News & Insights

Bisnow Webinar: Top Takeaways When Building with Mass Timber

In a recent Bisnow webinar, Sustainable Construction Creating More Sustainable Buildings at a Higher Value, Consigli Project Executive, Matthew Tonello, spoke about the value and tremendous potential of mass timber in the construction and design industry. The focus of the webinar dove into the different benefits, costs and challenges, as well as opportunities that mass timber presents. Other panelists included: John Klein, CEO, Generate; Colin Booth, director of strategy, Placetailor; and Wil Catlin, managing director & senior partner, Boston Realty Advisors as the moderator.

Mass timber is a broad industry that encompasses wood based structural framing members. It’s not codified, so it’s loosely used to describe many different types of structural building components including: Glued-Laminated Timber “Glulam” or “GLT”, Cross Laminated Timber “CLT”, Nail Laminated Timber “NLT”, Dowel Laminated Timber “DLT” and others. All can be used in a myriad of solutions and have the capability to serve the purpose of floor, roof and wall framing systems.

The panelists spoke about their own experiences working with mass timber and different variants. Here are three key takeaways from the webinar about mass timber and where it’s headed in the industry:

Contractors and designers need to be involved early in the process.

  • The game changing aspect of mass timber buildings is that the complete structure including beams, columns and floor plates are prefabricated off-site. The structural floor plates need to have openings and edges of floor systems locked down because the material is fabricated using a CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) process. All openings, cuts and geometry are fabricated off-site, and therefore drive the contractor to plan projects early and be involved in the design phase from the start.
  • Mass timber forces a change in the process as the buildings are digitally designed, requiring more upfront coordination with the parties involved. This forces us to examine more variables in a project and develop procurement plans earlier. Factors such as project location, delivery routes and lay down space need to align with the owners’ goals of the project, in order to make planning a mass timber project a success.
  • This is in addition to the usual coordination effort for locating openings, ductwork and plumbing penetrations, which has to be completed 12 weeks before the structure is delivered to the site. Any openings on the floor plans and anything in the shear walls must be drawn, dimensioned and programmed into a computer that controls robotic fabrication tools.

Over the next 5-10 years, New England has the capability to be larger than the west coast with mass timber.

  • Cross Laminated Timber “CLT” is one of the first non-proprietary structural products in the U.S. available to engineers in decades. Although there aren’t yet any Northeast manufacturers, CLT current can be sourced from places including Northern Quebec, British Columbia, Montana, Arkansas, Oregon and Alabama. We have also been sourcing it recently from Germany and Austria. While the lack of availability locally in the Northeast seems to have caused a slower adoption to widespread use, it’s quickly picking up pace.
  • As interest increases and more projects are designed with CLT and Glulam, technology is being developed that allows designers to use systems that take into consideration the manufacturing properties and shipping limitations of the various vendors, all of which offer their own grades, sizes and performance characteristics of the product.

Increased speed to get trade contractors in on projects.

  • During the webinar, Matthew gave an example of a building that Consigli worked on, when compared the schedule to a steel and concrete building, the mass timber structure allowed the superstructure to be erected 30% faster. Since the floor plates were constructed of pre-cut CLT structural panels, and openings were already prepared for HVAC and plumbing trades, the follow-on trade contractors were able to work from the floor plate long before they would have been able to from a steel structure that required forming and placing of the concrete on metal deck floor plate. Additionally, the team was able to start on the exterior wall framing system sooner, and they could avoid temporary winter enclosures on the mass timber structure.
  • The decision to use CLT floor plates, glulam beams and columns was made at the schematic design phase since Consigli was able to showcase the benefits and efficiency of the construction provided by the prefabricated floor plates. The ultimate deciding factor for the design was the ability to install exterior walls faster and get ahead with the MEP trades.

To learn more about mass timber and how it’s going to change the industry, watch the full webinar here.