Mass Timber Plants Growing Outside of Europe by Paul Kremer

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Throughout 2019 we have seen some amazing achievements in the mass timber market around the world. Whilst there is some much activity it’s hard to keep track with the pace intensifying. Let’s take a closer look at just a few developments occurring outside of Europe.

In North America and Canada incredible investment has been placed into Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) plants. The billion dollar start-up Katerra recently opened its $150m factory. Katerra’s plant is the largest such facility in North America, the raw material enters through a sorting machine that utilises artificial intelligence to measure and evaluate every single piece of wood. An algorithm then matches up boards, based on where some may have knots or other irregularities, to turn them into walls or flooring panels, making sure that nothing is wasted and the resulting product is perfectly pressed. The Casey Malmquist founded Smartlam has acquired a state-of-the-art facility in Dothan, Alabama, which was formerly IB XLam. With the two operational production facilities in Montana and Alabama, SmartLam North America will immediately lead the industry with a combined capacity of 6 million cubic feet of annual CLT production, Malmquist said.

Revisions to Canadian building codes, allowing wood-framed structures to go skyward, bode well for Northern Ontario’s forest industry. Element5 are bringing a $45-million factory to St. Thomas. Work has started on the new CLT plant following receipt of a $5m investment from the government.  Sidewalk Labs LLC is offering Torontonians CLT buildings in the first of its kind ‘smart city’. Sidewalk proposes investing $80 million to build a timber factory and supply chain that would support its fully timber neighbourhood. Kalesnikoff Lumber, a Kootenay-based lumber plant, is aiming to have its new $35 million mass timber plant begin its operation in early 2020, just prior to the 2020 National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) debut and the advent of 12-storey mass timber buildings across Canada.

6 CLT storey in Modena (MO)

In New Zealand, a recently announced $45 million wood processing plant is to be built in Gisborne. Auckland-based company NZ Future Forest Products, which specialises in producing engineered timber such as cross-laminated and glued-laminated timber, is looking at bringing a state-of-the-art plant to Gisborne. Red Stag in New Zealand have recently acquired their pressing system and are looking to make progress in the development of their mass timber products. Whilst in Australia, CLTP Tasmania are establishing the world’s first commercial hardwood CLT plant, taking CLT solutions from plantation-to-project. Tasmanian Government has committed $13m in grant and training support funding for the project.

Whilst there are many other projects occurring around the world, these are just some of the more innovative and notable to speak about in this edition.

New Blue Cross Head office, located in San Prospero (IT).

Horse training circle in Trentino

Paul has been instrumental in evolving the construction market in Australia and New Zealand over several years, in more recent times working specifically in the prebuild and panelized construction sector. More recently Paul worked with XLam, Australia’s first CLT plant. Paul is an Adjunct Associate Professor in Engineering at Deakin University and Research Fellow at Melbourne University in the Department of Infrastructure Engineering undertaking research and supervising Masters and PhD students. Paul is a published author with several peer-reviewed papers, is a Gottstein Fellow, and the founding editor of the Mass Timber Construction and Modern Methods of Construction journals.


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