CLT for Enduring Green Construction Infrastructure


A rendering of architect Shigeru Ban’s Terrace House. The hybrid residential building will be made of cross-laminated timber, concrete and steel. Source: PortLiving

History’s timeline of structural innovations – from ancient Roman aqueducts to cathedrals with soaring rooflines, castles to neighborhoods of mass-manufactured buildings – reads like a primer of Buildings 101. Each has helped us refine our construction methods and building efficiencies, but over time that progress has cost our planet precious resources.

Typical structural building components like masonry, concrete, and steel have large carbon footprints and require great amounts energy to produce. Concrete production alone represents roughly 5% of world carbon dioxide emissions, the dominant greenhouse gas. Weighted with data from the US Green Building Council that 40% of national CO2 emissions come from buildings, it is more than clear that we must reexamine our go-to for construction materials.

Rather than reinvent, though, consider a return to our construction roots. A product called Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) has been used in Europe for a couple decades now, and has proven to be a startlingly green alternative to traditional “industrial age” building materials. This engineered wood building system is made from several layers of solid lumber boards, stacked crosswise and bonded together, providing dimensional stability, strength and rigidity.


CLT Home in Seattle

Replacing concrete and steel with wood as a building material can have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Starting with the product source, wood is the only structural building material with third-party certification programs in place to verify a product’s sustainably managed origins. At SmartLam, we procure all of our lumber from sawmills practicing certified sustainable forestry practices.

Wood building systems like CLT also bring the advantage of low embodied energy. Embodied energy refers to the energy needed to extract, process, manufacture, transport, construct and maintain a material or product. LCA studies consistently show that wood outperforms other materials in this area.

CLT is also a good choice for architects who want to meet Passive House standard for commercial building. Because wood has low thermal conductivity (compared to steel or concrete), buildings made from wood are easy to insulate to high standards. CLT and its precise manufacturing and milling creates exceptional air tightness, and its dimensional stability helps ensure the building remains airtight over time.


Little House On The Ferry – image source


CLT Home by SoNo Arhitekti

For green building, wood is an obvious choice. Unlike other products that deplete the earth’s resources, wood is the only major building material that grows naturally, is renewable, and requires less energy to produce. In fact, wood is the ONLY renewable building material. Using CLT in place of the old standards like steel or concrete is one way to reduce the environmental impact of your structure without compromising on the advances we’ve made in modern structural integrity. It’s a solution for the future.


© Smartlam

With proper design and maintenance, wood structures can provide long and useful service lives equivalent to other building materials. The key is careful planning and understanding of environmental loads and other external factors likely to impact a building over its lifetime.

Strength and Stability
CLT panels form a robust, structurally strong building system that outperforms anything currently available in the USA. Cross lamination provides for superior dimensional stability and offers significant shear strength performance at a very unique weight to strength ratio compared to other common structural materials.

Seismic Resilience
Because of their dimensional stability and rigidity, CLT panels create an effective lateral load resisting system. Researchers have conducted extensive seismic testing on CLT and found panels to perform exceptionally well with no residual deformation, particularly in multi-story applications. In Japan, for example, a seven-story CLT building was tested on the world’s largest shake table. It survived 14 consecutive seismic events with almost no damage. CLT also offers good ductile behavior and energy dissipation.

Test results show that because the mass of the wall contributes to acoustic performance, CLT building systems provide superior noise control for both airborne and impact sound transmission. CLT building systems offer additional acoustic benefits with the use of sealants and other types of membranes to provide air tightness and improve sound insulation at the interfaces between the floor and wall plates.

Thermal Performance

© Smartlam

© Smartlam

CLT’s thermal performance is determined by its U-value, or coefficient of heat transfer, which relates to panel thickness. Thicker panels have lower U-values; they are better insulators and therefore require little or no insulation. Since CLT panels can be manufactured using CNC equipment to precise tolerances, panel joints also fit tighter, which results in better energy efficiency for the structure. Because the panels are solid, there is nearly zero air infiltration into the building envelope. As a result, interior temperatures of a finished CLT structure can be maintained with just one-third the normally required heating or cooling energy.

Fire Resistence
CLT’s thick cross-section provides valuable and superior fire resistance. Due to its mass, CLT panels char slowly. Once charred, combustion slows and eventually stops as the oxygen source is removed.  CLT assemblies also have fewer concealed spaces, which reduces a fire’s ability to spread undetected. CLT structures suffer less degradation than concrete and steel structures in a catastrophic fire event.

