Mass Timber 
[Construction Method 5]

Mass timber, the world’s only naturally renewable building material, can be expressed with endless assembly and joinery possibilities.

Peter Arton
Andres Carmona
Kayla Lewis  
Nicholas Peruski  
Jacob Smith   

Timber is one of the earliest building materials next to stone and mud and has since transformed into a considerably innovative and newly expressive material. To discover the future of mass timber, we can look to the past as to how it has been configured and joined with other wood and non-wood members. From simple beams and columns to elastic grid shells, modern engineered timber allows for grand or subtle gestures of the beauty of the material itself. After all, it is the world’s only naturally renewable building material.

Since the 1920s, logging from forests has occurred at a stable rate to where architects can fully be conscious of the renewable resource’s life cycle. For building applications, this includes timber turning into both untreated products and treated products. The treated products for building structures is called engineered lumber which is mostly made from softwood trees. Transforming from the expression of a tree into engineered lumber, however, has the consequence of recyclability downfalls. Part of being engineered means that the adhesive chemicals (or glues) that bond layers of oriented, fibrous or particle wood causes an environmental issue. Although very good for standardized strength properties, these engineered products require specific reclamation and reusing processes to become other wood products.

Common forms of mass timber include glue-laminated timber (glulam), cross-laminated timber (CLT) and parallel-stranded lumber (PSL) among many others. Timber that is oriented where the strands run parallel to each other can create regular or curved members along an axis. Cross-laminated timber is good for structural members such as timber walls and floors that can withstand loads in a load-bearing wall manner or normal to a larger surface area respectively. As an architect or contractor, you may want to be mindful of the sizing and transporting options for timber members to be assembled on- or off-site (prefabrication).

These pages serve as a guide to the many grain and formal expressions possible with mass timber. To achieve these, timber most often has to be designed in concert with steel, concrete or other morphologies in order to perform amazing architectural and special feats. Wood as a material can undergo any design methodologies from fastener-free joinery to steel connection nodes to elastic grid shells to structural insulated panels (SIP) and virtually any shape and architectural performance you can imagine.

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