CORVALLIS, Ore. - The A.A. "Red" Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory is among the first facilities in the country totally dedicated toward structural timber research. It's now open at Oregon State University.
 
An open house was held Thursday to celebrate the lab's grand opening, which featured speakers from OSU's College of Forestry and the TallWood Design Institute. Also speaking was U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
 
Senator Merkley spoke to about 150 open house attendees Thursday afternoon
“This facility tells the story of the evolution of mass timber here in Oregon,” Merkley said. “It’s the culmination of a lot of work and a foundation for an extraordinary future for products that are sustainable, for new and different designs, so we can take Oregon trees and ship these engineered products all around the world to further strengthen Oregon’s economy.”
 
The goal is to drive all facets of structural timber research, including fire performance, wood durability, connections, acoustics, modular design, and perhaps most of all, market development. The lab will hold workshops; provide hands-on training for architects, building officials, and engineers; develop a certificate program in mass timber manufacturing; provide technical testing for industy partners; and team up with the city of Springfield to build a 214,000-sq-ft mass timber parking structure.
 
The 17,500-square-foot lab features 40-foot ceilings, traveling cranes, and is stocked full of state-of-the-art machinery. A chop saw, rip saw, and Planermac Molder prepare and size rough lumber. That lumber is then fed to a Minda CLT press, which glues and presses it into cross-laminated timber panels up to 8x10 feet in size. 
 

Biesse's timber-focused Uniteam CNC machines and routes openings for connectors and fasteners - creating channels for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing requirements. The Uniteam can create anything from a small part to a 30-by-8 foot panel, and accomodates both curved and straight beams.

A $300,000 six-axis Kuka robot machines wood components with extreme accuracy and flexibility - performing as a 3D printer. Both the Uniteam and the robot are driven by 3D CAD files.

The lab is home to the TallWood Design Institute, a partnership between OSU's Colleges of Forestry and Engineering and the University of Oregon's College of Design. The building is named after the co-founder of Sierra Pacific, which donated $6 million to OSU's forest science program.
 
D.R. Johnson and Freres Lumber, Oregon's primary mass timber producers, have parterned with the Institute.
 
“The institute has close links with Oregon’s manufacturing community and we are proud to have worked with both of the state’s mass timber producers, D.R. Johnson and Freres Lumber, during their product development efforts,” said TallWood Design Institute Director Iain Macdonald. D.R. Johnson was the first U.S. company to receive APA/ANSI certification to manufacture structural CLT panels, and Freres Lumber's massive plywood panels use less wood than CLT.
 
Quite a few projects are currently in the works.
 
As Portland was the first U.S. city to implement a deconstruction ordinance, a group of researchers set out to determine if locally-salvaged lumber could be worked into CLT. The team took 3,600 feet of 2x4 lumber boards - sourced from three deconstruction contractors - and inspected and graded it. They found that 95 percent of the boards were graded stiff enough to handle the lamination required by CLT, but removing all the metal was extremely difficult, time consuming, and resulted in too much material loss.
 
In an ongoing project, researchers are determining the potential for utilizing low-value Ponderosa Pine in custom CLT. That involves building a demonstration unit, determining the allowable levels of blue stain and wane, defining a custom grade, and publicizing the findings. If successful, researchers say it would strengthen the market for low-value, small-diameter logs. 
 
Open house attendees were also able to tour the 80,000-sq-ft Peavy Hall, an upcoming three-story mass timber building on the OSU campus. Peavy features a concrete-composite CLT floor, post-tensioned CLT rocking shear walls, glulam beams and columns, and a Freres mass plywood panel roof system. Construction, held back by rising costs and a panel collapse last year, is set to complete by March 2020.
 
Peavy won't just house classes. It will actually study itself - using sensors to monitor climate and moisture; seismic response; and serviceability. 
 
The market for CLT appears to be growing around the country. Just last month in Washington, Katerra opened a 270,000 square foot CLT and glulam facility, the largest of its kind in North America.
 
Two of the continent's largest CLT structures: the T3 220,000-square-foot office building in Minneapolis and the Wood Innovation and Design Centre in British Columbia have recently opened. The architecture firm behind them, Michael Green, is currently designing a 500,000-square-foot skyscraper in New Jersey - which will be the largest mass timber building in the United States.

 

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