Fay Jones School Brought Focus to 'Mass Timber' with Professional Education Seminar

The Library Storage Building is under construction just off Government Avenue in south Fayetteville. Scheduled to be completed this summer, this University of Arkansas project will be the first building in Arkansas constructed with cross-laminated timber.
Photo by Shawnya Meyers

The Library Storage Building is under construction just off Government Avenue in south Fayetteville. Scheduled to be completed this summer, this University of Arkansas project will be the first building in Arkansas constructed with cross-laminated timber.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design hosted a professional education seminar, "Mass Timber: Design, Construction and Production," in the Ken and Linda Sue Shollmier Hall inside Vol Walker Hall on the University of Arkansas campus on Dec. 15.

The seminar featured professionals from all aspects of the timber industry discussing the rapidly expanding field of mass timber design and construction. More than 100 architects, engineers, contractors and developers from the region attended the daylong seminar.

Cross-laminated timber, also called CLT, is an increasingly accepted alternative to concrete, masonry and steel construction. CLT is a prefabricated wood panel that is made from dimensional lumber planks that are stacked, glued and laminated in perpendicular layers under heavy pressure. The panels are cut according to the builder's specifications and then shipped to the building site, where they are assembled. Glue-laminated timber, nail-laminated timber and mass plywood panels are further materials in the mass timber family.

"The University of Arkansas is now taking a leading national role in the design and construction of mass timber buildings," said Dean Peter MacKeith. "The Fay Jones School is pleased to contribute to the advancement of these material technologies, the campus projects, and the design and construction professions, through knowledge building and knowledge sharing seminars such as this one. The attendance of the seminar, along with the depth of the presentations, made for a rewarding and productive day."

Roger Boskus, principal of Miller Boskus Lack Architects in Fayetteville, and Chris Baribeau, principal of Modus Studio in Fayetteville, opened the seminar by discussing the two mass timber projects on the University of Arkansas campus, the high-density Library Storage Building and the Stadium Drive Residence Halls. The library storage project will be the first building constructed with CLT in the state of Arkansas, and the residence hall will be the first university student housing facility in the nation built using CLT.

"We are very excited to be part of such a unique project," Boskus said. "The Mullins Library High Density Storage Facility is the first cross-laminated timber (CLT) project to be constructed in middle America and in the state of Arkansas. It is also the first high-density library storage building to utilize mass timber as its structural system. The high-density library storage building project will utilize glue-laminated columns and beams along with CLT walls and roofs to provide a very strong wooden box in lieu of a concrete and steel structural system. This departure from the norm in our market turned out to be a very cost-effective solution, saving the University of Arkansas over a million dollars."

"The University of Arkansas Stadium Drive Residence Halls will be the first of their kind in the nation, celebrating the intersection of new construction technology with familiar natural materials," Baribeau said. "Mass timber creates a warm and inviting expression of structure that we know will positively impact the daily living and learning experience for Arkansas students. Managed forests are among the top resources in this state, and we are thrilled to establish a new model for how to build in this state, with the as-yet untapped potential to utilize our local materials."

Antonio Guariento, principal of HolzPak LLC, discussed the process of providing timber for the U of A timber projects, with the first shipment of wood for the Library Storage Building arriving this month. HolzPak is the United States partner of Binderholz GmbH, an Austria-based company. Helmut Spiehs, managing director of Binderholz, explained the process of making cross-laminated timber, including tree harvesting and reforestation, and he discussed both misconceptions about mass timber and its virtues, both environmentally and economically.

Fay Jones School faculty members have been introducing students to mass timber studies through courses, studios and site visits. Professors Tahar Messadi and Kim Furlong discussed the collaborative design studio "Reimagine Wood Design," which they taught in spring 2017. Messadi said that the school would apply for a grant to develop a Master of Design Studies graduate program focusing on sustainable wood technologies. Jonathan Boelkins, clinical assistant professor, discussed potential mass timber opportunities around the state of Arkansas, and the upcoming school mass timber design studio. This spring 2018 studio, which was funded by a $250,000 USDA Forest Service grant, is being led by Thomas Robinson, principal at Lever Architecture in Portland, Oregon.

Jeff Morrow, program manager at Lendlease, an international property development and construction company, discussed the differences in construction when using CLT as opposed to typical structural systems such as concrete, steel and masonry building materials. CLT can be used in a variety of building occupancy applications and heights, but the most optimal range is for residential, office and hospitality uses in the six- to 12-story range. Morrow demonstrated how Lendlease's CLT hotel built on Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama, was assembled faster and with fewer workers, as compared to previously completed hotels built using traditional framing methods. He also remarked on the state's rapid progress to embrace the emerging mass timber movement.

"Arkansas has come a long way in a short period of time," Morrow said. "The 'Innovate Arkansas' conference in August 2016 was a significant watershed event that has subsequently expanded into the specification and rapid utilization of mass timber for two university projects — the Library Storage Building and Stadium Drive Residence Halls. While there are multiple states engaging in efforts to create a mass timber industry in their respective areas, Arkansas is steadily progressing across all sectors of the state to make it happen. The efforts initiated by the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design to create an awareness of the material for end users, modify architecture/engineering curriculums to incorporate mass timber knowledge for future influential design professionals, and collaboration across the local timber supply chain is quite impressive."

Mark Bartlett, regional director of WoodWorks US, an educational outreach arm of the Wood Products Council, ended the seminar by discussing timber projects around the world, including the Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington, and Brock Commons in Vancouver, Canada. Bartlett also covered the benefits and current limitations, including building code restrictions, of using mass timber, emphasizing the need for continued advocacy, applied research and construction.

Continuing education credits through the American Institute of Architects were offered for the seminar. 

Contacts

Shawnya Meyers, digital media specialist
Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design
479-575-4744, slmeyers@uark.edu

Michelle Parks, director of communications
Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design
479-575-4704, mparks17@uark.edu

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