Cost model: CLT frame buildings

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The rapidly expanding use of CLT saw its trajectory arrested in the UK by new regulations in the wake of Grenfell, but if safe solutions can be found then the material offers considerable cost and climate advantages over more traditional frame solutions. Alinea breaks down the costs

01 / Introduction

This decade will be remembered by practitioners in the built environment as the moment when mass timber broke into the mainstream of high-rise construction. Standout projects have been constructed recently, suggesting that some cultural and code obstacles are being overcome. Industry and government entities in the US have signalled their commitment to increasing the use of mass timber in construction, with changes to its International Building Code in 2019 permitting mass timber construction up to 270ft (just over 80m). Canada is also making changes to its building code, opening up new opportunities for taller wood designs, while in France, plans for a sustainability law will mean that all new public buildings will be built from 50% timber or other bio-based materials, as part of President Macron’s drive for the country to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

But while timber is becoming more common as a structural building material, the pace of development varies from country to country, and the UK is not among the fastest. Environmental credentials are an obvious reason behind the material’s popularity, but that alone is not enough to ensure its uptake – competitiveness, competence and safety are essential.

This article is designed to act as a reminder of the known benefits, while examining in more granular detail the areas of cost where opinions might in the past have been mistaken due to an absence of hard commercial data.

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