CLT for Enduring Green Construction Infrastructure

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A rendering of architect Shigeru Ban’s Terrace House. The hybrid residential building will be made of cross-laminated timber, concrete and steel. Source: PortLiving

History’s timeline of structural innovations – from ancient Roman aqueducts to cathedrals with soaring rooflines, castles to neighborhoods of mass-manufactured buildings – reads like a primer of Buildings 101. Each has helped us refine our construction methods and building efficiencies, but over time that progress has cost our planet precious resources.

Typical structural building components like masonry, concrete, and steel have large carbon footprints and require great amounts energy to produce. Concrete production alone represents roughly 5% of world carbon dioxide emissions, the dominant greenhouse gas. Weighted with data from the US Green Building Council that 40% of national CO2 emissions come from buildings, it is more than clear that we must reexamine our go-to for construction materials.

Rather than reinvent, though, consider a return to our construction roots. A product called Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) has been used in Europe for a couple decades now, and has proven to be a startlingly green alternative to traditional “industrial age” building materials. This engineered wood building system is made from several layers of solid lumber boards, stacked crosswise and bonded together, providing dimensional stability, strength and rigidity.

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CLT Home in Seattle

Replacing concrete and steel with wood as a building material can have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Starting with the product source, wood is the only structural building material with third-party certification programs in place to verify a product’s sustainably managed origins. At SmartLam, we procure all of our lumber from sawmills practicing certified sustainable forestry practices.

Wood building systems like CLT also bring the advantage of low embodied energy. Embodied energy refers to the energy needed to extract, process, manufacture, transport, construct and maintain a material or product. LCA studies consistently show that wood outperforms other materials in this area.

CLT is also a good choice for architects who want to meet Passive House standard for commercial building. Because wood has low thermal conductivity (compared to steel or concrete), buildings made from wood are easy to insulate to high standards. CLT and its precise manufacturing and milling creates exceptional air tightness, and its dimensional stability helps ensure the building remains airtight over time.

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Little House On The Ferry – image source massivatrahus.se

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CLT Home by SoNo Arhitekti

For green building, wood is an obvious choice. Unlike other products that deplete the earth’s resources, wood is the only major building material that grows naturally, is renewable, and requires less energy to produce. In fact, wood is the ONLY renewable building material. Using CLT in place of the old standards like steel or concrete is one way to reduce the environmental impact of your structure without compromising on the advances we’ve made in modern structural integrity. It’s a solution for the future.

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© Smartlam

Durability
With proper design and maintenance, wood structures can provide long and useful service lives equivalent to other building materials. The key is careful planning and understanding of environmental loads and other external factors likely to impact a building over its lifetime.

Strength and Stability
CLT panels form a robust, structurally strong building system that outperforms anything currently available in the USA. Cross lamination provides for superior dimensional stability and offers significant shear strength performance at a very unique weight to strength ratio compared to other common structural materials.

Seismic Resilience
Because of their dimensional stability and rigidity, CLT panels create an effective lateral load resisting system. Researchers have conducted extensive seismic testing on CLT and found panels to perform exceptionally well with no residual deformation, particularly in multi-story applications. In Japan, for example, a seven-story CLT building was tested on the world’s largest shake table. It survived 14 consecutive seismic events with almost no damage. CLT also offers good ductile behavior and energy dissipation.

Acoustics
Test results show that because the mass of the wall contributes to acoustic performance, CLT building systems provide superior noise control for both airborne and impact sound transmission. CLT building systems offer additional acoustic benefits with the use of sealants and other types of membranes to provide air tightness and improve sound insulation at the interfaces between the floor and wall plates.

Thermal Performance

© Smartlam

© Smartlam

CLT’s thermal performance is determined by its U-value, or coefficient of heat transfer, which relates to panel thickness. Thicker panels have lower U-values; they are better insulators and therefore require little or no insulation. Since CLT panels can be manufactured using CNC equipment to precise tolerances, panel joints also fit tighter, which results in better energy efficiency for the structure. Because the panels are solid, there is nearly zero air infiltration into the building envelope. As a result, interior temperatures of a finished CLT structure can be maintained with just one-third the normally required heating or cooling energy.

Fire Resistence
CLT’s thick cross-section provides valuable and superior fire resistance. Due to its mass, CLT panels char slowly. Once charred, combustion slows and eventually stops as the oxygen source is removed.  CLT assemblies also have fewer concealed spaces, which reduces a fire’s ability to spread undetected. CLT structures suffer less degradation than concrete and steel structures in a catastrophic fire event.

