Concrete vs Timber Construction in Portland

Oregon has recently adopted an addendum to its building codes that would allow timber construction of tall buildings and is the first state in the U.S. to do so. Historically building codes have prohibited mass timber structures from rising above six stories, but a trend toward and advancements in alternative materials has spurred interest in timber construction. Commercial concrete contractors in Portland and others in the construction industry await the outcomes of these new projects and look forward to future endeavors that could potentially combine concrete, steel, and timber in new ways.

Proponents of timber construction

One of the more common forms of timber construction utilizes cross-laminated timber (CLT), which is an engineered wood panel consisting of three, five, or seven layers of kiln-dried boards that are positioned perpendicular to one another and glued together. This cross lamination technique works to provide stability, strength, and rigidity to the wood panels. Proponents of CLT tout its design flexibility as it can be engineered for specific applications, its fast installation and cost-effectiveness, and its environmental advantages. The latter benefit is related to the thermal performance of thicker CLT panels and the aim of CLT being manufactured with wood from sustainably managed forests. Additionally, CLT construction can lead to less waste, as the panels are produced for specific applications and any leftover materials can be repurposed for other building features such as stairs or used as biofuel.

The potential of traditional and alternative materials

As timber towers begin to dot city skylines, there are those in the construction industry who wonder how alternative building materials will measure up to steel and concrete. Concrete is a mainstay of commercial construction and is the building material that made skyscrapers possible due to its versatility, compressive strength, and seismic performance when reinforced with steel rebar. Concrete also has the benefits of very low heat transfer properties and of being a non-flammable material. In addition, more environmentally-conscious concrete mixtures have been developed in the recent years that include recycled materials in place of virgin aggregates and alternative mixtures for traditional Portland cement, both of which are components of concrete that can be resource-intensive to produce. These advancements in concrete production combined with the developments in timber construction have the potential to create taller, safer, more energy-efficient buildings in cities across the U.S.

The Conco Companies’ mission is to be the best supplier of concrete services in the Western U.S. and to bring expertise and incomparable quality to each project. We continue to upgrade and expand our facilities to better serve the growing market for commercial, educational, parking structures, public works projects, and other development. Contact us to learn more about the services from one of the most trusted concrete contractors in Portland.

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