Mass Timber Construction

What Is Mass Timber Construction?

November 9, 2021 2:36 pm Published by

Complements of mass timber construction (MTC) include conventional light-frame and hybrid options. It is a system increasingly being used in the construction of tall buildings. The products are an environmentally friendly alternative to carbon-intensive materials and conventional building systems. MTC is quicker to use because the off-site manufacturing of components requires only installation on site. The speed of mass timber construction allows it to be cheaper than the costs of construction associated with classic building materials and methods.

What Is Mass Timber Construction?

Mass Timber Products

Mass timber products are strong, load-bearing construction components used for structural purposes. They are made into beams, solid wood panels, and columns for structural uses. Companies manufacture mass timber products to the same high strength rates as steel and concrete, however, the products weigh considerably less. They are used as load-bearing walls, roof construction, and floors. In fact, they are composed of dense, compressed layers of wood that are joined together by adhesives, lamination, or fasteners.

The product range includes nail-laminated timber (NLT), laminated veneer lumber (LVL), cross-laminated timber (CLT), dowel-laminated timber (DLT), laminated strand lumber (LSL, glue-laminated timber (glulam), and parallel strand lumber (PSL). Companies typically manufacture mass timber products off-site and assemble them into specified product components and panel sizes.

Tall Wood Construction

With improvements in technology, construction companies can now use mass timber construction for buildings more than six stories tall. However, in Canada, the building code allows for up to twelve stories. Buildings of up to eighteen stories and higher are envisaged. The construction process requires a combination of standard lightweight framing and mass timber products. The mass timber products are the building blocks that make tall construction achievable. Mass timber construction is a viable, safe alternative to steel and concrete construction for both domestic and commercial construction projects.

Mass Timber Framing Systems

There are an increasing number of uses and systems for MTC as research and experimentation continue. In fact, by arranging the products in different combinations and sizes, to make use of their directional strengths, engineers can use the products like beams, columns, floors, roofs, and walls. This also means that companies no longer have to follow standard conventional method construction templates. This provides greater flexibility for designers and builders. Here are some examples of mass timber framing systems:


A post-and-beam mass timber system is a skeleton of posts, decking, and beams supported on a foundation. It resembles historical timber buildings. In the post-and-beam construction system, workers refer to uprights as posts and horizontal pieces as beams. The posts and beams join together with mechanical steel fasteners. However, what makes this construction system most remarkable is that it doesn’t need load-bearing walls. Oftentimes, workers use Glulam to make the posts and beams. Decking can be made of panelized mass timber products such as NLT, CLT, or others. The post-and-beam system is great for open-plan spaces like commercial buildings and offices.

Floor and wall systems

Mass timber panels have a two-way spanning ability. This is a contrast to that of post-and-beam. Engineers can configure mass timber panels into a honeycomb-like structure to suit both vertical and lateral loads. Just like reinforced concrete and steel construction, the mass timber panels can form floors and structural, load-bearing walls. Companies manufacture timber walls to order and use them to form a building’s core, instead of concrete.

Hybrid systems

A hybrid mass timber system is a construction system that uses timber and other construction materials including steel and concrete. A hybrid system maximizes the strengths of each material. Therefore, it provides a greater degree of construction design flexibility. An example of a hybrid system is the use of mass timber, light-frame wood construction, metal joiners, and concrete foundations. In addition to maximum strength, a hybrid system is time effective as well as cost-effective.


Mass timber construction, although still in its infancy, is a welcome, warmer addition to the steel and concrete jungle. Timber, both on the inside and outside of buildings, lends textural interest and warmth to a building, adding to the aesthetic appeal of a building.

Additional Reading: Mass Timber Momentum Expands Forest Products Markets

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