Super-strength Material

Nestled among spruce forests in an Alpine Valley in Southern Austria, a workshop was the first some two decades ago to begin manufacturing a green new material that’s now super-sizing wooden buildings and speeding the adoption of a solution to mitigate climate change.
“We can build very quickly and cleanly with it and that’s the key,” said the 57-year-old executive surrounded by giant slabs of cross-laminated timber n his factory, called CLT.

The owner had to double capacity in the midst of coronavirus lockdown to satisfy booming global demand for the mass timber he produces. Developers are adopting the material to reduce their carbon footprints while also cutting the cost and time need to construct high rises, he said.

CLT uses a high-tech manufacturing process that turns ordinary wooden planks, made from Spruce streets, into structures that can bear thousands of tons of weight. Architects from Australia to Scandinavia and the U.S. have been buying for him as they leapfrog each other in a race to construct the worlds tallest wooden skyscraper. Vienna made an entire new city quarter out of CLT.

CLT is being used to expand scarce space in cities by building higher. Construction time is quicker than pouring concrete on site, resulting in lower labour and equipment costs.

Builders emit more than a fifth of the greenhouse-gas emissions spewed into the earths atmosphere every year and convincing them to adopt greener materials – which include hemp and straw – will be key to keeping global temperature increases well below the 2-degrees-celsius mark mandated by the Paris climate accord.

All of this progress is using wood as an alternative began three decades ago by an Austrian doctoral student who tinkered with wooden structures at university, long before the fight against global warming had focused the minds of manufactures.

Gerhard Schickhofer said he never imagined the super-strength material he engineered would one day be hailed as a potential answer to the construction industry’s concrete problem.

More than 65 CLT factories have been built worldwide in a little over a decade with 15 new units on the way.