Concrete Assn. builds case against cross-laminated timber

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The group says not enough testing has been performed on the CLT, and that it still to be determined if the new material is as good as concrete at withstanding fires.

August 01, 2016
Concrete Assn. builds case against cross-laminated timber

Cross-laminated timber blocks. Photo: Oregon Department of Forestry/Creative Commons.

Build with Strength, a coalition of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA), has embarked on a campaign expressing concern about the use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) in construction. The coalition says that the nature of wood, which they say is prone to fire, termites, earthquakes, and humidity, makes it a questionable building material. “At the moment, sufficient testing has not taken place to verify the durability and strength of CLT,” the group said in a news release.

“Within the United States, cross-laminated timber is really a new material, a new process,” said Jon Narva, Director of External Relations for the National Association of State Fire Marshals. “We still don’t know a lot about it, we’re trying to understand better how to protect the public with those buildings coming into being. It’s certainly a fair statement to say we understand concrete and what it’s going to do under fire conditions better than we do cross-laminated timber.”

Last year, the coalition says, Washington State experienced the largest wildfire in its history, when 175 homes were destroyed and more than a million acres burned. Should such an event happen again, the best bet would be to make sure one’s residence is built with the most resilient material available: concrete, the coalition says. Advocates for increased use of CLT have touted its strength and sustainability, with some designers beginning to use the material for high-rise buildings.

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