Moisture Management & Vapor Diffusion
Wood is naturally hygroscopic and inherently serves as a moisture management system within a building envelope. Ideally manufactured at 12% moisture content, woods inherent ability to absorb and emit moisture can naturally stabilize an indoor environment. The vapor permeable nature of wood allows CLT to transfer molecular moisture without trapping it and creating conditions for mold and decay.  CLT buildings ‘breathe’, minimizing the risk for mold growth and maximizing the comfort of it’s occupants.


© Smartlam

© Smartlam

SmartLam CLT is manufactured from trees harvested in sustainably managed forests.  The raw materials for SmartLam CLT are sourced exclusively from small and medium diameter timber. This responsible cultivation practice maintains and even enhances the long-term productivity and health of the forest. CLT provides a number of environmental benefits in addition to its excellent thermal performance. Wood is the only major building material that grows naturally and is renewable. Life cycle assessment studies consistently show that wood outperforms steel and concrete in terms of embodied energy, air pollution and water pollution. CLT also has a lighter carbon footprint as wood products continue to store carbon absorbed by the trees while growing, and engineered wood manufacturing requires significantly less energy to produce than concrete and steel. This represents a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Healthy Indoor Environment

© Smartlam

© Smartlam

The only constituents of a CLT building system are wood and a non-toxic/non-VOC adhesives. CLT building materials do not introduce any toxins into the indoor environment providing clean indoor air quality. In addition, the CLT wall systems are naturally breathable, which, integrated with appropriate mechanical systems, will result in a healthy indoor environment that maximizes occupant comfort and health.

Life Cycle Analysis
The longevity of CLT components ensures that the future value of any structure remains high. CLT buildings are easily altered and remodeled and are also fully recyclable once they reach the end of their useful life. With the utilities located to the interior of the building, not enmeshed with structural and insulating systems, buildings can be easily remodeled.

Cost Effectiveness
Comparing the cost of CLT versus certain concrete, masonry and steel building types and including the advantages of faster construction time and lower foundation costs, the estimated total costs of CLT structures can be very competitive.

Design Flexibility

© Smartlam

© Smartlam

CLT has unique structural properties that allow architects and designers increased flexibility of design allowing for distinctive and innovative projects. Due to wood’s inherent ductility and unique strength to weight ratio, wood offers many advantages over the other common structural materials such as masonry, concrete, and steel.

Speed of Build
From one-person builders to large construction companies, CLT structural systems will arrive on-site ready to assemble, saving time and money with a swift and accurate building process.

Reduced Waste
CLT panels are manufactured for specific end-use applications, which results in little to no job site waste. Plus, manufacturers can reuse fabrication scraps for stairs and other architectural elements. SmartLam is a “zero waste” facility and utilizes all of our residuals either through re-purposing, as wood product constituents, or bio-fuel.

Author Bio
Casey Malmquist, President and General Manager of SmartLam, has served in this position since SmartLam’s inception in January of 2012, and has led the SmartLam team from the ground level to becoming a globally-recognized producer of Cross-Laminated Timber products. Mr. Malmquist has over 30 years’ experience owning and operating a successful construction and development company.


CLT Wood Innovation and Design Centre – Prince George, Canada


CLT Mixed Use Community – Arbora Montreal Canada


8 Story CLT Building in Finland


CLT Star Mill

CLT Star Mill

CLT Star Mill

CLT Star Mill


CLT Elevator Shaft

CLT Elevator Shaft

From Video conferencing to Emails: Character of a Modern Business is linked to a Greener, Better Tomorrow

Image Source ThinkGreen

Image Source ThinkGreen

“Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this. For our children’s children and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.”
-Leonardo Di Caprio spoke these riveting words during this Oscar accepting at the academy this year. 2015 recorded as the hottest year in the history of the modern world, scientists and experts calling for a united stand of the leading Governments of the world to tackle the problem collectively.

Is Climate Change real?
Irrespective of which side of the argument you are on “Climate change” is indeed a real threat, and there is evidence that the world is facing ramification as a result. The wildfires of Australia or extreme drought conditions in Africa last year have been attributed to climate change. Heatwaves that swept every continent in the world last year is yet another proof that climate change is happening, and there is an impending need to address this problem on a global platform.


Image Source The Guardian

How is Climate Change linked to Business & Industrialization?
The world has evolved from an agrarian based economy to an industrialized one to a more technology-driven one. During the industrial period, energy consumption was the mainstay of the economy. Although this ear brought with it riches and gave rise to a consumerist society, the industrial revolution is often cited as the mean reason for the downward spiral of earth’s relationship with ecology and humans.

