Are you up to date on everything mass timber? Do you know why it’s a great choice in sustainable construction? If not, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’re looking at some mass timber fast facts you may not have heard before.

Mass timber is fire resistant

Let’s get this one out of the way first. One of the most common misconceptions about mass timber? The idea that a fire is going to instantly bring it crashing down. The ability of a mass timber building to resist fire damage and load failure as the result of a fire still isn’t a well-known fact, so let’s break it down. The outer layer of cross-laminated timber, or CLT, burns when exposed to a fire, creating a protective charred layer—this acts as insulation, delaying the spread of fire to the wood below. In fact, when tested for a 2-hour rating as required by International Building Code, CLT lasted for 3 hours and 6 minutes, exceeding standard fire resistance requirements.

Mass timber can withstand earthquakes

Although it’s not something we’re likely to experience in the Midwest, earthquakes and seismic activity can pose a great threat to the safety and stability of high-rise buildings of any kind. But how would a mass timber building handle one? As it turns out, the same as any traditionally-constructed high-rise building made of steel and concrete. Mass timber meets the same code for seismic testing as its more traditional construction counterpart.

Mass timber is sustainable

In general terms, traditional construction isn’t very sustainable to our Earth. According to a 2018 report, buildings generate nearly 40% of annual global CO2 emissions. Of this, 28% are due to building operations, while 11% is due to traditional building materials and construction. With buildings constructed primarily of mass timber sustainable materials, carbon is sequestered within the structure. This process is often referred to as a carbon sink and can help reduce the negative impact of construction on greenhouse gas emissions. For mass timber buildings, prolonging the life of these structures and recycling or reusing building materials can help keep these carbon emissions sequestered from the environment over time.

Mass timber is popular

The Wood Products Council reported in 2019 that there were nearly 600 commercial timber buildings planned or built in the U.S. As of December 2021, that number has more than doubled to 1,303 projects constructed or in the design phase. It’s clear sustainable construction and alternative construction methods are on the rise and continue to grow in popularity. At Catalyst, we hope to support and continue that trend. Check out our current mass timber project, Ascent.

Mass timber has a local presence

In case you haven’t been following the news, Milwaukee, WI has an exciting new construction project making waves on a global scale. Ascent MKE is a mass timber high-rise apartment building currently under construction downtown. When completed, this 25-story, 284-foot building will be the world’s tallest mass timber structure, surpassing the current record holder in Norway. And yes, we’re pretty proud of the work that’s gone into making it happen here in our hometown.

Utilizing this revolutionary construction method could be the future of green building and sustainable construction, and we’re excited to be on the front line. Contact us today to learn all about our upcoming green building projects, the new Ascent MKE building, and more.

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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.