Mass Timber. It seems to be on everybody’s minds these days, and for good reason! Mass Timber allows for flexibility in design and, when used appropriately, can save time and money on a project.
An easy way to make sure Mass Timber construction is streamlined is to know your contactor and get the Mass Timber supplier on board early in the design process. This will allow them to give input on the best options for the most efficient process. They can work out any potential kinks ahead of time rather than during construction, which can cause delays and increase costs.
Currently, there are few standards for the size of Mass Timber Billets (the blank manufactured panels). Panel size can vary: some are 4’ wide and 40’ long, while others are 12’ wide and 60’ long. The module of the manufactured Billet directly impacts the structural framing layout and building rhythm, so it is critical to know the building programmatic constraints when selecting a mass timber manufacturer.
On The Canyons, a seven-story multi-family housing project, the General Contractor, R&H Construction, was brought on board early in the design process. Through a qualification-based process, Structurlam was selected to provide the cross-laminated timber panels (CLT). The building structure was closely coordinated throughout design for the specific Structurlam panels needed to achieve the design. The relationship provided real value to the owner, PATH Development, when a complicated loading and span condition at the interlinking walkway bridge required testing to validate the design. Structurlam was able to provide two additional panels allowing the design team to organize testing prior to construction to protect the schedule. Had the project used a competitive bid environment to procure the CLT floor structure, the project could have been delayed and project costs increased.
Southwestern Oregon Community College (SWOCC) employed a slightly different approach on Umpqua Hall, a two-story applied sciences classroom building. Due to funding mechanisms, a design-bid-build contract award was required. However, SWOCC desired mass timber in their new facility and was able to partner with local timber suppliers on the production of the mass timber structural elements. While the general contractor was unknown, the design team, led by opsis architecture, provided well-coordinated documentation using the panel specifications provided by DR Johnson. Bogatay Construction was awarded the project and turned the building over to SWOCC in 2020.
With little industry standardization in place, the design and construction community is quickly learning to work with and improve the process on each project. Working closely with owners to bring the general contractor and a mass timber provider during the early stages of the design process is highly recommended.