With Georgia being the number one producer of commercial timber in the United States, finding new and innovative ways to use it is a top priority within the industry. That’s the goal of SmartLam North America, as they are engineering cross laminated timer, which can be used by major construction companies on a number of different projects.
“It is basically plywood with lumber utilized in flooring for large commercial buildings or high end residential as well as three plies, which can be utilized in walls,” says Derek Ratchford, CEO of SmartLam North America.
This type of building material has a number of advantages over its counterparts as CLT not only creates less of a carbon footprint, but it also makes construction faster and cheaper, as the panels are prefabricated before they are shipped to the site.
“Significantly less traffic on site utilizing mass timber products as well as the speed of installation is significantly reduced,” says Ratchford. “You also have the carbon sequestration side which is better for the environment.”
This product is made by gluing together three or more layers of solid-sawn lumber, which gives it the structural integrity you would typically see from the more common materials used in large scale construction projects.
“It is very competitive, in many applications stronger than steel, but CLT and glue lam are not designed to replace steel. It fits into full mass timber buildings as well as what I call steel hybrid CLT buildings,” says Ratchford. “There’s many uses for it, depends on the spans and the loads that the engineers, architects, and developers are looking for.”
Creating more viable construction options from timber could be a huge benefit for the industry here in Georgia as it has the potential to greatly expand the customer base for the growers.
“It’s an expanded new product line that absorbs capacity of timber and lumber that was not on the market before. With our growth rate, over the next five to ten years, it’s just going to keep growing and growing and growing and put more and more demand on sawmills,” says Ratchford. “It will require additional sawmills in the future as well to keep up with the increased demand.”
For that reason, the Georgia Farm Bureau Forestry Committee decided to take an up close look at the new facility in order to get a better idea of what has made it so popular overseas and how it can benefit the domestic industry in the future.
“We’re probably close to twenty years behinds them, but the growth that they’ve experienced there is here. We are starting to see it not only with the number of projects, but the scope and size of the projects keep growing and growing each year. So, over the next twenty to thirty years, in the wood products industry, this has the most growth potential,” says Ratchford.
By: Damon Jones