July 25, 2021

Innovations With Carbon Accounting Tool and New CLT Product + Modular Multifamily Design Examples | SLB Newsletter July 2021


Program Updates

The AWC and Partners Help to Resolve Confusion Over European Imports

Following an erroneous warning about the use of European lumber in North Carolina, the American Wood Council (AWC), homebuilders, and representatives from the American Lumber Standards Committee (ALSC) quickly worked to set the record straight. The group assisted the North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI) by clarifying language to building code officials that European species with ALSC grade marks are allowed under the state’s building code as per the AWC’s Span Tables for Joists and Rafters.

To further resolve the confusion, the AWC added an addendum to Design Values for Joists and Rafters that includes the design values for non-North American Visually Graded Dimension Lumber, per the 2018 NDS Supplement Table 4F and 2018 NDS Supplement Table 4G.


Trend Alert: Modular Multifamily Designs Are Turning Heads

Multifamily weathered the 2020 recession better than most construction sectors—second only to industrial—and market deterioration was far less than in past recessions. A sustained surge in demand for housing will likely lift the multifamily market to pre-pandemic levels by early 2022.

Rising with the post-pandemic housing demand tide is the modular construction market, which is projected to grow from $75.9 billion in 2021 to $114.8 billion in 2028. Modular solutions are gaining popularity among housing giants due to reduced waste, speed of construction, cost efficiency, and eco-friendliness. Prefab and modular construction were ranked by Think Wood audiences as the #3 timber trend to watch in 2021.

Wood is a key player in this space, and the Softwood Lumber Board (SLB) and Think Wood are keen to capitalize on the opportunity. The SLB Programs Working Group is looking to undertake additional research on the opportunities and threats specific to modular and prefab in the coming months, while Think Wood is already pushing out educational and editorial content in response to both trends.

In recent weeks, Think Wood published a blog, modular multifamily housing, which focuses on modular light-frame and prefab mass timber solutions, and sponsored a Bisnow Commercial Real Estate News webinar, titled Prefab Construction & Innovation, Emerging Development Solutions. The webinar explored topics such as how cross laminated timber (CLT) and modularized construction contribute to sustainability goals; design and construction strategies to maximize CLT and mass timber delivery; and where and how prefab developments fit into the current market in urban and suburban environments.

A recording of the webinar, which was held on July 22, is currently available on-demand here.


WoodWorks Symposium Educates and Inspires Design and Developer Community

Over 350 developers and design and construction professionals participated in WoodWorks’ recent virtual Wood Design Symposium, What’s New and What’s Next for Wood Design and Construction. The event included a keynote address from Richard Branch, Chief Economist of Dodge Data & Analytics; a panel discussion on design and development trends; a dozen technical breakout sessions; and regionally focused Q&As that allowed attendees to meet their local WoodWorks expert and discuss issues specific to their area.

WoodWorks also used the opportunity to inspire attendees with case study presentations, including a virtual tour of Oregon State University Cascades’ Edward J. Ray Hall. This landmark CLT and glulam post-and-beam building will open this fall and make an immediate contribution to the university’s sustainability commitments.

Among the positive feedback transmitted to WoodWorks following the event, one design-build engineer noted that, “the event opened my eyes to possibilities with wood,” and wood is now their material of choice.


Wisconsin to Adopt Tall Mass Timber Provisions

The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) will soon develop an emergency rule to adopt the 2021 International Building Code’s tall mass timber provisions. The AWC had previously worked with DSPS to identify industry stakeholders to help build support for adoption and will continue to offer technical assistance now that the state has determined it will achieve adoption through an emergency rule. The rule is expected to be in place by this winter.

Industry News

Michael Green Architecture Plans Tall Mass Timber Project in Madison, Wisconsin

As reported in the Architect’s Newspaper, Michael Green Architecture recently released plans for Baker’s Place, a three-volume, mixed-used tall timber project in Madison, Wisconsin. Backed by developer, The Neutral Project, Baker’s Place will range from nine to 14 stories and feature CLT structural systems. The project, which is currently under review by municipal authorities, will also incorporate Passive House and WELL Building Standards to further reduce embodied and operational carbon.

