Seattle begins construction on cross-laminated timber school

With more newcomers to Western Washington, more classrooms for students are in high demand. A new high-tech building material may be the key to building schools quickly.

It was a sight students could not resist: Construction crews raising large panels of wood using a crane.

“It’s as big as Mount Rainier!” one student said.

Maple Elementary School is a part of a state pilot project, which aims to build three schools in Western Washington out of cross-laminated timber (CLT) for about $1 million each.

Sequim is in the process of building a modular school, and Mount Vernon’s CLT school was completed in mid-May.

CLT is made of two-by-six inch planks of wood, layered and glued together. Pre-designed and pre-cut panels are then brought in and bolted together. The exterior walls of a four-classroom school can be erected in one day.

“This is a product of tomorrow, so we ought to be able to showcase it to our leaders of tomorrow. It’s a great synergy,” said Gene Duvernoy, president of land conservancy group Forterra.

The group is working with mills, lawmakers, architects and investors to create a CLT industry in Washington state.

“This wood is from Oregon and Canada. So in a few years we want this wood to be from Washington. To bring cross-laminated timber to this state, it could happen. It may take 10, 15, 20, 25 years,” Duvernoy said.

Related: Is high tech wood the new hope for school infrastructure?

Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz says the sooner the better, as CLT could mean more classrooms for less money. Plus, there is the potential to protect forests against wildfires.

“We're able to take some of our smaller diameter trees, some of our diseased and dying trees that right now plagues our forest in Washington state and other parts of our county, take that and actually use it for building material,” Franz said.

Maple Elementary’s modular school is expected to be completed in approximately two months, in time for the start of the school year. 

© 2017 KING-TV


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