Moisture Management & Vapor Diffusion
Wood is naturally hygroscopic and inherently serves as a moisture management system within a building envelope. Ideally manufactured at 12% moisture content, woods inherent ability to absorb and emit moisture can naturally stabilize an indoor environment. The vapor permeable nature of wood allows CLT to transfer molecular moisture without trapping it and creating conditions for mold and decay.  CLT buildings ‘breathe’, minimizing the risk for mold growth and maximizing the comfort of it’s occupants.

Environmental

© Smartlam

© Smartlam

SmartLam CLT is manufactured from trees harvested in sustainably managed forests.  The raw materials for SmartLam CLT are sourced exclusively from small and medium diameter timber. This responsible cultivation practice maintains and even enhances the long-term productivity and health of the forest. CLT provides a number of environmental benefits in addition to its excellent thermal performance. Wood is the only major building material that grows naturally and is renewable. Life cycle assessment studies consistently show that wood outperforms steel and concrete in terms of embodied energy, air pollution and water pollution. CLT also has a lighter carbon footprint as wood products continue to store carbon absorbed by the trees while growing, and engineered wood manufacturing requires significantly less energy to produce than concrete and steel. This represents a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Healthy Indoor Environment

© Smartlam

© Smartlam

The only constituents of a CLT building system are wood and a non-toxic/non-VOC adhesives. CLT building materials do not introduce any toxins into the indoor environment providing clean indoor air quality. In addition, the CLT wall systems are naturally breathable, which, integrated with appropriate mechanical systems, will result in a healthy indoor environment that maximizes occupant comfort and health.

Life Cycle Analysis
The longevity of CLT components ensures that the future value of any structure remains high. CLT buildings are easily altered and remodeled and are also fully recyclable once they reach the end of their useful life. With the utilities located to the interior of the building, not enmeshed with structural and insulating systems, buildings can be easily remodeled.

Cost Effectiveness
Comparing the cost of CLT versus certain concrete, masonry and steel building types and including the advantages of faster construction time and lower foundation costs, the estimated total costs of CLT structures can be very competitive.

Design Flexibility

© Smartlam

© Smartlam

CLT has unique structural properties that allow architects and designers increased flexibility of design allowing for distinctive and innovative projects. Due to wood’s inherent ductility and unique strength to weight ratio, wood offers many advantages over the other common structural materials such as masonry, concrete, and steel.

Speed of Build
From one-person builders to large construction companies, CLT structural systems will arrive on-site ready to assemble, saving time and money with a swift and accurate building process.

Reduced Waste
CLT panels are manufactured for specific end-use applications, which results in little to no job site waste. Plus, manufacturers can reuse fabrication scraps for stairs and other architectural elements. SmartLam is a “zero waste” facility and utilizes all of our residuals either through re-purposing, as wood product constituents, or bio-fuel.

Author Bio
Casey Malmquist, President and General Manager of SmartLam, has served in this position since SmartLam’s inception in January of 2012, and has led the SmartLam team from the ground level to becoming a globally-recognized producer of Cross-Laminated Timber products. Mr. Malmquist has over 30 years’ experience owning and operating a successful construction and development company.

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CLT Wood Innovation and Design Centre – Prince George, Canada

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CLT Mixed Use Community – Arbora Montreal Canada

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8 Story CLT Building in Finland

 

CLT Star Mill

CLT Star Mill

CLT Star Mill

CLT Star Mill

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CLT Elevator Shaft

CLT Elevator Shaft

Urban Algae Canopy Looks Promising

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The London-based studio ecoLogicStudio has recently showcased a prototype of its so-called urban algae canopy at the “Feeding the Planet” expo in Milan. The urban algae canopy is a bio-digital structure filled with fluid that contains microalgae organisms. These are pumped around the otherwise transparent structure and are capable of producing oxygen, biomass energy and dynamic shade. They also respond to the presence of visitors and can produce very interesting visual effects.

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There are a series of tubes, which move the microalgae around to the transparent panels, which make up the exterior of the structure. This is possible due to the special CNC welding technology employed to create the structure, which also allowed ecoLogicStudio to design and control the morphology of the cushioned panels under stress and guide the liquid through them.

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The prototype of the canopy is a small installation, but the firm plans to make a larger version to demonstrate at the 2015 Expo Milano Future Food District. The larger Urban Canopy will be able to produce an amount of oxygen equal to that produced by four hectares of forest. It will also be capable of producing 150 kg of biomass, of which 80 percent will be in the form of natural vegetal proteins.

In direct sunlight the microalgae turn green due to photosynthesis, while also growing, which offers natural shade. The canopy is also capable of responding to the presence of people, since as they walk by, electro valves are triggered that alter the speed of the algae as they move through the panels of the canopy.

