UMass Study Finds Eastern White Pine Ideal for New Sustainable Building Material

UMass CLT Eastern White Pine study

Eastern White Pine, one of the Northeast’s most treasured native trees, has been found to be structurally sound for use in cross-laminated timber (CLT) by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The study, recently published in the Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering, tested CLT made from both Eastern White Pine and eastern hemlock for strength to find out if they would be safe for use in a university-size building.

Lead author Peggi Clouston, professor of wood mechanics and timber engineering in the School of Earth and Sustainability, helped develop the wood construction technology used in UMass Amherst’s John W. Oliver Design Building, a showcase for best practices in sustainability. All the wood for that building was locally sourced and FSC-certified.

Cloustin and her team of researchers tested the composite building panels they made in the UMass Wood Mechanics Lab.

“We then broke them in a strength-testing machine to find out if they would be safe to use in a university-size building,” Clouston explains.

Identifying low-carbon materials for construction is an emerging buzz among architects, and the timing is right to encourage CLT production in the Northeast, the research concludes.

“The testing we did shows that anyone who would want to invest in a local plant has a reason to do so,” says Clouston, whose trailblazing work was recently highlighted in a Washington Post feature story. “The prospect of being able to use local wood in CLT and manufacture it locally makes it all the more sustainable by avoiding the environmental cost of transporting the material long distances.”

The manufacturing of CLT, a type of mass timber used for wall, floor and roof construction, could create jobs, improve rural and forestry economies and support better forestry management, which is a strategy to address climate change, the research says.

Read more about the sustainability of Eastern White Pine.