Feature Article

Engineering a Wood Revolution

Engineered wood products are challenging concrete and steel in structural applications while proffering a lower environmental footprint.

The Richmond Olympic Oval was the site of speed-skating events during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games; its ceiling is made from trees killed by the mountain pine beetle and turned into engineered wood.

Photo: BC Living

Wood seems poised for a resurgence in structural applications, but is its popularity a flash in the pan or a whole new way of building?

Where available, wood was the primary building material for most residential and commercial structures in North America prior to the 1900s. It was cost-effective to transport on rivers and rail, abundant (at a cost to ecosystem health, at times), inexpensive, and easy to work with. Light-frame wood construction remains popular for homes in the U.S., but with the advancement of steel and concrete use, skyscrapers went up, and timber’s popularity went down.

In the past 20 years, engineered wood technology and production methods have improved the performance of timber products, and for commercial buildings they now offer an intriguing alternative to concrete and steel in many structural applications—while offering environmental benefits.

Published July 28, 2013