Cross-Laminated Timber: Eco-friendly innovation in the construction Industry

November 24, 2021

Concrete is a staple building material; however, it comes with an enormous environmental footprint. This makes it less favorable compared to materials like wood.  One ton of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere for every cubic meter of concrete created. But Cross-Laminated Timber contains carbon naturally stored in wood during tree growth. It is for this reason that there is a buzz in the construction industry about Cross-laminated Timber. It is the building material of the future.


First developed in the early 1990s in Austria, Cross-Laminated Timber was championed by researcher Gerhard Schickhofer.  Today, Boston-based Shawmut Design and Construction is using cross-laminated timber to construct a 75-foot-tall, 125,000-square-foot mixed-use office building in Los Angeles.  Using CLT helped the company dodge supply chain problems such as material delays and sped the project up.


Even though Cross-laminated Timber is a comparably new building material, there is enthusiasm in the construction industry about its potential. States like Washington and Oregon, which boast of rich forests, have been aggressive in supporting the use of CLT.

CLT 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. 1 m3 of concrete weighs approximately 2.7 tons. 1 m3 of CLT weighs 881 lbs. and has the same resistance.


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 the same direction. With CLT, however, the stacking of boards in perpendicular layers allows the manufacture of plates or surfaces – or walls. It is plywood made of boards that can reach enormous dimensions: between 7.8 ft. and 13 ft. high, and up to 39 ft. long.


CLT can be used to make floors, walls, ceilings — entire buildings. The world’s tallest mass timber structure, at 18 stories and over 280 feet, was recently built in Norway; there’s an 80-story wooden tower proposed for Chicago.


As a potential building material for the future, CLT offers a myriad of advantages, and it will soon become the material of choice for the construction industry. Contrary to popular belief concerning wood, CLT does well in fire, the outer layer of mass timber will tend to char and that effectively self-extinguishes and shields the interior. 

Not only does the use of CLT reduce carbon emissions, it also allows buildings to be constructed faster, with lower labor costs and less waste. As a building material it does well during earthquakes and because it is lighter, it can be used to build on urban land, e.g. brownfields, not suitable for heavy concrete construction.

Billions of people worldwide lack homes, including half a million in North America.  Most of this housing will be in large cities. If all this construction is done using concrete and steel, the environment will suffer. A more sustainable alternative must be found, and wood is sufficiently abundant and renewable to be the eco-friendly solution.

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