Read more about the project and see renderings here.


Vancouver Developer Works to Accelerate Uptake of Mass Timber, Starting with 21-Story Tower

Developer Westbank Corp. has submitted plans for Prototype, a 21-story, mass timber residential tower in Vancouver, as a first step in a concerted effort to rapidly expand the number of mid- and tall hybrid buildings in the city. The project, which is being designed by Henriquez Partners Architects, is backed in part by the British Columbia government’s new Mass Timber Demonstration Program, which seeks to promote and expand mass timber manufacturing and use in the province.

Westbank’s head, Ian Gillespie, expects the project to create multifold solutions to ongoing challenges in the city, as it will minimize embodied and eliminate operational emissions, generate demand for the provincial timber industry, and add new affordable, transit-oriented housing via its partnership with BC Housing. As importantly, Gillespie hopes the building will help to spur Vancouver’s transition from conventional construction to mass timber, ultimately by building “as many hybrid buildings as possible, with zero operational emissions.”

The wood tower, which is currently under review by the city, will require some zoning variances to integrate residential. Pending these approvals, the Westbank team envisions breaking ground as early as 2022.

Read more about the project and Vancouver’s push for mass timber construction here.


Forester Stresses Canada’s Sustainable Harvesting Practices on Public Lands

Canadian Forest Industries (CFI) recently featured the commentary and lessons learned of Lacey Rose, a Labrador native who has worked as a Registered Professional Forester in Ontario since 2008. Rose stresses that Canadian foresters are required by law to ensure that managed forests—90% of which are on public lands—successfully regenerate, and that any harvesting is preceded by careful consideration of ecological, social, and economic objectives. Canada currently harvests less than 0.5% of available public forest area annually, with the offtake converted into wood products that continue to store carbon.


Prefabricated, Modular CLT School Kits Now Available

XL Construction, Aedis Architects, and Daedalus Structural Engineering have partnered to develop TimberQuest, a new CLT product that enables highly efficient, prefabricated modular school construction. TimberQuest’s large, structural slabs are precision-made and converted into prefabricated walls and roof panels off-site, which are then assembled as kits on-site. The construction method allows for significant time savings, while the material brings immediate biophilic benefits to students and teachers and sustainability and carbon benefits to communities.

TimberQuest structures, which vary in size from 3,000 to 9,000 square feet and offer nine different interior layouts, have been pre-checked and approved by the California Division of the State Architect, meaning that they can be permitted in as little as one day for use in California public school and community college projects.

Read more about TimberQuest here.


New, Real-Time Carbon Accounting Tool on the Horizon

Perkins&Will, Building Transparency, and C Change Labs are joining forces to develop the Tally Climate Action Tool (tallyCAT), a new, plugin tool for designing low-carbon buildings.

tallyCAT will offer real-time access to material performance and product information, including Building Transparency’s existing global catalogue of Environmental Product Declarations, making it easier for designers and specifiers to make low-carbon material choices. The tool will be the first of its kind and fill a persistent, ongoing knowledge and accessibility gap for the design industry.

tallyCAT’s development is being funded by a $460,000 CleanBC Building Innovation Fund (CBBIF) grant, and once launched, tallyCAT will be available globally.

Read more about tallyCAT here.


Insights on the Competition

Concrete-framing Dips During Pandemic

The NAHB’s Eye on Housing has reported that concrete-framed housing experienced a surprising 13% decline in 2020 year-over-year from 2019. This compared with wood, which despite experiencing pandemic-induced supply and pricing challenges, posted a 2% gain year-over-year, with approximately 831,000 wood-framed homes completed in 2020.

Irrespective of the downward dip, concrete posted a net gain of 3% in total framing market share growth from 2010 to 2020, driven by gains in new home building in the South, where concrete is a more common choice for framing.

Read more from the NAHB here.


Industry Resources

Virginia Tech's Monthly Housing Report

This monthly housing commentary report is a free service of Virginia Tech and is intended to help one gauge future business activity in the U.S. housing market.

May 2021 Reports (released in July 2021)
Part A: May Housing Commentary
Part B: May Economic Conditions