Feasibility of CLT

Another material I have been researching is CLT, or cross-laminated timber. It’s a product which has been used in Europe for at least 20 years, and is slowly being adopted in the US. It’s attractive to me because of a couple reasons:

Montana has a huge amount of standing dead pine due to the pine borer beetle which is devastating forests there. This is resulting in a surplus of wood that needs to be cleared from land to prevent forest fires. Smartlam is a company in whitefish, MT, which is starting to manufacture CLT panels for building applications.

Our interest in using digifab processes is well aligned with the material. It is well suited to be CNC cut at a factory and then quickly assembled onsite. It’s useful as a panelized or modular system, has good thermal insulation, fire performance, and sound insulation.

A lot of CLT is being used out in the oilfields as rigmats. There is a producer of oak CLTs in billings, Rig mats of America, which ships directly to the bakken.

It sounds like CLT’s aren’t an economical competitor for stick built in traditional residential construction, but they are competitive when compared to concrete or steel construction for mid to high rise applications. This might change for an area like Williston, where prefabrication might drastically raise the quality of projects.

There is a 600 page CLT design handbook .PDF which details the opportunities, manufacturing process, structural design guidelines, fire, sound, enclosure, environmental, and lifting and handling issues associated with CLT which I have saved in our resources folder.

Here’s a Finnish video of a modular CLT project being completed.



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