Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Two NE tree species can be used in new sustainable building material


UMass Amherst study tested strength of mass timber panels created from eastern white pine and eastern hemlock

Two tree species native to the Northeast have been found to be structurally sound for use in cross-laminated timber (CLT) - a revolutionary new type of building material with sought-after sustainability characteristics, according to research by a University of Massachusetts Amherst timber engineer.

Panels of CLT were placed into a strength-testing machine at the UMass Wood Mechanics Lab, where a giant steel arm put thousands of pounds of pressure on the engineered wood until it broke.

Credit: Peggi Clouston/UMass Amherst

The findings, published in the Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering, suggest that these trees - the eastern hemlock and eastern white pine - could support local markets for CLT.

The manufacturing of CLT, a type of mass timber used for wall, floor and roof construction, could create jobs, improve rural and forestry economies and support better forestry management, which is a strategy to address climate change, the research says.

"This is the future - prefabricated, panelized wood," says lead author Peggi Clouston, professor of wood mechanics and timber engineering in the School of Earth and Sustainability.

"It's far more efficient and there's far less waste than site construction. It's less time- and labor-intensive than building with cast-in-place concrete" and has a much lower carbon footprint.

Clouston's leadership in state-of-the-art wood construction technology was instrumental in the creation of UMass Amherst's John W. Olver Design Building, a showcase for best practices in sustainability.

When the structure opened in 2017 to house academic departments and offices, it was considered the most technologically advanced CLT building in the country.

All the CLT for the Design Building was FSC-certified, ensuring it came from responsibly managed forests that deliver environmental, social and economic benefits.

"We wanted to show the world how to build a contemporary mass timber structure, and we are doing so. Groups have come from as far away as Taiwan to see it," Clouston says.

Clouston and her team of researchers tested the eastern hemlock and eastern white pine in the UMass Wood Mechanics Lab at the Olver Design Building. They made the composite building panels by gluing together wooden boards from hemlock and pine trees that were grown in the region.

"We then broke them in a strength-testing machine to find out if they would be safe to use in a university-size building," Clouston explains.

The researchers analyzed the results, comparing them to engineering requirements, and showed that both tree species met building standards, with eastern hemlock outperforming pine.

Salvaging wood from eastern hemlock is a key forest-management priority, Clouston explains, because the trees are under attack by an insect, the hemlock wooly adelgid. "The insect doesn't harm the wood, but it kills the tree, which in five to 10 years will rot and fall down, becoming hazardous fuel for forest fires," she says.

Eastern hemlock also is considered low-value because it's prone to a wood defect called ring shake and isn't used in structural framing. "Turning this particular species into CLT turns a very low-value material into a very high-value building product," Clouston says.

Identifying low-carbon materials for construction is an emerging buzz among architects, and the timing is right to encourage CLT production in the Northeast, the research concludes.

"The testing we did shows that anyone who would want to invest in a local plant has a reason to do so," says Clouston, whose trailblazing work was recently highlighted in a Washington Post feature story. "The prospect of being able to use local wood in CLT and manufacture it locally makes it all the more sustainable by avoiding the environmental cost of transporting the material long distances."

Media Contact

Patty Shillington


Patty Shillington | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Architecture and Construction:

nachricht TU Graz researchers want to fundamentally improve concrete diagnostics
29.06.2020 | Technische Universität Graz

nachricht The digital construction site: A smarter way of building with mobile robots
02.06.2020 | Fraunhofer Italia

All articles from Architecture and Construction >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Excitation of robust materials

Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class

In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

Im Focus: ILA Goes Digital – Automation & Production Technology for Adaptable Aircraft Production

Live event – July 1, 2020 - 11:00 to 11:45 (CET)
"Automation in Aerospace Industry @ Fraunhofer IFAM"

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM l Stade is presenting its forward-looking R&D portfolio for the first time at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Latest News

Nutrients in microalgae: an environmentally friendly alternative to fish

07.07.2020 | Health and Medicine

Mobile measuring instruments: Caught in flight

07.07.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Exploring Rapid Changes in the Arctic Ecosystem

07.07.2020 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>