US Army Corps of Engineers Announces Groundbreaking Partnership to Research New Mass Timber Product

On Monday, the US Army Corp of Engineers announced (1-29-24) a groundbreaking partnership between the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) and the Composite Recycling Technology Center (CRTC), a non-profit corporation that designs, develops, and manufactures products that recycle carbon fiber scrap. The initiative is paving the way for a new mass timber product that would be more readily available in the United States and could also meet military needs abroad.

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a mass timber product that has been available for years, but it requires high-quality lumber and unique manufacturing facilities. Using an innovative thermal modification process, CRTC created Advanced Cross-Laminated Timber (ACLT), which meets the CLT specifications while using Coastal Western Hemlock, a tree species common in the Pacific Northwest, making it much easier and more economical to source the material for US projects.

“Mass timber has a lot of momentum in the Army right now,” said Dr. Pete Stynoski, research civil engineer at ERDC. “This project is trying to enable wider sourcing of Class IV materials for more resilient structures in both everyday use and in contested logistics scenarios.” ERDC’s role in this Congressionally directed research project is to study how ACLT could be used to develop a highly durable, quick-erect building panel system for military housing.

Using its expertise in construction methods, force protection, and building technology, ERDC has helped refine concepts and provided rigorous testing at its state-of-the-art facilities, including fragment impact and seismic simulations. This will allow the Department of Defense to gauge ACLT’s performance and reliability and ensure it aligns with military requirements.

“One of the ultimate goals is to produce smaller-scale contingency-style structures that can be disassembled, put into a container, and moved to another place,” Stynoski said. “Maybe there is a pre-positioned stock of these materials where we might need them in the future. Because of that thermal modification, it is resilient against biological threats. It is extremely dimensionally stable; it doesn’t have issues with moisture expansion and contraction.”

The University of Washington and Washington State University have also supported this effort through advanced modeling.

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