Mass timber exteriors

Modern Mass Timber Construction includes building systems otherwise known as post-and-beam, or heavy-timber, and cross laminated timber (CLT). Typical components include solid sawn timbers, glue-laminated timbers (glulam), parallel strand lumber (PSL) laminated veneer lumber (LVL) laminated strand (LSL), and CLT. Heavy-timber post and beam with infill walls of various materials is one of the oldest construction systems known to man. Historic examples still standing range from Europe through Asia to the long-houses of the Pacific Coastal first nations (Figure 1). Ancient temples in Japan and China dating back thousands of years are basically heavy timber construction with some components semi-exposed to the weather (Figure 2). Heavy-timber-frame warehouses with masonry walls dating back 100 years or more are still serviceable and sought-after as residences or office buildings in cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver (Koo 2013). Besides their historic value, these old warehouses offer visually impressive wood structures, open plan floors and resultant flexibility of use and repurposing. Building on this legacy, modern mass timber construction is becoming increasingly popular in parts of Canada and the USA for non-residential construction, recreational properties and even multi-unit residential buildings. Owners and architects typically see a need to express these structural materials, particularly glulam, on the exterior of the building where they are at semi-exposed to the elements (Figure 3). In addition wood components are being increasingly used to soften the exterior look of non-wood buildings and make them more appealing (Figure 4). They are anticipated to remain structurally sound and visually appealing for the service life. However, putting wood outside creates a risk of deterioration that needs to be managed. Similar to wood used for landscaping, the major challenges to wood in these situations are decay, weathering and black-stain fungi. This document provides assistance to architects and specifiers in making the right decisions to maximize the durability and minimize maintenance requirements for glulam and other mass timber on the outside of residential and non-residential buildings. It focusses on general principles, rather than providing detailed recommendations. This is primarily focussed on a Canadian and secondarily on a North American audience.

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