Cross-laminated timber could ‘forge new links between lands and people’

Trees line the Madison Park neighborhood that Susan Jones calls home. A big vine-leaf maple shepherds guests to her front walk. This block is an urban forest, a blend of trees and concrete, Douglas fir siding, and cedar-and-steel fences. It’s Mother Nature and architectural marvels.

Jones’ home fits right in—and not just because the two-story abode features vertical warm wood paneling and sharp angles. What you can’t see is that this home is constructed of cross-laminated timber (commonly referred to as CLT), a next-generation forest product that promises to revolutionize forest management, economic growth, architecture and the construction industry. And that’s just for starters. Its real superpower? The ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Jones, founding architect of the Seattle-based firm atelierjones and a UW associate professor of architecture, envisioned using cross-laminated timber when designing her two-story house. Built in 2015, it is one of the nation’s first residential projects constructed primarily of the material. Sometimes described as “plywood on steroids,” cross-laminated timber was developed in Europe in the 1990s and is widely used throughout the U.K., Australia, Canada and Japan. It is gaining momentum in the U.S. as regional leaders, including the UW, advocate for broader use.

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