When someone thinks about a commercial construction project, visions of steel and concrete likely dance around in their head. The concrete jungle—heavy, strong, and built to last. Fewer people think about the possibility of a commercial building utilizing a natural resource like timber. But, look back in history and you’ll see the important role this resource had in construction.
Heavy timber construction is one of the oldest known forms of construction, dating back to the 10th century, when the first timber frame structure was thought to have been constructed. Most timber buildings were originally low-rise residential structures followed by larger multistory structures that were used for industrial or storage purposes. But as the years went on, heavy timber found greater use in institutions like schools and churches.
Over the past 20 years, Europe has no doubt led the way. And a recent report from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat says their leadership position won’t change; bigger, taller timber towers are in the works for France, Austria, and Norway.
Closer to home in the US, more architects and engineers are embracing timber as the material of choice for commercial construction projects. Here are some benefits that heavy timber construction can offer:
Technology has made heavy timber construction a much more affordable building method. CNC machines and other tools allow for timbers to be produced to precise specs and reproduced faster and with less manual labor. Heavy timber construction can also save money by reducing the amount of required on-site work like welding and masonry.
The engineering marvel of cross-laminated timber (CLT) is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to concrete, masonry, and steel here in the US. It’s an engineered wood building product made from multiple layers of lumber that are stacked crosswise and glued together. CLT comes with a long list of benefits, from lighter weight and faster installation to extreme durability.
Commercial building construction has upped its game in recent years. Corporations, schools, and churches are embracing more creative and visually inspiring designs—and the materials they choose to incorporate into their plans bring their desired building style to life. Through both exterior and interior features, heavy timber construction can deliver a beauty and warmth that is hard to achieve with steel. It also offers design flexibility—features like exposed beams and columns, roof overhangs, and curved walls can add a unique touch to any project.
Timber is an environmentally friendly, renewable resource that can offer less maintenance and more durability over traditional construction materials. And when used in a commercial construction project, timber can even help the building maintainå humidity levels.
It’s an exhilarating time for the commercial construction market, and it will be exciting to see what role heavy timber construction will play in its future.
For more information, visit Mid-Atlantic Timberframes.