Our built environment is constantly adapting to changing factors: technology, the state of the economy, material resource availability, and, in turn, environmental conditions. The latter has gained notable importance in popular discourse, and especially in the architecture and construction professions. However, as much as we see terms such as “sustainability” and “green” in our everyday lives, government and industry are slow to take action investing in our future environment. Material resources in the building industry are worth investigating. Timber, used as a structural material to compete with concrete and steel, brings more energy efficient and natural renewable resources to our growing cities. In order to provide a broader perspective of how we as a society use concrete, steel, and timber, I will compare the three building materials in a four part guideline: Environmental Performance, Ease of Manufacture, Organized Assembly, and Design Flexibility.
Katerra is a start-up construction company that has developed a vertically integrated cross-laminated timber (CLT) manufacturing supply chain and facility. Katerra commissioned the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) and the Center for International Trade in Forest Products (CINTRAFOR) at the University of Washington to perform a life cycle assessment (LCA) study to understand the environmental impacts and opportunities for impact reduction in Katerra’s CLT supply chain and manufacturing process. CINTRAFOR performed an LCA of the CLT supply chain and production process while the CLF performed a whole building LCA of a new building that used CLT produced at Katerra’s CLT facility.
Katerra has developed its own cross-laminated timber (CLT) manufacturing facility in Spokane Valley, Washington. This 25,100 m2 (270,000 ft2 ) factory is the largest CLT manufacturing facility in the world, and is capable of producing approximately 187,000 m3 of CLT per year. Katerra has also established a vertically integrated supply chain to provide the wood for the CLT factory. Production started in summer of 2019.
Katerra commissioned the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) and Center for International Trade in Forest Products (CINTRAFOR) at the University of Washington to analyze the environmental impacts of its CLT as well as the Catalyst Building in Spokane, Washington. The Catalyst is a 15,690 m2 (168,800 ft2), five-story office building that makes extensive use of CLT as a structural and design element. Jointly developed by Avista and McKinstry, Katerra largely designed and constructed the building, and used CLT produced by Katerra’s new factory. Performing a life cycle assessment (LCA) on Katerra’s CLT will allow Katerra to explore opportunities for environmental impact reduction along their supply chain and improve their CLT production efficiency. Performing an LCA on the Catalyst Building will enable Katerra to better understand life cycle environmental impacts of mass timber buildings and identify opportunities to optimize environmental performance of mid-rise CLT structures.
The goal, scope, methodology, and results of this analysis are detailed in this report.