PART II: US First Hardwood CLT Project

Part II of our discussion with Indiana Cross-Laminated Project lead architect, Yugon Kim.

In an effort to enhance awareness around using wood as an innovative building material, The United States Forest Service awarded Boston based architectural firm, IKD, $250,000 to fund the construction of the first hardwood cross laminated timber (CLT) project in the United States.

The Indiana Hardwood CLT Project uses low-grade hardwood to create a high quality CLT product that will then be used in commercial projects. NHLA is honored to have helped IKD with this project and would like to recognize NHLA board member Dave Bramlage of Cole Hardwoods for helping to secure the necessary materials for this project.

We had the opportunity to speak with Yugon Kim, the lead architect on the project. This is Part II of our conversation with Kim.

NHLA: How did you get involved with the project?

Yugon Kim: I’ve been working with timber for a long time so about 4 years I curated and designed a exhibition on timber construction here in Boston and that really was at the cusp of when cross laminated timber was starting to make headway here in the United States. As mentioned before, Europe already had kind of a leg up but when we started doing the research for that exhibition we realized we were on the cusp of a material revolution.

So we did this exhibition in Boston and then 2 years later, the National Building Museum in Washington, DC learned about our exhibition and asked us to adapt that exhibition in Washington, DC. We were really excited about that because of where the Museum is, we had the ability to influence public policy. They were able to use the exhibition as a foundation to introduce the material to senators and other decision makers.

So when we had this opportunity in Columbus to build something in the parameter of trying to use local resources it just made sense based upon the research we had done from the prior exhibitions.

NHLA: From your research and experience, what do you think the future use of CLT is?

Yugon Kim: I think it can change how we see our cities. When you look historically, you can make the argument that America was colonized partly because of the abundance of wood here on the continent. Our cities were originally built with all timber and because of urban fires and because wood was used in a way that promoted combustibility. But now because of the invention of cross-laminated timber I think that now it can change how we envision our cities. I think we’re all hard wired to see our cities as concrete, glass and steel but I can imagine the future where you walk down the street in a major city and next to these more traditional steel and concrete buildings, you’ll see timber buildings. You can see on the West Coast that’s starting to happen already.

NHLA: What would you say to the naysayers who claim it can’t be done due to fires and other outside influences?

Yugon Kim: There are a lot of preconceived notions that are hurdles for CLT to overcome. One is combustibility but I think if people do some research they can clearly understand that because of this new technology, cross-laminated timber is incredibly safe in terms of fire. We did a lot of research when we did the exhibition and we spoke to people at fire department and in the end we learned that firemen actually feel more comfortable going into a heavy timber building because in a steel building a certain temperature point, the steel will suffer a catastrophic failure where as timber if it’s used and sized correctly, when a timber building catches on fire there’s a char that acts as a natural fire repellent allowing the inner core to maintain structural integrity where as steel at that high temperature will fail. In terms of sustainability and material use, I think if people understand how forests have been growing there’s an abundance of timber that is available. And if there is more market interest in timber products people will begin to maintain and manage their forests in a more a focused way.

The unveiling of the Indiana Cross-Laminated Project is scheduled for August 26 and will be on display for 3 months in Columbus, Indiana.

Progress photo as of 8.15.17