The U.S. Forest Service is working to build markets for innovative forest products. One of these products, cross-laminated timber, also known as CLT, offers an opportunity for raising tall buildings with wood, opening up a completely new market for wood products.

And there’s tremendous opportunity to increase the market share for wood-based construction. Because of its high strength, CLT is an advantageous alternative to traditional building materials such as concrete, masonry, and steel. Because CLT panels resist compression, they are well-suited for building multistory structures, especially mid-rise buildings. Made from layers of dried lumber boards, stacked in alternating direction at 90-degree angles, glued and pressed to form solid panels, CLT has exceptional strength and stability and can be used as walls, roofs, and floors.

Additionally, CLT is highly resilient to fire, earthquakes, and even explosions. In fact in a recent series of live blast tests, CLT passed with flying colors. An examination of the results showed that the CLT structures suffered less degradation than expected and might outlast concrete and steel.

In terms of fire, CLT is like using a large log to start a campfire—it doesn’t ignite easily. And when it does burn, a char layer forms on the outside, protecting the inside and allowing the wood panel to maintain its structural integrity during fire scenarios.

Researchers have conducted extensive seismic testing on CLT and found that the panels perform exceptionally well in multi-story applications. When a seven-story CLT building was tested on the world’s largest shake table in Japan, it survived 14 consecutive earthquake simulations with almost no damage.

From the USDA: