First & largest CLT plant in the eastern U.S. is nearly operational
April 30, 2018 | 11:34 am CDT

Photo By University of Maine

DOTHAN, Ala. - The first and biggest cross-laminated timber (CLT) manufacturing plant in the eastern U.S. is nearly fully operational, with 25 employees currently working a portion of the plant.
Florida-based International Beams (IB), a manufacturer of pre-fabricated i-joist beams, began converting a General Electric 227,000-square-foot into a highly-specialized CLT manufacturing facility last June. One portion of the main production has been installed - a wood grading component - in which technicians are currently learning the machines.
The second portion of the plant’s main production line is arriving from overseas during the next few weeks and should be installed by June, company owner Bruno Lebel told the Dothan Eagle. The plant should be 100 percent operational by September and employ 60 employees in total.
The plant is the first of its kind east of the Rocky Mountains, says Lebel, and will be the first in the world to produce both glue laminate wood and CLT.
The $19.6 million investment will create 60 jobs at the plant right away, and create other jobs in local timber, sawmill, and trucking. Two hundred jobs will be created altogether.
International Beams says the CLT panels produced in Dothan will be sold mainly in the U.S. market. The company will use southern pine lumber to construct the panels. 
D.R. Johnson, another manufacturer of cross-laminated timber, says the system for constructing CLT involves assembling prefabricated parts, speeding construction, and paring labor costs. Planks of timber are glued and orientated at 90 degrees to each other and are then cross-laid in layers. Those pieces are then shipped to construction sites and can be assembled by just a few workers - even for large buildings.
Advocates of CLT say it can be used to construct buildings of equal strength and fire-resistance as those made of steel and concrete. It has also fueled the passions of architects and environmentalists, who believe it to be a much greener method for housing the world's growing population. 
Due to its benefits for carbon capture and reduced CO2 emissions in construction, CLT has sparked interest worldwide. Proposals for new projects include a 100-story tower in London, a 40-story building in Stockholm, and a residential complex in Vancouver.  The U.S. is even on board, with a 12-story CLT highrise in the works in Portland.
At its other plants, International Beams produces solid-sawn I-joists - strong, lightweight, "I" shaped engineered wood structural members that meet demanding performance standards. I-joists are comprised of top and bottom flanges, says the APA, which resist bending and provide outstanding shear resistance. The flange material is typically laminated veneer lumber (LVL) or solid sawn lumber, and the web is made with plywood or OSB. The robust combination of structural characteristics results in a versatile, economical framing member that is easy to install in residential and light commercial projects.

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Robert Dalheim

Robert Dalheim is an editor at the Woodworking Network. Along with publishing online news articles, he writes feature stories for the FDMC print publication. He can be reached at