By Adam Arndt
January 18, 2022
The next big thing in new building construction is – drumroll please – wood. Learn how technologies in performance and safety are driving mass timber construction.

There’s been a lot of excitement and hype in the last few years over mass timber, but also a lot of confusion and misconceptions. Below, we’ll dive into the topic, going over frequently asked questions to help you better understand a promising new(er) construction material.

What Exactly Is ‘Mass Timber’?

Mass timber is part of an advancement in sustainable construction that uses solid or engineered wood materials as the primary load-bearing building structure. However, a building that uses secondary structural elements of mass timber is not considered a mass timber building. The construction technique is still fairly new in North America, although it’s been widely used throughout Europe for some time.


What Makes Mass Timber Sustainable?

The wood in a mass timber structure locks away carbon within itself until the wood degrades or the structure is destroyed. By doing so, these large-scale mass timber buildings are actually helping to reduce CO2 emissions by an impressive amount.


What Is Mass Timber’s Carbon Footprint Compared to Other Building Materials?

Mass timber is a more renewable and sustainable alternative to industry counterparts, which tend to be more fossil fuel intensive. By becoming what is typically referred to as a “carbon sink”, mass timber buildings lock in carbon, as opposed to more traditional building materials.


Is It Fire Resistant?

We get this one a lot. “If it’s made predominantly of wood, isn’t there going to be a major fire hazard?” The short answer is no. Mass timber has proven itself to have fire resistance inherent in the design of the buildings. Additionally, there are strategies that can be utilized, like early warning systems and fire sprinkling systems to help keep the building as safe as possible.


Is Mass Timber Bad for Our Forests?

Quite the contrary. A majority of forests in the U.S. are actually overstocked, prompting the Forestry Department to offer grants for new ideas on how to use more wood in building materials.


How Much Does Mass Timber Cost?

The cost of a mass timber construction will vary based on the scope of a particular project. However, it’s important to note that there can be benefits in cost when compared to concrete and steel-predominant construction, including typically a faster construction process.


How High Can You Build? 

We’re finding out, as we’re in the process of helping build Ascent MKE, Milwaukee’s newest high-rise apartment building currently under construction. This building will be stand at 284ft and be the world’s tallest mass timber structure when completed.


If your question hasn’t been addressed above, don’t hesitate to contact our team. We’re more than happy to answer any questions you may have and, if you’re interested, set up a consultation to see if mass timber could be the right solution for your next building project.

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Adam Arndt
As the president of Catalyst Construction, Adam brings a unique understanding of the owner’s priorities for their building project and the responsibilities of the construction manager. For nearly 20 years, Adam has worked with owners to understand their mission, wants, and constraints, he helps find unique solutions to the problems that many mission-driven companies face.