The Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, or SFWS, actively works to increase awareness of the many benefits of cross-laminated timber, known as CLT, and to promote its use for construction in the South. In addition, the school conducts research according to industry reports within the proceedings of the North American Mass Timber Research Needs Workshop. To integrate and leverage its resources, these initiatives are achieved in partnership with the Auburn University College of Architecture, Design, and Construction, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, and the Offices of Sustainability and Planning, Design, and Construction.

Shown pictured is the first hotel in the United States constructed with CLT. It is located in Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama.

Research

The Forest Products Development Center in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University has a rich history of research, development, and intellectual property advancements in the areas of adhesives and lumber improvement for engineered wood products. Faculty members, Drs. Soledad Peresin, Brian Via, and Yucheng Peng, have undertaken the following key areas for cross-laminated timber, or CLT, research: adhesive performance, younger plantation wood quality issues, and nanotechnology for coatings and chemicals.

WHAT’S NEW?

  • Research is being conducted in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, or SFWS, on acetylated lignin nanoparticles as an UV photodegradation inhibitor and as moisture protection for CLT. An extensive review on lignin nanoparticles was just published which deals with the morphology of lignin nanoparticles and how controlling the process to get the nanoparticles plays a role in its final properties. Researchers are testing several solvent shifting methods to determine the optimum ways to find nanoparticles while also considering cost-effectiveness.
  • The SFWS faculty were asked to review the titled “A Specialized Data Crawler for Cross-Laminated Timber Information Resources” for the Forestry Products Society journal that identified the latest topics of key interest to the CLT industry in which years of research from across the web has been categorized. The following areas overlap ongoing research at Auburn: moisture control, fire retardancy, environmental performance, adhesives, and acoustics (a form of nondestructive testing).
  • In June 2019, the Alabama State Legislature approved a funding allocation of $890,125 to advance CLT research and outreach.
  • The SFWS has successfully developed a laboratory prototype system for measuring carbon content in trees and lumber that could be used for CLT (R2 = 0.95). Efforts are underway to develop a rugged/robust field method using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy.
  • Cheap paper-based sensors were developed by the SFWS to measure formaldehyde emissions in wood composites like CLT. Such technology is useful if CLT is to be used in the indoor environment to keep inhabitants safe from emissions or to ensure safe emission levels prior to shipping.
  • A novel nowcasting technique was developed by the SFWS to predict today’s lumber price with daily/hourly Google trends search data (R2 =0.94). This technology would allow buyers to avoid sudden downturns in the bioeconomy in the short term (daily to monthly) or to identify underlying relationships between price changes and society behavior.
  • The SFWS Forest Products Development Center partnered with the Department of Civil Engineering in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering (lead) to apply for a $496,000 Forest Service Wood Innovation grant. This project was recently awarded to expand the mass timber market by developing and testing mass timber panels in composite timber-steel systems. By creating a wood-steel hybrid, it will assist engineers in the expansion of mass timber into the 6+ story market.
  • A post-doc was hired by the SFWS to test various adhesive systems for southern pine CLT. Small CLT prototypes have been made and testing is ongoing. This study will help southern CLT manufacturers to understand how competing adhesives will perform in service.
  • The SFWS hired a Ph.D. student to develop a biobased coating for UV photodegradation and moisture protection for CLT. This project allowed for a multi-institution collaboration that includes the Forest Products Lab at USDA, Madison, Oregon State, MSU, and Penn State.
  • The SFWS research team has partnered with the Wood Biobased Composite Center (WBC), a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, or I/UCRC. A proposal for continuation of this project has been submitted for $34,800.
  • The setup of an outdoor exposure rack for testing of the biobased coatings is planned to be installed at the SFWS/ACES Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest. This will also serve as an educational and outreach component for the project.

Outreach & Extension

Increasing awareness about the benefits of cross-laminated timber, or CLT, is a top priority of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, or SFWS, as the interest in the use of mass timber for tall buildings has begun to increase in the Southern United States in recent years.

WHAT’S NEW?

  • The SFWS hosted “The Future of Tall: Building High-Rise in the U.S” seminar and reception presented by Thomas Robinson, founder and principal of LEVER Architecture.
  • The SFWS hosted “Cross-laminated Timber Markets: A Panel Discussion” with Jeff Peters, Steve Lieberman, and Tom S. Chung.
  • An environmental education building is being constructed with CLT at the Kreher Preserve & Nature Center, an outreach facility of the SFWS located in Auburn, Alabama.
  • A graduate student fellowship was created between the SFWS and College of Architecture, Design, and Construction, or CADC, to promote CLT collaboration between the two units and a joint article is being developed as a result for submission to a journal this year. Moving forward collaboration with this fellowship will focus on creating and implementing CLT outreach and Extension educational material.
  • As part of the Alabama Legislature funds awarded through Auburn University, CLT outreach and education programs and presentations were created and delivered during 2020 and 2021. In total, 13 programs or presentations included CLT with a total of 441 participants.
  • An Alabama Extension, or ACES, Forestry, Wildlife, and Natural Resources team, or FWNR, article on CLT production in Alabama was published on the ACES-FWNR website and was distributed via the FWNR newsletter as well in the Alabama Farmers COOP Magazine.
  • Planning and coordination is underway for a CLT conference to be held April 27-29, 2022, in Auburn, Alabama. This premier international event is the first of its kind in the Southern U.S.
  • The SFWS and ACES have partnered with Oregon State University to gain support from the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Education and Literacy Initiative. The five-year program will offer a 12-week research, extension, and intern experience for one of our most qualified undergraduate students.
  • Auburn hosted an industry panel discussion to explore the status and future of the cross-laminated timber industry. Guest panelists included industry representatives Derek Ratchford, CEO of SmartLam, Dothan, Alabama; Jason Reynolds, senior director, WoodWorks Wood Products Council; and Mike Kensler, director of Auburn University’s Office of Sustainability.

CLT Conference News

CLT Conference Save the DateAuburn University is pleased to announce that the international CLT conference “The Sustainable Future of CLT in the South: Grow, Design, Build” will be held April 27 – 29, 2022, in Auburn, Alabama. This premier event is the first of its kind to be held in the Southern United States.

Renowned experts in forestry, building sciences, engineering, and architecture and design will address the latest CLT research, trends, and developments in the South. Session tracks will offer information to address the needs of multiple audiences, including designers, builders, contractors, academia, landowners, producers, and suppliers. Look for more information on keynote speakers, sessions, and registration as they become available at sfws.auburn.edu.

For more information about sponsorship and exhibit opportunities, contact Dr. Adam Maggard at 334-844-2401 or email at adm0074@auburn.edu. Registration will begin in February 2022. Accommodations will be available at The Hotel at Auburn University & Dixon Conference Center.

The conference is presented in partnership with the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, College of Architecture, Design, and Construction, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, and the Offices of Sustainability and Planning, Design, and Construction.

Dean Janaki Alavalapati

Janaki Alavalapati

Dean, Professor of Forestry Economics

Office: 3301
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Adam Maggard

Adam Maggard

Extension Specialist & Assistant Professor, Forest Systems Management

Office: 3325
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Maria Soledad Peresin

Maria Soledad Peresin

Associate Professor, Forest Biomaterials

Office: FPL 116
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Brian Via

Brian Via

Regions Professor, Forest Products

Office: FPL123
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