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How a ‘Low-Value’ Tree Becomes a ‘Revolutionary’ Building Material

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These days, it seems like more and more projects are considering the option of wood buildings. In fact, WBUR reports, one project in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston will use timber in a way that some researchers are calling “revolutionary.”

The five-story, mixed-use building will incorporate timber from hemlock trees, which New England Forestry Foundation COO Frank Lowenstein says is an underutilized, low-quality and low value tree. But the wood from the hemlocks will be turned into cross-laminated timber (CLT), which will be processed with white pine into thick plywood sheets and timbers.

This will allow the wood to meet construction standards for fire, earthquakes and strength, while also reducing emissions that cause climate change. According to Lowenstein, CLT has not caught on in New England yet because developers “are not convinced there’s enough demand yet,” he tells WBUR. “So the first building in Boston is a big deal.”

The developer of the project, Colin Booth — who also serves as the strategic director of development and design cooperative Placetailor — believes the project’s use of CLT will have an important impact. “This is going to set the tone for what we are going to build for some time and the rest of Boston, as well,” he tells the station.

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