The Rise of CLT

Published Tuesday 05th January 2016

We’ve always been avid followers of the popular-growing construction material CLT (cross-laminated timber) and lately, it seems wood is truly taking over from steel and concrete.

In this guide, we lay out some great examples of CLT and find out why, in the words of one architect, this is the beginning of the timber age.

CLT

While we’ve already covered CLT in detail in a previous blog, if somehow you’ve missed out on all the gossip on cross-laminated timber, here’s a brief overview.

CLT is produced by layering several timber sections of wood at right angles, which are then glued and pressed together. It can be prefabricated in a factory to any shape or dimension and is much lighter than its steel and concrete counterparts.

CLT was first introduced in the early 1990s in Austria and Germany and has been gaining popularity in residential and non-residential applications in Europe and further abroad ever since. Currently there are over one hundred CLT projects in Europe.

In the Press

CLT has once again been the talking point in the construction industry for a number of reasons. Firstly, in a bold statement found in last month’s Dezeen magazine issue, Alex de Rijke, director of London-based firm dRMM, said:

"CLT is the future of construction. Timber is the new concrete."

rise of CLTSecondly, with numerous advantages over steel and concrete, it’s no wonder CLT has got us all talking about future construction. So let’s take a look at some existing and upcoming projects that promote the use of this diverse material.

CLT has been used to build the world’s tallest timber tower. The building is a new student residence for the University of British Columbia that stands 53 meters tall, currently being worked on by Acton Ostry Architects and expected to be complete by 2017.

This revolutionary design is a hybrid of wood and concrete. Seventeen mass timber storeys are supported by concrete podiums and cores. The floor structure is comprised of five-ply CLT panels that are supported on glulam columns. Both CLT panel and glulam beams are encapsulated with gypsum board to achieve the necessary fire-resistance rating [comparable to steel/concrete?].

The Stadthaus building in Murray Grove, Hackney, London always gets a well-deserved nod when we describe the benefits of CLT. Built in 2009, the nine-storey structure, designed by architects Waugh Thistleton, was described as “the world’s tallest modern timber residential building.” It was constructed from cross-laminated timber panels from the first floor upwards and is the first residential building of this height to have floor slabs and load-bearing walls made entirely from timber.

Commenting on the project, architect Andrew Waugh from Waugh Thistleton said:

"This is the beginning of the timber age."

An eight-storey CLT apartment building, Carbon12, designed by PATH Architecture in Portland, Oregon is now being proposed. The project will be comprised of glulam columns and beams, with CLT floor decking and shear walls. 

The Market

Earlier this year, it was announced that CLT was to be made in the USA, having not been available mainstream before.

Currently, CLT is manufactured abroad with an established supply into the UK market.  While C24- grade timber is often used to make timber, there has been an increase in the use of C16 timber. As the latter is more readily available in the UK, manufacture of CLT panels may become more feasible in future. At present, most panels are imported from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Until now, the US market has been slow to materialise. And as the demand for CLT continues to boom, we can surely expect that other manufacturers may enter the market soon.

And you?

If you’ve got any questions about the use of CLT or would like to share some great examples of mass timber in construction that we haven’t covered, we’d love to hear from you – so get in touch on Twitter.

And if you’re already convinced on the superiority of wood and are looking for the right kind of timber for your next project, take a look at our fantastic product range today.