber products.

Dowel Laminated Timber (DLT)

Dowel Laminated Timber, also a relatively new entry in mass timber offerings, is a structural material that uses only wooden dowels for fabrication. There are no metal fasteners, nails, or glue used so the panels are more organic and hence allow for better architectural flexibility and are more conducive to horizontal spans. Panels can range up to 60 feet in length without compromising structural integrity.

With projects like the Timber Lofts and the 25-story Ascent Tower – both in Milwaukee and the latter being the tallest timber structure in the world – Catalyst is positioning itself as an industry leader in mass timber construction. If you’re wondering which of these mass timber products is right for your next commercial construction project, we can help. Click here to contact us about how we can bring your next mass timber project to life and let’s get the conversation started.

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