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Michigan University to lead the charge in Michigan for CLT

Michigan State University’s future STEM Teaching and Learning Facility will be the first in Michigan to use an innovative wood product for its load-bearing structure. The US$100 million facility will be constructed of glue-laminated wooden columns and cross-laminated timber, or CLT, a relatively new product for the floors and ceilings. Source: Timberbiz

“As a leading public research university, MSU has the fantastic opportunity to showcase these innovative and sustainable construction methods in the state of Michigan,” Satish Udpa, MSU’s acting president said.

“I am delighted to see university operations, including building construction, pull from our state’s history as a lumber leader and mesh with the engineering capabilities of advanced materials.”

CLT has been used in Europe for more than 20 years, with recent interest in Canada and the US, especially on the West Coast.

“We compared mass timber with other framing methods and were intrigued by how far wood has come as a building material,” = John LeFevre, MSU’s Planning, Design and Construction director said.

“A major advantage is the speed of construction – the panels can be assembled very quickly.”

Two new mass timber wings will offer 117,000 square feet of modern teaching labs, responding to STEM course demand, which has increased 40% in the last 10 years at MSU. The pleasing aesthetics of exposed wood also create a warm, inviting and atypical environment for learning science.

“I am excited to see the educational, research and outreach opportunities that the building itself promises to many academic units and to our land-grant mission,” Ron Hendrick, dean of MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources said.

“It is an interdisciplinary platform encompassing forestry, construction management, biosystems engineering and beyond, and can serve as a catalyst to develop this new technology in Michigan.”

Currently there is no CLT manufacturing in Michigan, although it’s a prime place for future development.

In addition to economic development, the building will have environmental benefits, especially for locking up carbon that otherwise would be in the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

“By weight, carbon makes up half of wood,” Rich Kobe, forest ecologist and MSU’s Department of Forestry chairperson said. “Growing trees sustainably, using all of the harvested wood and incorporating it into a long-term structure extends the carbon and climate benefits of forests. And those re-growing forests take up more carbon and provide important wildlife habitat and clean water.”

In fact, many conservation organizations, including the Michigan Nature Conservancy, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Forest Biomaterials Institute are actively promoting mass-timber construction.

“Mass-timber construction provides a new market for sustainably produced timber that encourages forest landowners to keep their woodlands healthy and growing,” Helen Taylor, director of the Michigan Nature Conservancy said. “And forests are the world’s most cost-effective carbon-capture tool.”

Many believe the MSU building will catalyze additional mass-timber construction in the state, which might lead to establishing CLT manufacturing in Michigan.

“Michigan is ideally situated to become a leader in mass-timber manufacturing,” Mark Rudnicki, Michigan Forest Biomaterials Institute executive director said. “We have abundant forest resources that are managed sustainably and the manufacturing know-how. But there is not a building CLT manufacturer in the central US.”