“Timber Innovation Act” Resurfaces in Congress

A bill promoting the construction of tall wood buildings has been reintroduced to Congress.

CLT offers outstanding structural, thermal, and acoustic performance.

Cross laminated timber makes tall wood buildings possible.

The bipartisan Timber Innovation Act is an effort to spur economic development with new and innovative uses for wood as a building material. The legislation will accelerate the research and development of wood for use in construction projects, focusing on the construction of buildings more than 85 feet tall.

Reaching such great heights requires the use of mass timber products, such as cross laminated timber, or CLT. Researchers here at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) have been studying CLT from all angles, including engineering properties, fire and moisture performance, and how they hold up during earthquakes. A quick search of this blog turns up a great reading list on CLT if you’d like to learn more.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, joined Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and U.S. Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Glenn Thompson (PA-05) to reintroduce the bill.

“Advancing tall wood building construction through the Timber Innovation Act is a win for working families and our environment,” DelBene said. “Technological advancements in cross-laminated timber have made it easier for us to support healthy forests, wildlife habitats and rural economies dependent on forest products. Encouraging the use of green building materials instead of building materials dependent on fossil fuels reduces greenhouse gases creating a cleaner, healthier environment for future generations.”

Blast Testing Shows CLT Can Take the Heat

Here at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), we sometimes get a little destructive. We bend and break wood samples of all sizes, and we even shoot lumber out of a cannon at 100 miles per hour.

But explosions? That’s a bit out of our wheelhouse. Not that wood can’t handle it. Particularly when it’s used in engineered products like cross-laminated timber (CLT), which FPL researchers have studied from many angles, including fire performance, use in earthquake-prone regions, and the effects of moisture on CLT.

Recent tests of CLT structures show just how tough this material can be. A series of live blast tests were conducted at Tyndall Air Force Base by WoodWorks in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and Softwood Lumber Board.

The specifics of the tests are outlined in this great Woodworking Network article, but if you’re looking for a spoiler, the results were promising, and they “will be used to further expand the use of wood solutions for Department of Defense applications and other blast-resistant construction.”

You can view all the tests at http://bit.ly/2hwVE1g and we posted our favorite below. While not a dramatic view of the explosion itself, this high-speed shot shows the wood panels moving with the force of the blast without being destroyed.

WoodWorks will publish the complete results in 2017.

Investigating CLT’s Ability to Fight Fungus

The growing reputation of cross-laminated timber (CLT) as a sustainable, cost-effective, and innovative building material has prompted researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) to build upon past research and investigate the material’s ability to fight against fungus.

Intact cross-laminated timber panel section (left); 4-in. cube cut from panel section for scaled-up decay testing.

(A) Intact cross-laminated timber panel section; (B) 4-in. cube cut from panel section for scaled-up decay testing.

Praised for its many benefits, including speed of construction, cost, sustainability, excellent thermal and sound insulation, and fire restriction qualities, the pre-fabricated building material has made a name for itself in the construction and worldwide mass timber market. CLT has already made an appearance in a variety of high-rise apartment buildings in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast United States, urging scientists in the Lab’s Durability and Wood Protection Unit to further examine how the timber fairs against a rainy, humid climate.

The study builds upon past conclusions that untreated CLT is susceptible to mold and a variety of fungi. While decay can be reduced with preservatives such as boron, researchers are using more methods to investigate resistance treatments.

Scientists have implemented soil block assay tests on numerous random samples of CLT, and also plan to conduct mass loss and x-ray density profiling to assess decay in CLT.It is hoped that this exploration will help researchers develop more targeted fungal reduction methods for CLT.

The project will conclude in early 2017.  For more information on CLT and fungal resistance, read the full Research in Progress report.

Blog post by Francesca Yracheta

Will Skyscrapers of Tomorrow be “Plyscrapers”?

If anyone is going to be enthusiastic about building with wood, its researchers from the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL).

Albina Yard, a 16,000-square-foot office building in Portland, uses wood, not steel and concrete, as its structural support. (Courtesy LEVER Architecture)

Albina Yard, a 16,000-square-foot office building in Portland, uses wood, not steel and concrete, as its structural support. (Courtesy LEVER Architecture)

FPL engineers Dave Kretschmann and Doug Rammer recently shared that enthusiasm with the folks from Smithsonian.com and imparted their wisdom about the virtues of building tall with wood. The result is a comprehensive article on cross-laminated timber (CLT) and the opportunities it affords architects, engineers, and users alike.

According to Kretsmann, CLT has “energized the wood product community and a lot of people want to see it succeed.” He and Rammer go on to discuss their roles, including the development of building codes and standards, and studies on the material’s performance in fires and earthquakes.

You’ll see a quick search of this blog will produce no shortage of posts on cross-laminated timber. We’re happy to see the word on wood spreading farther all the time.

Tales from the Test Floor: Air Cannon Makes a Perfect Shot

Researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) are back to work using the debris launcher in the Engineering Mechanics and Remote Sensing Laboratory.

The debris launcher is an air cannon that fires two-by-fours at 100 mph to replicate what could happen in a house or any wood structure during a tornado. The equipment has been used frequently over the past several years, most recently to test the viability of tornado safe rooms constructed of wood.

This time, researchers are using the cannon for a new purpose: shooting the lumber ‘missiles’ at sections of cross laminated timber to test the engineered material’s performance withstanding projectiles in high-wind events, and there was a surprise ending to the test.

The missile was fired at the test wall, and it bounced off the wall…right back into the cannon! Take that, cannon!Missle  after testSeems like a one-in-a-million shot. But wood, er, would you believe it happened twice?! Goes to show that even after more than a century of research at FPL, good ol’ wood still has a few tricks up its bark, er, sleeve.