Is Mass Timber The Urban Building Material Of The Future?



When you say the word “urban,” many people immediately picture “the concrete jungle” — densely populated cities with tall, concrete, and steel structures, sizzling surfaces for streets and sidewalks in place of cool grass. This impression is, however, shifting. Mass timber creates a warmer, more attractive, and more durable urban environment worldwide.

Urban development is increasing due to the world’s expanding population and the growing number of people who choose to live in cities. In many cities, there isn’t room to expand outward, but they can grow vertically. And exciting new possibilities for multifamily housing and high-rise structures are being made possible by mass timber.

What is Mass Timber?

Although “mass timber” is a general term, it refers to a family of various wood products with distinct properties and best applications. Cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glued laminated timber (glulam) are the two types of mass timber.

In CLT, structural panels are created by gluing together layers of lumber that are perpendicular to one another. Compared to other building materials, these panels offer superior strength, dimensional stability, rigidity, and a more natural appearance. CLT is frequently used for floors, walls, and roofing in a business or multi-family structure.

A structurally engineered wood product called Glulam is made of separate laminations of wood held together by strong, moisture-resistant adhesives. Due to their superior strength and stiffness, glulam panels are perfect for uses like columns and beams. The skeleton of a commercial building, specifically its beams, columns, and roof trusses, is typically built out of glulam.

Products from mass timber can also be combined with other building materials like steel, concrete, and/or glass. A hybrid timber building is the name given to the resulting design. Combining different types of materials can lower costs and result in striking architectural designs when natural wood is combined with “harder” materials.

Benefits of Mass Timber Compared to Other Building Materials

  1. a) Greater Income PotentialDue to their more natural appearance and feel, and the sculptural quality that they frequently adopt, mass timber buildings are easily distinguished from other types of buildings. For these improved aesthetics, tenants are willing to pay higher rent.
  1. b) EfficiencyMass timber is often modularized into large components and cut to size in a manufacturing facility, which can reduce the amount of time a construction team needs to spend on the job site. Mass timber buildings frequently take less time to construct on-site than structures made of other materials, which positively impacts job sites and speeds up investment returns.\
  1. c) SustainabilityTimber is a renewable and sustainable building material that produces fewer carbon emissions than steel and concrete when responsibly sourced. Wood is the only building material that absorbs carbon instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. As new trees are planted to replace those that are felled, it is also completely renewable. In order to engineer CLT and glulam for mass timber projects, smaller trees, even diseased or dead trees, can be harvested.
  1. d) ResilienceDue to mass timber’s strength-to-weight ratio, building in areas that frequently experience earthquakes is a safe option. Despite weighing between a third and a fifth less than concrete, it still has the same structural strength. Other building materials cannot compare to their flexibility. Think about how a tree would behave in a windstorm. Without breaking, it can bend quite a distance. Additionally, the connections in mass timber structures allow the building to sway and move rather than being rigid and fracturing.

    Current Status of Mass Timber

    The ten mass timber structures are listed below. As of February 2022, these structures are either finished or in construction.

Building NameLocationConstruction MaterialBuilding TypeStatusYear of Completion
AscentMilwaukee, USATimber-Concrete HybridResidentialArchitecturally Topped Out2022
MjøstårnetBrumunddal, NorwayAll-TimberMixed-UseCompleted2019
HoHoVienna, AustriaTimber-Concrete HybridMixed-UseCompleted2020
HAUTAmsterdam, NetherlandsTimber-Concrete HybridResidentialUnder Construction2022
Sara KulturhusSkellefteå, SwedenTimber-Steel HybridMixed-UseCompleted2021
De Karel DoormanRotterdam, NetherlandsTimber-Concrete-Steel HybridMixed-UseCompleted2012
55 SouthbankMelbourne, AustraliaTimber-Concrete-Steel HybridMixed-UseCompleted2020
Roots TowerHamburg, GermanyTimber-Concrete HybridResidentialCompleted2024
WellingtonMelbourne, AustraliaTimber-Concrete HybridOfficeUnder Construction2023
AbroRisch-Rotkreuz, SwitzerlandTimber-Concrete HybridMixed-UseCompleted2019

The Future of Mass Timber

We can safely assume that there will still be novel and exciting possibilities because proprietary technology and innovation are still being investigated in mass timber. We’re keeping an eye on the following areas of innovation:

  • Assisting contractors to build more efficiently using CLT and glulam
  • More pre-built components and modular construction
  • Commodity products are converted using CNC fabrication into unique building components.
  • Prefabricated elements using BIM
  • Cost savings (as mass timber becomes more popular, more manufacturing facilities may be built, Which would lower the price of CLT and glulam)
  • Making the most efficient use of the wood fiber


The performance and production of mass timber are constantly improving. It is no longer regarded as an emerging building technology because of advancements in material strength that enable longer spans, taller structures, and updated code compliance that expands construction types and requirements. Its demand will increase as more designers, owners, and developers look for ways to lessen their environmental impact.