Industrial Wood-Based Construction Conference Recap
Visitors from around the globe came together in Boston last week for the first ever Industrialized Wood-Based Construction Conference. In a series of keynote addresses on opening day experts including Andrew Waugh, Brendan Lowney, and Tedd Benson spoke about the importance of pushing this game-changing industry forward. All touched on a series of common themes detailing why this renaissance of wood-based construction is so important to the construction industry as a whole.
- Building with wood is better for the environment.
- Construction productivity is down and the workforce is aging and dwindling
- Modular housing can improve timelines, provide a better product
Andrew Waugh of Waugh Thisleton Architects spoke first on his firm's groundbreaking use of clt (cross-laminated timber) in a variety of buildings throughout the UK. During the last 15 years, Waugh has been working with clt to build projects ranging in size from a three-story building to the largest clt building in the world at 10 stories. He has also created office and manufacturing facilities from mass timber. Waugh himself lives in a timber building and he discussed the positive impacts of living in a natural structure have on those at home and work. “Healthy buildings” will help reduce stress and improve concentration and productivity.
Having built the world’s largest clt building, Dalston Works, Waugh also has seen first hand the faster construction times these products can allow for. The structure for the 10-story, 121 unit residential building was completed in just 5 months times. Dalston Works also weighs in at a fifth of what a concrete building would and the construction team was able to cut the number of site deliveries to the busy downtown location by 80%.
Waugh and his team have many additional projects on the horizon and are looking at other mass timber options besides clt to bring more “healthy buildings” to the UK.
Dalston Works, the world's largest CLT building
Brendan Lowney, of Forest Economic Advisors, spoke next on the declining rates of productivity in the construction industry and also the aging housing stock in America. As of 2015, only 3% of homes had been built in the last 5 years and housing starts have not yet fully recovered from the recession. Single-family home starts are actually at the lowest rates except during the Great Depression and WWII. The construction industry is also seeing its workforce aging and dwindling. So the question is raised how will more affordable homes be built? Using off-site construction will allow for faster build times, greater efficiency and predictability along with increased job safety. Wood provides a renewable option and is a zero waste industry. As Lowney also pointed out wood-based construction generally requires fewer trees than people assume. For example, the timber used in the T3 Building in Minneapolis, a 7 story 180,000 square foot office building, would only require 15 minutes to grow. Through off-site construction, modular housing, and the use of mass timber developers and builders can provide better options for the growing housing needs.
A slide from Brendan Lowney’s Presentation showing Housing start levels still near recession levels
The final speaker of this group was Tedd Benson who has been working since 1973 on finding better ways to build. Mr. Benson spoke passionately about the importance of high-quality housing for all. Through his companies, Bensonwood, Unity Homes, and Tektonics, Benson and his team are focused on putting people before profits and providing better quality housing that also makes a positive impact on the environment. Benson believes today’s building codes are lax and there should be a universal “good code” for more efficient, environmentally friendly homes. Almost all of the buildings his companies design and build meet passive house standards and he feels it is “criminal” that the HUD housing code sets such low standards in their properties.
Benson’s newest venture, Tektonics has just opened a 100,000sf state of the art factory in New Hampshire to provide panels, timber, and millwork to builders across the industry. By using technology Tektonics will enable integration between the virtual fabrication environment, factory production, and site construction.
A Unity Home designed to be affordable, efficient, and beautiful.