Cross-laminated timber (CLT) technology makes large construction panels from low-value lumber. The panels can be used to build floors, walls and roofs for buildings up to about 16 stories, which is substantially taller than possible using ordinary lumber and plywood. The Forest Service has been shoveling money to study CLT properties and uses, hoping to create a market for national forest small-diameter wood, of which the Forest Service has a lot.
A recent Forest Service-funded study throws some cold water on the agency’s CLT bullishness. The “CLT Demand Study for the Pacific Northwest” authors are experts in econometric modeling, building codes, and wood products technology.
Two take-aways from the study. First, CLT, at best, will take a couple of decades to penetrate its narrow market niche. Second, even at full build-out, its use won’t make a dent in the available timber supply: “The predicted demand for softwood lumber to manufacture CLT panels represents less than 1% in the annual Pacific Northwest timber harvest.”