Eco Building: An Innovative Advancement

“Imagine the process of constructing a new housing complex with prefabricated modules made from cross-laminated timber, like building with Lego,” enthuses Todd Beyreuther, Director of Product at Mercer Mass Timber. Todd brings this vision to life most recently at our state-of-the-art 270,000-square-foot plant in Spokane, Washington.

Mercer has been supplying heavy, 18-by-3.5-meter cross-laminated timber (CLT) floor and wall panels for years, replacing steel and concrete in large commercial buildings. Our new modular units represent a breakthrough, offering a cost-effective, repeatable system for houses, classrooms and industrial buildings. These modules create boxes almost 3 meters high and flexible in width and length (depending on the project); multiple modules enable the construction of multistory buildings.

The prototype of our modular townhouse was unveiled in late 2022, with an inaugural project to manufacture seven accessory dwelling units for early 2024 delivery to Bainbridge Island, Washington. Compared to traditional materials like steel or concrete, CLT has a lighter weight that allows for quicker and more cost-effective construction. The prefabrication of CLT panels leads to reduced labor demands and expedited construction timelines, which is crucial in rapidly addressing housing shortages. CLT’s strength and fire resistance also enhance its suitability for residential construction, offering safety and durability. CLT is an innovative construction material and a strategic choice for tackling the challenges of providing efficient, sustainable, affordable housing solutions.

The innovation at Mercer Mass Timber extends beyond just the product. Advanced technology underpins everything we produce, from CLT panels and floors to the new modular units. We use computational design to engineer mass timber components and assemblies directly linked inside the building models of our partners’ architects and engineers. These models also link to our manufacturing files to achieve milling and sawing tolerances to a tenth of a millimeter.

Our Spokane plant boasts another innovation that improves product performance and reduces costs. Unlike traditional practices of constructing large CLT panels from 2x6s graded by lumber mills, Mercer has introduced advanced electronic rating capabilities for in-house material grading. This allows us to optimize fiber usage, driving sustainability and cost-efficiency. The lumber graded for strength goes into high-performance panels for more significant buildings, while other wood — still high-quality and aesthetic — is utilized where strength is less critical. This leading-edge grading system, under development since 2019, is on track for certification in 2024.

Mass timber, though a relatively recent development in North America, represents a significant advancement in sustainable building practices. Modular construction, even newer to the industry, holds immense growth potential. The technological innovations at Mercer Mass Timber provide us with a competitive edge and demonstrate our commitment to environmentally responsible construction. 

By embracing such advanced methods, we are addressing North America’s pressing need for housing and contributing meaningfully to the global effort against climate change.”

Todd Beyreuther