But a lack of knowledge remains a barrier to mass timber’s wider adoption, Mr. Berghorn said. To that end, the university recently received a $650,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency that finances science research, to develop a national model for a mass timber design and construction curriculum for architecture, engineering and construction programs.
Clemson University in South Carolina was given a $1.1 million grant from the Department of Energy to help expand the use of mass timber. Researchers there are developing a floor system made of cross-laminated timber panels that can span about 40 feet, double the current industry practice. They are also looking at ways to dovetail the system with other building components, such as duct work and electrical conduits.
Such an all-in-one system would reduce the need for as many structural beams and potentially speed up construction, said Dustin Albright, assistant director of the university’s School of Architecture.
“We want to come up with an all-in-one approach to the floor system that allows the flexibility to get in and access those components, but do it in a way that’s all timber,” he said.
Clemson has two mass-timber buildings on its main campus: the Samuel J. Cadden Chapel and the Andy Quattlebaum Outdoor Education Center, which uses Southern yellow pine. Researchers have installed wireless moisture and vibration sensors at the recreation center, completed in 2020, to gather data on the building’s long-term performance.
Various universities are researching the viability of local manufacturing. Michigan State is tracking demand for mass timber, and analyzing what the full supply chain might look like, in the interest of providing that information to prospective manufacturers, Ms. Lupien said.
At the University of Maine, landowners, architects, lumber manufacturers and construction companies share information through the Maine Mass Timber Commercialization Center, in hopes of eventually making the business case for manufacturing cross-laminated timber.