Hourigan
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The Benefits of Using Cross-Laminated Timber for Commercial Construction Projects

12.08.20

While unthinkable several years ago, mass timber is emerging as a popular material of choice for commercial building projects of all shapes and sizes. Cross-laminated timber in particular is transforming the way designers, architects, and contractors alike approach the use of wood products in their projects. In fact, it is predicted that the cross-laminated timber market is poised for compound annual growth rate of 13.7% between 2020-2027.

What is Cross-Laminated Timber?

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a prefabricated, solid engineered wood panel. A CLT panel consists of several layers– typically three, five or seven­– of dimensional lumber stacked and glued together at a 90-degree angle. These panels are lightweight yet strong and stable, making CLT a viable alternative to concrete, masonry or steel in some instances. CLT also offers a variety of benefits, making the product an exceptional option for commercial buildings.

Benefits

Fast Installation— Because CLT is a prefabricated material, elements such as openings for doors, windows, stairs, or ducts can be pre-cut. Insulation and finishes can also be applied prior to installation. Pre-machined wood pieces arrive on site ready to be mounted, allowing other tradespeople to begin work immediately. This efficiency ultimately results in lower costs and faster occupancy.

Design Flexibility— Designers benefit from CLT’s unique weight to strength ratio, which allows elements such as wide prefabricated floor slabs, single-level walls and taller floor plate heights. Varying panel thicknesses also result in less need for interior support elements. Complicated or minute design elements are easily accommodated because of the precision of computer numerical control (CNC) equipment used to cut panels. Another benefit is the overall weight of mass timber in comparison to steel and concrete, which often allows for reduced foundation requirements. And, like other mass timber products, exposed CLT interiors can add to a building’s aesthetic qualities.

Acoustics— Studies have shown that the mass of a wall contributes to its acoustic performance. Because of CLT’s relatively light mass, this material can provide enhanced noise control within buildings.

Thermal Performance— In addition to sound insulation, CLT panels act as thermal insulators, typically requiring little or no additional insulation. Because of the preciseness that CNC equipment offers, CLT panel joints have a tight fit that results in better energy efficiency. The solid panels also mean nearly zero air infiltration into the building, resulting in interior temperatures being maintained with one-third of the heating or cooling energy typically required.

Fire Resistance— CLT’s thick cross-section acts as exceptional fire resistance. The cross-sections char so slowly that combustion eventually stops entirely. When exposed to fire, the multiple layers allow the panel to remain structurally stable, unlike materials such as steel.

CLT and Commercial Construction

Not only is CLT structurally viable, but it can result in faster, less expensive projects that ultimately enhance the tenant experience. This versatile building material is becoming increasingly popular for various types of construction, and with CLT buildings continuing to reach new heights, it is proving to be an ideal option for various types of commercial construction projects.

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