Introduction to Mass Timber - MDNR

An overview of MSU's STEM Teaching and Learning Facility, constructed using mass timber. Produced by Wolf Creek Productions with support from the Michigan DNR for The Outdoors Channel 'Game Warden' program.

Video Transcript

Welcome to the MSU STEM teaching learning facility and the Shaw Lane Power Plant renovation. This is about 175,000 gross square feet building, a combination between new build and a renovation of the old Shaw Lane Power Plant from the 1940s. The STEM teaching and learning facility that's under construction on the campus of Michigan State University is using mass timber as its load bearing structure. Mass timber is very popular in Canada and Europe, but in the US, there are only around a dozen buildings that have been constructed, or are currently being constructed using mass timber. Mass timber is a construction technique that uses engineered wood beams and panels to construct buildings as opposed to traditional concrete and steel. It's short for massive timber. It's when the weight-bearing structure of the building is constructed out of wood. Basically plywood on steroids, made with two-by-fours instead of thin plies or veneer. This whole panel is about three stories high. It came on one flatbed truck. So this is one continuous panel going straight up approximately three stories and then they're together in pieces to create the stairwell. Architects have a lot of interest in it, partly for the aesthetics, but also a big part of that is because the carbon and climate benefits of this way of constructing buildings. And we brought it to the attention of University leadership on the operation side of the University. And they were intrigued with the possibilities. We want to construct a building that is going to be here for a long time. So when you look at these kinds of structures and all of this additional steel, it really has to give that building the sense of longevity that we have for Michigan State University. Again, making maximum use of those dollars. When trees are growing, they're taking carbon out of the atmosphere and the trees are using that carbon to make wood. So when you put wood into a long-lived structure, you're basically extending the carbon benefits of that living tree. And you'll be adding 100 or 200 years of those carbon benefits for that growing tree where that carbon is being stored and is out of the atmosphere. The DNR is very interested in promoting the use of wood in construction, including mass timber. Mass timber has a lot of advantages for the state. And some advantages over traditional concrete and steel. First of all, wood is a renewable product. Last I looked, we, we're still growing wood on trees. And steel and concrete are intensive in materials that require intensive inputs. And of course, they're not renewable, they're finite. All of this is really dependent upon sustainable forest management. So when you harvest the trees and you make these glue lamp columns and the cross laminated timber panels you're replanting the forest or managing it so it regenerates. And so while you have this building that's storing the carbon, you have new trees that are growing and are taking up more carbon from the atmosphere.