Cross-Laminated Timber May Replace Concrete

A new hotel in Mount Pleasant will look like other new structures in town, but will be built with an entirely different product, called cross-laminated timber.  This new form of lumber will be used for the first time in a commercial building in South Carolina, and is the latest building product to compete with steel and concrete.  The timber is stacked like a Jenga puzzle, glued together and made into six inch panels.  Cross-laminated timber is as strong as steel and concrete but lighter and easier to construct and use.  The product is fire-resistant and does not melt under intense heat the way steel does.

The panels are easy to screw into place and are faster than pouring concrete to complete the same work.  Proponents of the new building product claim that buildings can be completed in a faster turnaround time and with fewer construction workers.  “We see the potential that we could use this more and more not only on floor systems but also on walls,” said Bruce Collins, the regional director of development at OTO Development in Spartanburg, SC that is building the new hotel Home2.  “Even if it was ‘quote-unquote’ more expensive, the time savings would make it a pretty easy decision to make.”

The new Home2 hotel will use other building products in addition to the cross-laminated timber.  The builder is using it on the corridors only as an experiment to see how costs compare to using traditional materials like concrete and steel.  When completed, the new material will comprise five percent of the building’s square footage.

The new cross-laminated timber is expected to be cheaper to use over time as more builders and researchers take interest in it as a building material.  The timber’s price is inflated right now since it is only created in Europe using timber harvested on the continent.  Patricia Layton, the director of the Wood Utilization and Design Institute at Clemson University said that currently there are only a handful of projects in North America using the new cross-laminated timber.  Only in the last few years have researchers at Clemson taken interest in determining if the new material is a viable product.  They have tested it against wind-whipped, rain-drenched, humid weather on the Southern coastline to see if it holds up compared to Southern softwoods like yellow pine.  So far early findings conclude that the cross-laminated timber is comparable to these other building products used in the South.  If this new material takes off it could give a big boost to South Carolina’s forestry industry says Layton.

Source: “Concrete Alternative,” by Thad Moore, Post & Courier, July 8, 2017

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