Quiz Time: What is CLT?
A. A vegetarian sandwich similar to a BLT but substituting cucumber for bacon;
B. A popular marijuana edible;
C. A new computer coding language;
D. A new lumber product that could help revive Oregon’s timber industry.
The answer is D, though you probably can find a cucumber, lettuce and tomato sandwich on some vegetarian menus. Quietly, CLT, which stands for cross-laminated timber, is becoming one of Oregon’s emerging industries alongside more publicized fields such as software and legal marijuana.
So exactly, what is cross-laminated timber? The so-called timber is actually comprised of multiple layers of wood glued together, with lower-value wood on the inside and higher value wood on the outside. The panels can be customized with openings for windows and doors and slots for wiring, then shipped as a package. It’s an efficient way to construct buildings and also is environmentally friendly because wood sequesters carbon. It’s safe, too. In a fire the panels don’t burn, but rather char at very slow predictable rates, while retaining their structural integrity.
The Carbon 12 condo complex in Portland won second place in the Oregon BEST CLT Design Contest.
The new product also has economic potential. Cross-laminated timber is leading Oregon’s effort to become a global leader in advanced wood products. D.R. Johnson in Riddle, Oregon, was the first U.S. company to become a certified producer of cross-laminated timber. At least three planned Oregon projects have won design awards for their use of cross-laminated timber. And The National Center for Advanced Wood Products and Design, a collaboration between the University of Oregon and Oregon State, is helping lead the push for the increased use of CLT in the United States. The new technology achieved quicker acceptance in Europe but is gaining popularity in Western states.
Though the number of Oregonians employed in advanced wood products is small and not officially tracked, the growth potential is significant. In Europe, CLT plants generally employ 200 to 400 workers. Industry boosters hope to eventually see as many as a half-dozen plants in Oregon. And the hope is that cross-laminated timber will be just the first of several types of advanced wood products to find a manufacturing home in Oregon.
Any growth will be welcome. Wood products manufacturing employment is a fraction of what it once was in Oregon, but has been slowly climbing since 2011, reaching 22,402 in 2015, according to the Oregon Employment Department. Development of more products like cross-laminated timber will help increase the number of jobs in rural areas where they are desperately needed.
The Glenwood Parking Structure in Springfield won first place in the Oregon BEST CLT Design Contest.