Is Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) the Concrete of the Future?

By Jose Tomas Franco : archdailey – excerpt (includes graphics)

Concrete, an essential building material, has for decades offered us the possibility of shaping our cities quickly and effectively, allowing them to rapidly expand into urban peripheries and reach heights previously unimagined by mankind. Today, new timber technologies are beginning to deliver similar opportunities – and even superior ones – through materials like Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT).

To better understand the properties and benefits of CLT, we talked with Jorge Calderón, Industrial Designer and CRULAMM Manager. He discusses some of the promising opportunities that CLT could provide architecture in the future…

What is the difference between laminated timber and CLT?

Laminated timber is the result of joining boards to form a single structural unit. While they can be curved or straight, the grains are always aligned in one direction. With CLT, however, the stacking of boards in perpendicular layers allows the manufacture of plates or surfaces – or walls. It’s a plywood made of boards that can reach enormous dimensions: between 2.40 m and 4.00 m high, and up to 12.00 meters long…

What is the environmental impact of CLT?

CLT was first manufactured in Austria with the aim of reusing lower value timber. Today, the use of wood is again becoming a relevant factor in the construction industry because of environmental factors.

We usually design and build with concrete, but concrete’s environmental footprint is enormous compared to that of wood. One ton of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere for every cubic meter of concrete created. In contrast, CLT contains “sequestered carbon,” or carbon naturally stored in wood during tree growth. Thus, despite all the energy used in the extraction and manufacturing processes, emissions from wood construction will never match the amount of carbon that is kept “sequestered” in the CLT…

How does CLT behave structurally, compared to other materials?

CLT has been called “the concrete of the future,” and in a sense – it’s true. It delivers at minimum the same structural strength as reinforced concrete, but it’s a material with a high degree of flexibility that has to undergo great deformations to break and collapse – unlike concrete. Moreover, 1 m3 of concrete weighs approximately 2.7 tons, while 1 m3 of CLT weighs 400 kg and has the same resistance. The same goes for steel.…(more)

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