The world continues to urbanize and cities are building up, not out. And as those taller buildings rise, designers are looking at wood again rather than automatically choosing concrete and steel. City planners, architects, builders, and forestry experts can credit climate change, carbon footprint considerations, and a host of new mass timber products for rearranging the deck chairs in the construction world.
As the International Mass Timber Conference rolls into the Portland Convention Center, March 20–22, for its third annual event, the ambitious agenda examines the new face of mass timber construction, offering attendees unparalleled knowledge and networking opportunities. The conference is co-produced by Forest Business Network in cooperation with the wood design experts at WoodWorks–Wood Products Council. Sessions covering safety and durability, new manufacturing technologies, and design aspects will be offered, as well as presentations on actual projects. Embedded in many of the discussions is the ongoing topic of responsibly sourcing wood within the broader context of forest health.
“If we’re talking about wood in building construction, we should be talking about forestry, and we are,” said Craig Rawlings, CEO of Forest Business Network.
With 19 countries represented and nearly 1,000 attendees registered so far, the conference features an exhibition hall with over 60 international companies and a presentation lineup of over 70 experts, some from countries with a longer history of using mass timber products in urban construction. The speakers’ lineup includes technical experts versed in construction techniques, manufacturing methods, adhesive advancements, the safety aspects of cross laminated timber (CLT), and numerous other perspectives on engineered wood products.
“CLT is really a beautiful material,” said conference panelist Mike Bradley, a building contractor from Spokane, Washington. “I love wood, its patterns and its knots. It’s natural, it’s warm and it’s just better than drywall. As a builder, I like the economy of it too.”
Experienced in commercial construction and CLT building techniques, Bradley notes that CLT buildings go up faster than stick-built structures, require less engineering than concrete and steel, and often feature longer life spans than traditional construction methods. Such advantages are especially appealing for low-income housing, school buildings, apartment complexes, and commercial buildings. “The five-story commercial building is the real sweet spot for CLT,” Bradley added.
The Spokane builder will do a wrap-up panel focused on mass timber messaging and engagement along with several mass timber stakeholders, including Nicole Miller, managing director of the Biomimicry Institute and Mark Wishnie, director of forestry and wood products at The Nature Conservancy. The final conference panel also features another CLT expert, Thomas Robinson, a noted Portland-based architect, who won the USDA’s award for the Tall Wood Building Competition with his firm’s design of the Framework building. The 12-story wooden building, soon to be built in Portland’s trendy Pearl District, features CLT and other engineered wood as key components.
The new Pearl office building, not far from the conference venue, illustrates well an environmental advantage that is turning more builders, designers and planners on to engineered wood. According to the Journal of Sustainable Forestry, substituting wood for other materials used in buildings could prevent 14 to 31 percent of global carbon emissions if wood is sourced responsibly and forests are replanted. Given the glut of small diameter trees choking many western forests and the ever increasing risk of wildfires, the idea of turning so-called waste wood into strong-as-steel building materials seems to be gaining traction.
Event sponsors include Katerra, the Premier Sponsor, and Hexion, the Gold Sponsor. Other major sponsors are D.R. Johnson Wood Innovations, Think Wood, Freres Lumber Co. Mass Plywood Panels, Seagate Structures USA, SmartLam, Sansin, Sterling, TallWood Design Institute, Stiles Machinery, and Oregon Forest Resources Institute.
See the International Mass Timber Conference website for an agenda, a list of speakers and attendees, and registration details.