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Cutting Edge Construction: Exploring the Benefits of Mass Timber


The possibilities with Mass Timber are endless. It’s predicted that cross laminated timber (CLT) alone will triple its market demand by 2030 resulting in a market exceeding $3.72 billion (Building Design + Construction, 2022). But what is driving that demand? Sure, sustainability is a major component, but in the end projects need to pencil financially. So how is Mass Timber improving construction efficiency and the bottom line? Several ways, actually. Let’s explore labor, speed, weight, waste and the “wow” factor.


Labor

Mass Timber requires extensive preplanning and developers need to commit early. When buildings are intentionally designed this way the labor on the project is drastically reduced when compared to concrete and steel. The pre-fabricated and pre-designed panels are cut to exact dimensions and have pre-cut insertion and connection points direct from the factory. This makes assembly incredibly simple. Panels can be craned directly off a semi trailer and placed in position within minutes. Ben Kaiser, owner of the Kaiser Group and an incredibly accomplished builder/developer, reported that their Carbon 12 building in Portland (8 stories, 42,000 square feet, commercial & residential condos) took only 4 carpenters to assemble each Mass Timber level, of which there were 6. Not only did it require less manpower, it also required a surreal lack of on-site material trimming or adjustment. Direct from the Kaiser Group, “The building has 234 columns and 336 beams, of which only 4 beams had to be trimmed to fit.”



Speed

Remember those 4 carpenters? It only took them 5 days to assemble each floor. Compare that with the 2 ½ weeks it would have taken using concrete and you see a 12 week time savings in this instance alone. That's 12 weeks less of carrying costs, and 12 weeks more of income. On a project of this size that adds up. Additionally, the Mass Timber elements were assembled between December 2016 and February 2017 - one the coldest and wettest winters Portland has seen. What about weather delays? Mass Timber assembly isn’t stifled by cold temperatures or bad weather like concrete and steel can be. Carbon 12 kept on truckin’ while other construction sites sat idle. At another of their projects, a 70-unit residential 5 over 1 Mass Timber and concrete hybrid known as The Canyons, the Kaiser Group reported the entire process was about 25% faster (Building Design + Construction, 2022). And if that isn’t enough to impress you, consider this - the Ascent, the tallest Mass Timber building in the world at 25 stories, averaged 70,000 sq ft every 5 days of decking installation.


Weight

Did you know that Mass Timber is roughly ⅕ the weight of concrete? Why does that matter? On smaller projects it may not be that big of a factor. But, when you’re going up 25 stories like the Ascent did, you bet it does. The weight savings of Mass Timber resulted in HALF of the piles needed to meet engineering requirements (Building Design + Construction, 2022). Again, imagine the savings. Reduced weight lends itself to some environmental savings too. Nobody here is claiming to be an expert on fuel efficiency and emissions in the trucking sector - but - we can all agree that an 80% reduction in transported material weight has some fuel savings built in - which naturally translates to carbon emission reductions.

Waste

Although this may be a relatively low expense in the budget, Mass Timber has something to contribute here too (or not?). Because all the components are prefabricated and cut in the factory, there is extremely low amounts of waste from this material. As mentioned before, of the 570 Mass Timber components used in Carbon 12, only 4 pieces needed alteration. We’ve all seen the dumpsters on other construction sites - yikes. While perhaps not an incredible cost savings, it does save on wasted material and landfill space.


Wow Factor

There’s no denying this one. Mass Timber buildings are absolutely stunning, and people want to live and work inside them. The natural beauty and appeal command a market premium. We’ll let these pictures speak for themselves.








Conclusion

Mass Timber offers a wide range of benefits to construction projects. It requires less labor, is faster to assemble, is much lighter in weight, has a reduced waste output, and provides an aesthetically pleasing "wow factor" that commands a market premium. Its increasing popularity is due to the numerous advantages it offers over traditional construction methods, making it an attractive option for builders, developers and investors alike.





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