Mass timber buildings have been a bit of a hot topic in the construction industry for the past few years, especially after Oregon became the first state to approve mass timber buildings up to 18 stories high, which was closely followed by the International Code Council approval of the same height in 2018.
Riding the mass timber momentum, construction technology company, Katerra, has recently opened a new state-of-the-art Mass Timber factory in Washington state. The factory’s 270,000 square feet also make it North America’s largest cross-laminated timber (CLT) factory. CLT is made of stacked solid wood layers, which each subsequent layer turned 90 degrees and glued together with structural adhesives.
Proponents of mass timber buildings claim many positives over traditional steel and concrete structures, including its lighter weight, ease of installation, sustainability, and strength to weight ratio.
“Cross-laminated timber is a triple-win that can deliver low-carbon building materials, promote forest health, and create new timber community jobs,” said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) in a press release. “I’m excited to be part of opening the largest CLT facility in North America and to promote Washington state’s leadership in these promising new building technologies. This building approach is relatively new for North America, and Spokane is helping to pioneer it. Congratulations and thank you to Katerra for investing in our state and our future.”
The new facility site on 29 acres of land and is strategically placed close to railways and highways for more efficient transport. Though machines in the factory will handle much of the heavy lifting, it will still require the employment of about 105 people to operate.
To help reduce waste and improve the safety of their product, Katerra uses advanced geometric and biometric scanning of lamstock, an on-site kiln for moisture control, and artificial intelligence.
The first project that Katerra’s CLT factory will provide panels for will be a 159,000 square foot office building in Spokane, Washington called the Catalyst Building. When the building opens in Fall of 2020, it will be the first CLT commercial building in Washington.
Much like the mass timber movement, pre-fabrication has been gaining popularity in the United States. Earlier this year, an Illinois based firm opened a 105,000 square foot modular construction facility in Chicago. It will be interesting to see how the addition of more factories to support newer construction methods will shape the industry moving forward.