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According to ecoLogicStudio the goal of this project is to bring together industry and nature, which are all too often separated at the expense of the environment. Basically they seem to be using machinery to bring nature back, which is a unique concept. The first practical application of the Urban Canopy has not yet been announced, though I think many uses, in residential and industrial/commercial architecture, could be found.

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Guinness Goes Green

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It’s always nice to see businesses taking steps to go green. Diageo, the company that manufactures the world famous Guinness beer, has recently opened a new brewhouse, which has been awarded the LEED Platinum certification. Brewhouse No. 4 as it is called, is located at St. James’s Gate in Ireland and it was also awarded the BREEAM Outstanding certification in 2014.

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The most notable sustainable features of Brewhouse No.4 are an energy recovery system, which works to reduce the need for steam heating, and a hybrid refrigeration system which runs at 32 ºF instead of 25 ºF (0 ºC instead of -4 ºC) as was the case with the previous one. They also optimized the structure’s orientation, took advantage of solar shading and used high-performance insulation. The lighting is automatic and highly-efficient.

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The electrical energy for the building is provided by a combined heat and power plant (CHP). They also installed a low-energy heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system, while the air conditioning is now restricted to certain parts of the building only.

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Only low-flow water fixtures were used throughout the building, while a rainwater catchment system will yield an estimated 6,400 cu ft (180 cu m) of rainwater a year. They also added facilities for cyclists and low-fuel/fuel-efficient vehicles, and have a carpooling scheme, which are all aimed at encouraging green commuting.

Through all this, Brewhouse No. 4 is now a carbon neutral building, while it has also achieved zero waste to landfill status for both the construction process as well as ongoing operation. According to the builders, 33 percent less thermal energy and 14 percent less water are now used to brew the beer, compared to the previous facility.

Brewhouse No. 4 is the first major brewery in the world to have received the highest LEED rating, while its BREEAM score was the highest of any industrial building anywhere in the world in 2014. The brewhouse started operating in September 2014.

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Books Turned Into Chairs

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Bookniture is a book, which can be transformed into a chair. It was created by Mike Mak, a designer from Hong Kong and has already been successfully funded through Kickstarter. Folded up it looks like a book, but it unfolds to create a three-dimensional support for a seat, side table, coffee table or a worktable, when two are stacked one on top of the other. It would certainly make a great addition to any tiny home and is without a doubt one of the most innovative furniture ideas.

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Folded, Booknuitre measures 7″ by 13″ by 1.6″ and when opened up, it becomes a seat with a diameter of 14 inches and weight of 3.5 pounds. This transformation is made possible by its advanced honeycomb paper structure which allows the book to open into a strong, accordion-like piece of furniture, which is capable of holding up to 375 pounds (170 kilograms). The latter is made possible by the thickness of the American-made kraft paper from which it is constructed, which is also moisture-resistant.

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Being a book that turns into a chair or table makes this a very unique product. It is perfect for providing seating for guests, as well as furnishing small rooms or apartments. Bookniture will be available in two colors, namely black and brown. The designers have also added five different colored felt tops, which provide added stability and comfort when Bookniture is used as a seat or table.

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Though not implicitly stated in the item description, I think it is safe to assume that Bookniture is biodegradable. The paper probably is, but there is no information as to what type of glue was used to bind it together. Given that it’s made out of paper, I would also venture a guess that it is not particularly durable. Though when used only occasionally, it will most likely last for a while.

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Passive Home That Can be Assembled as Easily as Legos

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Multipod Studio, a French architectural firm, recently made the first prototype of a sustainable, lightweight, and recyclable modular passive home. Once they are finished testing it, they will begin selling these affordable and very efficient homes. This home is called Pop-Up House, which is a pretty apt name, since it can be assembled in just four days using only an electric screwdriver.

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The Pop-Up House measures 1,614 square feet (150 square meters), and features an open plan kitchen, dining and living room area. The home also features three bedrooms, two bathrooms, as well as an office and a terrace. That’s quite an impressive area for a home that can be built in just four days.

The home features a spruce wood frame, which is easy to construct. It is insulated using expanded polystyrene insulation blocks, while the home also features laminate veneer wooden floor. All of this is held together with wood screws. According to Multipod Studio no prior construction experience is needed to assemble the Pop-Up House, and they even go so far as to compare the assembly process to building with Legos.

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The Pop-Up House has an airtight thermal envelope, which together with great insulation, means that no heating is necessary so long as the home is located in a temperate hot climate. The home also meets the strict Passivhaus energy standard, so the home should be efficient to heat even in colder regions.

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Multipod Studio is currently still testing the prototype, and there is no word yet when these units will become available for purchase. They estimate that a Pop-Up House will cost about $41,000 (€30,000). This price includes assembly, but not the plumbing and electrical wiring. Even without all that, though, the home is still very affordable, especially given that it is a passive house.

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