Expanding Structural Markets for Wood

The fast-evolving range of engineered wood products collectively known as mass timber has opened up new possibilities for wood to be used as a primary structural component in larger and taller buildings traditionally built using steel or concrete. Reflecting the widespread interest among developers, architects, engineers and contractors in using these materials, the US recently adopted changes to the International Building Code that allow construction of wood structures up to 18 stories tall.

Key benefits of using more wood in larger buildings include: (1) substantial reduction in the carbon footprint of our built environment; (2) reduction in construction time, cost and productivity due to prefabrication; (3) creation of high-value manufacturing jobs that can revitalize rural timber-dependent communities, and; (4) ability to utilize low-value forest restoration timber to create value-added mass timber products with associated reduction of catastrophic wildfire risk.

Mass timber systems were developed in Europe in the late 1990s, with the first US manufacturer certified only in 2016. Production is expanding globally at compound annual growth rates exceeding 15% per year, and in the last 5 years several hundred mass timber buildings have been constructed, permitted or are in the design stage in the US.  There has been an accompanying increase in production capacity, and the opportunities are tremendous.

 

R&D Needs

Substantial product development, testing and applied research is still needed however, to answer urgent questions related to fire and seismic resilience, structural engineering design, acoustic performance, construction best-practices, connector design and performance, and the development of cost-effective, standardized modular construction systems. At present, permitting authorities have insufficient data to effectively evaluate building designs and, consequently, developers, construction firms, architects and engineers must conduct costly third-party testing and peer review for each building project, which raises costs and extends timelines. At the same time, manufacturers of mass timber products and related connectors, adhesives and other supplies require testing support to facilitate the innovation and development of new products.

 

Pooling Resources for Common Benefit

An opportunity exists for the pioneering companies currently leading the charge on mass timber adoption within the United States to combine forces to jointly direct and fund applied R&D that will effectively answer questions of common interest to design professionals, construction professionals and product manufacturers.  In response to this opportunity, the TallWood Design Institute is establishing the Consortium for Engineering, Architecture & Construction of Advanced Timber Structures (CEACATS)

 

OSU and University of Oregon: World Class Facilities and Capabilities

Oregon State University has unparalleled facilities and personnel to support structural engineering and wood science research. There are three high-head structural testing facilities on the Corvallis campus equipped with strong floors and reaction walls, including the newly-completed A.A. Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Lab, which has one of the largest and tallest structural facilities in the nation as well as a hydraulic press, large-scale CNC and robotic machining cell to create and fabricate mass timber test specimens. The Green Building Materials Lab houses a multi-chamber environmental control system for accelerated weathering, one of only three such systems worldwide. The College of Engineering is home to the unique Construction Engineering Management program, and new fire testing capabilities are planned to come onstream in 2020 at its O.H. Hinsdale Structural Engineering Research Lab. The University of Oregon houses the Energy Studies in Buildings Lab, which for more than 30 years has conducted high-profile industry-focused research in building physics. The University of Oregon has also just approved construction of a dedicated $7M Timber Acoustic Testing Facility that will accommodate the large samples needed for mass timber wall and floor assembly testing.

Our three affiliated colleges – the OSU College of Forestry and College of Engineering and the University of Oregon College of Design – together house the highest concentration of expertise research related to advanced structural wood systems in the nation.

 

Consortium Member Benefits

The consortium will offer various levels of membership, based partly on company type and size. The benefits of various levels of membership will vary, but generally all members will have:

  • Preferred access to world-leading research infrastructure and expertise
  • Regular, early access to research results bulletins
  • Access to testing data at a fraction of the cost of one-to-one contracts (since research is done using pooled financial resources)
  • Opportunity to participate in defining and driving the research agenda
  • Access to dedicated technical staff capable of rapidly responding to market needs 
  • Marketing benefits derived from belonging to a unique organization that exists to define and drive industry best-practices.
 

For further information about getting involved, please contact us at