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Wood: The Building Material of the Future?

  • 562 Dirksen Senate Office Building (map)

In recognition of National Forest Products Week, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to learn more about an innovative class of structural wood building materials, known as mass timber, which is poised to open up new markets for sustainable, domestic forestry products. Mass-timber products, such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) (dubbed "plywood on steroids"), consist of lumber panels layered and joined together, creating a strong, safe, and sustainable building material.

The unique properties of mass timber differentiate it from light-frame construction and include fire safety, resistance to seismic and explosive forces, thermal performance, and aesthetics. A light, renewable material, its use not only lowers carbon emissions from the building sector but also provides long-term carbon storage—turning buildings into carbon sinks. Policymakers are interested in mass timber for its role in rural economic development, forest health and preservation, resilient infrastructure, and climate change mitigation. This briefing will bring together experts to tell the emerging story of the U.S. mass timber industry and how to capitalize on its potential.


Already, the U.S. Department of Defense, universities, architects, and builders around the country are using mass-timber products for a variety of buildings. CLT and other prefabricated mass-timber products save construction time and can be either the predominant building material or combined with other building materials. Changes to U.S. building codes currently being considered could spur use of mass timber for taller buildings in compact urban areas. Mass timber could significantly change the fabric of our cities, offering unique environmental, performance and design attributes.

Europe and Canada currently make up the majority of the global cross-laminated timber market, but the domestic market is growing due to the availability of sustainable forestry stocks and interest from building industry professionals and clients. Dozens of mass-timber buildings are in the planning or building stages around the United States, and 12 CLT facilities or processing facilities are operational or in development in eight states (AL, IL, ME, MT, OR, TN, UT, WA).

The 2018 Senate Farm Bill contains provisions from the Timber Innovation Act, which would advance domestic research and development of the various applications of structural wood in the building sector.

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