Page 16 - Georgia Forestry - Issue 4 - Fall 2019
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 tion material specialists and authorities in fire and safety. Bruce Lindsey, the South Atlan- tic regional director for WoodWorks, says the nonprofit has already devoted 40,000 hours of workshops and seminars to the subject, educat- ing industry professionals about the material’s sustainability, cost-effectiveness and resistance to harsh weather. Before tall wood buildings could be allowed into the 2021 International Building Code, the ICC convened the Tall Wood Building (TWB) Ad Hoc Committee in Decem- ber 2015 and chartered it to conduct a long, detailed technical review of mass timber knowl- edge and building performance. The general public has needed convincing, too: wood, after all, is an excellent fuel source, with a role in some of the most destructive urban fires of the early 20th century. It had been banned from use in the construction of theaters and schools in cities around the country, but experts now say that mass timber can be safer — and tougher — than conventional materials.
“I’d rather be in a 10-story building out of wood than a two-story building out of unpro- tected steel,” said Pat Layton, director of the Wood Utilization and Design Institute at Clemson University. “Wood is combustible, but it’s extremely fire-resistant, and it burns at a very predictable rate.”
Layton pointed out that wood chars uniformly at about one-and-a-quarter inches per hour. As the exterior burns, the resulting carbon build-up acts as a natural insulator, forming a seal that blocks the underlying tissue from oxidizing. As a result, timber can burn slowly and consistently, retaining its integrity for hours, rather than falling apart in sudden bursts. By contrast, moisture trapped in concrete can pressurize and expand at high temperatures, causing layers to violently break off, and the strength in metals can quickly dissipate at around 1,000 degrees Celsius. While every material has inherent risks, Layton believes the risks of timber are fairly straightforward to manage — especially when used with effective sprinkler systems, heat- resistant gypsum board and sensible fire exits that are easy to reach.
“You have to take care of the envelope,” she said. “Sewers leak. Roofs leak. Steel rusts. Over time, you’ll even see cement flaking. Any building — steel, concrete or wood — you have to take care of it. But if you take care of it, it’s going to be fine.”
When talking about wood’s performance in hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters, Layton described TNT blast tests of mass timber initiated by the U.S. Army in 2018. These results were promising and led to the use of CLT for four- or five-story structures that house soldiers and their families, many of them featuring stair- cases and elevator shafts. She was also adamant about the role that mass timber construction
plays in stimulating the local economies in the Southeast, a view shared by leaders in the for- estry profession, including Georgia Forestry Association President and CEO Andres Villegas.
“Products like CLT or glulam represent a new use of lumber,” he said. “We have such a thriving building and construction community in Atlanta, Savannah, Macon, Athens and Valdosta, and we’re projected to add five million people over the next 20 years. As our state continues to add population, some of us are going to be living in buildings that are made from mass timber that’s cut in Georgia and from trees that are grown in Georgia.”
A Sustainable Way to Build,
What this means for Georgia’s forest landowners is signaled, in part, by the opening of a new mass timber facility in Dothan, Alabama. Operated by the Florida-based International Beams, the 227,000-square-foot factory now employs over 50 people and is the first mass timber facility to trade primarily in Southern yellow pine. Working with vendors like Rex Lumber, Interfor and WestRock, the site produces CLT for firms like Gainsborough Architects and Cooper Carry.
“It just seems like a no-brainer to us,” Simon Siegert, architectural designer for International Beams, said about the local market for CLT. “It’s a sustainable way to build, and it’s a responsible way to build for future generations.”
Risher Willard, utilization chief for the Georgia Forestry Commission, said that the market for mass timber would help forest landowners derive the maximum benefit from their property.
“The Southeast is one of the largest wood baskets in the entire world,” he said. “In Georgia, we’re growing 41 percent more wood per year than we’re using, and we need more outlets for wood products to utilize all of that excess supply. Any time you create more demand for wood products, it all comes back to the timber owner.”
In June, Willard gave a presentation on the forest industry at the Georgia Environmental Health Association’s annual education confer- ence. He emphasizes the need to keep the public informed while restraining some of the hype about mass timber as a commodity — at least in the short term.
“CLT is going to be a slow-growth industry here in the U.S.,” he predicted. “A lot of people are going gaga over this, like it’s going to double the price that landowners get for their wood, but it’s not going to have any effect on the average timber sale in Georgia for a long time. As more plants get built and more is used for these
more wood is grown in Georgia each year than used

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