IKD wins wood innovations grant from the US Forest Service

IKD, a Boston based architectural design firm led by Yugon Kim and Tomomi Itakura has been awarded $250,000.00 for a two-year United States Forest Service (USFS) Wood Innovations Grant to fund the development of Hardwood Cross Laminated Timber (Hardwood CLT) and the construction of the first Hardwood CLT project here in the United States.

The project, titled the Indiana Hardwood CLT Project, will create a new timber product by upcycling low-value hardwood sawn logs that are extracted from regional forests in Indiana. Indiana’s largest cash crop is hardwood, but over 55% of each log processed is of low value. The idea is that low-value hardwood, such as grade 3 common oak, maple, and ash, can be used to create high-value Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), which can then be used in commercial applications. IKD was selected from 114 national applicants and is the only architectural design firm to have won a grant this year.

CLT, a relatively new, laminated, engineered wood product that is an incredibly strong, fireproof, lightweight alternative to steel and concrete, can be used to construct mid- to high-rise buildings in urban settings. In the United States, however, CLT is currently made only of softwoods; the hardwood variety is not available as it is in Europe. Hardwood CLT offers numerous benefits over softwood, included superior mechanical properties, material volume savings, and higher quality appearance in visible settings.

IKD has identified an underutilized trove of hardwoods in Indiana, which is currently used to produce low-value products like pallets, that could become an ideal source material for creating high-value Hardwood CLT that has superior structural properties compared with traditional CLT. This has the potential to initiate a cascade of effects: positive job growth in rural forestry and manufacturing, expanding and diversifying hardwood lumber markets, higher forest land value, and improved forest management practices to reduce wildfires and encourage biodiversity leading to an abatement of climate change.

IKD has proposed using this new Hardwood CLT in an installation, titled the Conversation Plinth, that the firm has designed for Exhibit Columbus, the annual celebration of architecture, art, design and community in Columbus, Indiana that will have its inaugural exhibition this year, opening in August. IKD’s project was selected to win an inaugural J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize as part of a national competition; the five Miller Prize winning installations form the centerpiece of Exhibit Columbus. Conversation Plinth will provide valuable tactile and visual evidence of the viability of this new material.

The project leverages the full support of the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) and the Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association (IHLA), and has secured partnerships with SMARTLAM, the first CLT manufacturer in the United States, structural engineering expert Benson Wood, and Clemson University’s Wood Utilization + Design Institute. IKD has also partnered with the Indiana department of Nation Resources, the Hoosier National Forest office, and the Indiana Society of American Foresters.