Can Mass Timber Solve the Housing Crisis?
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Our coverage of Portland’s Mass Timber Conference week concludes with a brief overview of CLT and affordable housing.
Land availability aside, one of the biggest roadblocks to building affordable housing is cost. Speakers at the International Mass Timber Conference believe utilizing cross-laminated timber might offer a solution.
.@EURBANLimited says steel frame buildings are 12.5% more expensive than #CLT projects. Concrete is 22.1% more. #MassTimberConference— Oregon Business (@OregonBusiness) March 30, 2017
Most components of a mass timber building are built off site, which means construction is less expensive because it requires fewer workers and takes less time. (The prefabricated elements also mean construction mimics building with a set of blocks.)
“It’s a little bit boring after time because it’s always the same,” says Philipp Zumbrunnen, Director of EURBAN Limited says of mass timber construction.
In the UK, where Zumbrunnen works, social housing (affordable housing) is often constructed to a higher standard than privately-built housing, he says.
In UK, social housing is higher quality than private because contractors aren't "building homes; they're building investments." #masstimber— Oregon Business (@OregonBusiness) March 30, 2017
Panelist Jeff Spiritos, principal of New York-based real estate developer Spiritos Properties, says quality affordable housing is not the norm in this country. Typically, the lower cost the housing, the lower the quality of construction.
“That only makes sense but it is a travesty,” Spiritos says. “There really is no reason people who cannot afford housing should suffer.”
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Spiritos also believes mass timber offers a solution. He wants to organize a panel of developers across North America to solve the housing crisis using mass timber.
Compared to a concrete-framed building, a CLT building can save 2,000 tons of C02, Zumbrunnen adds.
Timber building saves 2,000 tons C02. "With that 2,000 tons you can run the building for 27 years carbon neutral." #MassTimberConference— Oregon Business (@OregonBusiness) March 30, 2017
CLT in construction has just started to take off in the U.S. and Oregon. But if the state wants to find alternative ways to build more housing at a cheaper (and faster) rate, mass timber should be considered part of the solution.