Can Mass Timber Solve the Housing Crisis?

Can Mass Timber Solve the Housing Crisis? Photo credit: EURBAN

Our coverage of Portland’s Mass Timber Conference week concludes with a brief overview of CLT and affordable housing.


Land availability aside, one of the biggest roadblocks to building affordable housing is cost. Speakers at the International Mass Timber Conference believe utilizing cross-laminated timber might offer a solution.

Most components of a mass timber building are built off site, which means construction is less expensive because it requires fewer workers and takes less time. (The prefabricated elements also mean construction mimics building with a set of blocks.) 

“It’s a little bit boring after time because it’s always the same,” says Philipp Zumbrunnen, Director of EURBAN Limited says of mass timber construction.

In the UK, where Zumbrunnen works, social housing (affordable housing) is often constructed to a higher standard than privately-built housing, he says.

Panelist Jeff Spiritos, principal of New York-based real estate developer Spiritos Properties, says quality affordable housing is not the norm in this country. Typically, the lower cost the housing, the lower the quality of construction.

“That only makes sense but it is a travesty,” Spiritos says. “There really is no reason people who cannot afford housing should suffer.”

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Spiritos also believes mass timber offers a solution. He wants to organize a panel of developers across North America to solve the housing crisis using mass timber.

Compared to a concrete-framed building, a CLT building can save 2,000 tons of C02, Zumbrunnen adds.

CLT in construction has just started to take off in the U.S. and Oregon. But if the state wants to find alternative ways to build more housing at a cheaper (and faster) rate, mass timber  should be considered part of the solution.

Katy Sword

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