New uses for wood, insurance top agenda

Convention goers considered how timber can be the key element in tall buildings and checked out the problems with truck insurance and our economy during the Louisiana Forestry Association meeting in New Orleans in September.

The slow-moving Hurricane Harvey caused the annual meeting to be rescheduled, but despite the change in date, almost 400 people attended the event.

Candice Nichol, architect from Vancouver, British Columbia, works with a firm specializing in tall wooden buildings made with engineered wood products referred to as “mass timber.” The first big project — a seven-story 224,000 square-foot building completed in 2014 in Minneapolis — made headlines across the country.

“There is a huge market for these types of buildings,” Nichol said but added that it was still in the “early adopter stage.” The assets of tall timber over steel and concrete in construction included:

  • Lighter construction with natural materials requiring less foundation.

  • A better atmosphere for office workers who inhabit them.

  • Pre-fab opportunities to be more productive in the building phase.

  • A “cool vibe” from these designs that appeal to younger workers.

  • A natural carbon sink that comes with the wood in these buildings.

“Timber is our way of putting our fingerprint on a building,” said Nichol.

Glulam, cross laminated timber (CLT), laminated strand lumber (LSL) and nail laminated timber (NLT) make tall buildings possible. Glulam beams might be paired with Nail Laminated Timber for floor panels. NLT is made by taking dimensional lumber like 2-by-4s and 2-by-6s, stacking them together on their edge, and nailing them into a panel.

Much of the timber for the first building came from trees harvested because of the mountain beetle epidemic in that area of the country, so it also has a recovery aspect to the project.

Wood is the “only material grown by the sun,” said Nichol who pointed to studies that show physical and mental health is better in wooden buildings. One study even showed that patients recover quicker in the presence of a wooden structure.

Nichol, who works for Michael Green Architecture, is high on the possibilities.

“The material is developing faster than building codes,” she said. “We could go to 30 stories when the building codes allow.”

Projects are underway or completed in Oregon, New York, Chicago and Paris.

The Oregon State College of Forestry is doing the testing of these materials and their new university building will be mass timber, she said.

Insurance Costs for Logging

James Prather, attorney and expert in the defense of the trucking industry, got the audience’s attention quickly when he said: “Insurance rates are rising around the country and Louisiana is among the five most expensive states.”

It wasn’t really news to those in the audience paying for insurance for their logging trucks, but Prather explained that in 2016, insurers paid out $110 for every $100 in premiums for commercial auto insurance.