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CLT structures convenience

With construction accounting for nearly 40% of global carbon emissions — one of the primary drivers of human-induced climate change — designers, builders and other industry stakeholders are working to reduce their environmental footprint by integrating renewable materials and sustainable design into their projects.

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is emerging as a popular material of choice for both residential and commercial structures across the United States. Originally developed in Europe in the 1990s, CLT is a wood product made of several layers of structural grade lumber that are arranged crosswise and glued together.

CLT is unique in that it has a strength-to-weight ratio that’s comparable to concrete, despite being five-times lighter. Since 2015, when CLT was first incorporated into the International Building Code, the material has been used as a sustainable alternative to form walls, roofs, floors and even ceilings.

Because CLT is made of wood, it can store carbon during the building’s lifetime and even capture additional carbon. In fact, researchers have found that a hybrid, mid-rise CLT commercial building provided a 15-26% reduction in global warming potential, depending on the building design.

Kelley said wood isn’t as energy-intensive as steel and concrete, meaning the manufacturing process for CLT emits less carbon. Also, when the wood is harvested from sustainably-managed forests, CLT creates a circular carbon cycle.

Forests act as carbon sinks — trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transform it into wood through photosynthesis. When trees are cut down and used to construct buildings, they continue storing carbon in the structure.

If a landowner plants one or two new trees for every tree cut down, the new growth starts another cycle of carbon sequestration that will last until the trees are harvested and incorporated into a structure as CLT panels.

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