Does wood cut it? The pros and cons of CLT structures

Words by Tony Whitehead

Treet apartment block in Bergen, Norway by the water- Exterior view facade
The 49m-high Treet apartment block in Bergen, Norway, was completed in 2015 and is one of the tallest CLT structures in the world. Photo: David Vallderby

In CLT’s favour…

+  Lighter structures save on foundations

+  Quick and easy to handle on site

+  Suitable for extending existing buildings within minimal modification

+  Smaller carbon footprint than steel or concrete

+  Sequesters carbon

Performs well in earthquakes

Structural performance is increasingly predictable

+  Locally available in many world regions

+  A popular “eco-aesthetic”

+  Easily prefabricated and well-suited to modular construction

… And against

  It may be necessary to add mass to help with thermal performance

  … and acoustic performance

  Requires a reliable and sustainable source

–  rare outside Europe and North America

  Not as carbon-friendly as might first appear

  Yet to be proven above 18 storeys

  The structure must be kept dry to prevent rot

  Clients are sceptical of performance in fire

–  Shortage of design and construction expertise

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