A Drive towards Sustainable Business Trends
cop-parisAs the world’s leaders met at 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris to reach a global agreement to reduce climate change, time has also come when entrepreneurial leaders of the world have to think about most sustainable ways to conduct business.

Thankfully, in the modern ear, business owners are more mindful of this and are aware of how business operations can harm the environment. Owing to several small and medium sized enterprises are adhering to norms and work culture that is sustainable and environmentally friendly. For instance, emails to a large extent have eliminated the use of papers in office spaces. Advancement in technology has also enabled businesses to minimize the use of paper as e- documents, e-bills, etc. take precedence.

Even work culture and place of work are undergoing an overhaul to reduce carbon footprints on the planet. There is an increasing drive towards designing eco-friendly buildings and office spaces that focus on water and energy conversation. The design philosophy of these buildings promotes rainwater harvesting, maximum incorporation of natural lighting and use of recycling materials. Green buildings and architecture are gaining popularity and eventually the cost involved in constructing such spaces will come down.


The onslaught of technology has not just driven greater business prospects. It also has allowed businesses to function in a more sustainable way. Modern businesses have no limitations and people work across geographical boundaries in the most efficient manner. Thanks to this advancement, business video conference services like BlueJeans, allows individuals and business associates to connect with one another without a glitch.


This method of communication also works well for people who perform professional duties from the comfort of their home. In the coming years, this trend is also expected to catch up. In most major cities in the world, peaks hours of the day which is usually the time when people are getting to or getting off work adds to pollution in the city. If only more and more people work from home rather than commute to work in their cars or public transport, the emission of carbon in the environment can be significantly reduced.

By |September 27th, 2016|Conservation, Corporate, Green Tech, Other Projects, Technology|0 Comments

The Most Polluting Industries In The World

pollutionScientists have been sounding the alarms about climate change for decades, but unfortunately we are still completely dependent on digging stuff up and burning it for our main sources of energy. The United States gets 39% of its energy from coal, which is ok from a national security standpoint until the acid rain makes our water undrinkable. Natural Gas pollutes 30% less than coal and the U.S. gets 27% of its energy from that source, but there are still significant pollution issues. And, of course, there is a threat of a meltdown, but mainly the radioactive waste is dangerous for 240,000 years.

People have been looking for alternative energy sources for decades, but progress in getting them installed means less than 15% of the energy produced in the United States comes from renewable or clean sources. Hydropower is the largest sector of green energy in the U.S., responsible for almost 7% of the power production. It is, however, not without its own issues- dams can endanger ecosystems, so hydroelectric power has to be done properly. Wind is an emerging energy sector at almost 4.5% of America’s power grid. Just one percent of power produced in the U.S. comes from solar or geothermal sources, though that number is always increasing with improvements in technology.

Transportation is one sector where small improvements in efficiency can have a huge impact. Increases in mandatory fuel efficiency have decreased air pollution since the 1970s. Continuing to increase efficiency will continue to improve the environment. Biofuels have also shown promise in decreasing pollution. Now many people are even driving hybrid electric and full electric cars. When powered with solar power they produce zero emissions, and even when they get their power from traditional sources they still pollute less than traditional internal combustion engines.

Learn more about the arsenal of green tech being employed to reduce pollution from this infographic!



By |September 11th, 2016|Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Green Tech|0 Comments

Carbon Footprint of the Digital Age – Infographic


This infographic looks at the impact the digital age is having on the environment. Taking proactive steps to lower your carbon footprint means more that switching of lights and reducing the amount of times you drive your car. Every time you switch on your computer or digital device CO2 is released into the atmosphere and polluting the planet.


By |September 4th, 2016|Conservation, News|0 Comments

Strong Greener Concrete with CarbonCure

Concrete is everywhere in construction, so I like to note what’s happening to make concrete “greener.”  CarbonCure Technologies, Inc. licenses technology in North America to make, for example, carbon-absorbed concrete blocks and other precast products.  Basically, CO2 is injected during curing — making limestone — with the end result being a stronger, greener masonry and other precast products.


By |November 30th, 2012|Conservation, Technology|0 Comments

Firefly is a New VAWT Small Wind Turbine

South Carolina-based Firefly Power is one of 20 other social- or environmentally-inclined companies presenting at the i2i Awards program in conjunction with SXSW Eco in Austin through Friday, October 5, 2012.  The company makes lightweight small wind turbines out of carbon-fiber blades in the vertical axis form.  The residential unit is rated at 1.8 kW, weighs less than 60 pounds, cuts in at 10 mph winds, and is expected to sell for about $7,000, according to Firefly Power.


By |October 3rd, 2012|Conservation, Wind|0 Comments