Mass timber construction offers unprecedented opportunity for providing enduring climate impact, with its ability to provide a low embodied carbon solution that also can sequester large amounts of carbon for generations to come.
Laminated timber elements were first produced in the 19th Century, but it wasn’t until the 1970s, when, motivated by the need of the sawmill industry to find a higher value use for the smaller boards, that the idea of solid wood laminated panels was first developed. And then, not until the 1990s did these wood panels - what we would recognize as CLT - be first employed. This early work was formalized in the research done at Graz University of Technology, in Austria, and presented in the PhD thesis research of Gerhard Schickhofer in 1994.
Then followed decades of intensive research and development in the Central European nations, Austria, Germany and Switzerland, that established industrial scale production by 2005. In 2008 the effort of industry standardization began, and since 2010, the established CLT industry has been focusing on spreading the technology around the world. Today, the building codes in the US allow for unprotected CLT up to 9 stories tall and protected CLT up to 18 stories in height.
Designs for much taller buildings made of CLT are being planned around the world with visions of future cities of wood. Can the transformative impact of CLT rival that of our cities’ Post-WWII adoption of glass curtain walls? It can’t happen fast enough.
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