Two New Factories in Washington Bet on Taller Wood Buildings

The two Spokane facilities will create the cross-laminated timbers needed in high-rise wood frames allowed under new codes.

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Big Plans. A new Katerra factory will produce CLTs for taller wood buildings.

As reported by Virginia Thomas at the Spokane Journal:
The Katerra Inc. cross-laminated timber factory is currently under construction in Spokane Valley. The facility is expected to begin producing panels in early 2019.

Senate Bill 5450, signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this year, goes into effect today, June 7, enabling builders to use certain new timber products to construct bigger buildings than had been permitted previously.

The bill specifically directs the State Building Code Council to adopt rules for the use of cross-laminated timber for residential and commercial building construction, making it possible for the material to be used more widely in construction projects throughout the state.

Up until now, the state building code only permitted CLT to be used in construction of buildings up to six stories, consistent with the 2015 International Building Code. Because the language of the law isn’t specific, it’s not yet clear what the council will decide regarding new height restrictions on CLT and other wood buildings.

CLT is a wood panel consisting of several layers of wood glued together at 90-degree angles to form sturdy structural panels, which are typically created with spaces for windows and doors built in and can include pre-installed plumbing and electrical wiring. The wood for the panels is sourced from small-diameter trees that aren’t economical to be used for conventional lumber.

Proponents of CLT say the building material has several benefits.

“It’s beautiful, it’s durable, it’s higher quality than stick framing, and it’s less labor intensive,” says Mike Bradley, project manager and principal at Beacon Builders LLC, of Spokane. “It’s faster. Compared to concrete and steel it’s also cheaper. It’s easy to build and it is not as limited by weather as something like concrete would be.”

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