Mass timber now on display in D.C.

2017-01-20 Ashley Bach

Cross-laminated timber has now arrived in one of the country's major museums in Washington, D.C. The National Building Museum has on display an exhibit called Timber City, which highlights the benefits of mass timber construction products like cross-laminated timber, laminated veneer and laminated strand lumber. 

The Architects Newspaper has more details:

(I)t’s the 21st century, and a new exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington challenges us to let go of our fear and embrace the future. The structural wood products that have recently entered the market are not your grandfather’s two-by-fours. Engineered timber beams have been proven in tests to be just as fireproof as steel, and arguably more so, since their cores as less likely to melt in a fire. They are also surprisingly strong.

...On display through May 21, 2017, Timber City occupies a single long room and part of the adjacent hallway on the second floor of Washington’s cavernous National Building Museum. Happily, wood is both the message and the medium in the exhibition design, by Yugon Kim and Tomomi Itakura of the Boston-based firm IKD. Information is presented on tall wooden boards propped against the walls. Large wood lozenges, stacked like pennies, hold the models. It’s a tactile and even olfactory show: Visitors can run a hand down a curved glu-lam beam, count the layers in a sandwich of cross-laminated timber (CLT), and compare laminated veneer to laminated strand lumber. Groups of tree stumps at either end of the room let you sit down for a moment to sniff the air (with so much wood, the room smells great).

...The exhibit is sponsored in part by the lumber industry, and it feels a bit like a sales pitch. But perhaps that’s necessary. The concrete and steel industries are huge; building codes are entrenched and slow to change (many of the early mass-timber buildings have gotten special code exemptions). Still an upstart, the timber camp may have to shout to make itself heard. Timber City proves that we all should be listening.

CLT from the only two companies in the U.S. that currently make the product -- SmartLam in Whitefish, Mont., and DR Johnson in Riddle, Ore. -- is on display in the new exhibit. Here's what we last wrote about the firms. Murray Grove, the first CLT building in the UK is also featured in the exhibit. Murray Grove's architect, Andrew Waugh, spoke at University of Washington last year, which we detailed here.