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From Sustainable Forests to Urban Skies: The CLT Revolution

The narrative of CLT is deeply entwined with the quest for more sustainable ways of living and building. Originating from the heart of Europe’s managed forests, CLT’s journey begins with a commitment to environmental stewardship. By utilizing timber from forests that are carefully cultivated to ensure regeneration and biodiversity, CLT provides a renewable resource that stands in stark contrast to the extractive nature of conventional construction materials like steel and concrete.

This innovative material, made by bonding layers of lumber together to form a solid panel, combines the timeless appeal of wood with the strength and versatility required for modern construction. Its lightweight nature belies its durability and robustness, making it suitable for a wide range of architectural designs, from residential homes to towering commercial buildings.

The benefits of CLT extend beyond its physical properties. The production process of CLT has a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to traditional construction materials. By sequestering carbon within its fibers, CLT acts as a carbon sink, reducing the overall greenhouse gas emissions of building projects. This characteristic is pivotal in the fight against climate change, offering a path towards carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative construction practices.

Adoption of CLT also heralds a new era of efficiency and reduced waste in the construction sector. Prefabricated CLT panels can be manufactured to precise specifications, streamlining the building process, reducing on-site construction time, and minimizing waste. This efficiency gains further significance in urban areas where space and time are at a premium, and the environmental impact of construction activities is a growing concern.

The CLT revolution is not just about the material itself but what it represents for the future of urban development. Cities around the globe, recognizing the potential of CLT, are beginning to incorporate it into their building codes and sustainability initiatives. From the multi-story residential buildings in Europe to the innovative office spaces in North America, CLT is proving that eco-friendly construction can also be aesthetically pleasing, economically viable, and fundamentally transformative.

Future Foundations: CLT at the Forefront of Efficient Architecture

Building Better: CLT’s Role in Sustainable Urban Development
Illuminating the transformative influence of Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) within the realm of urban construction, cities worldwide grapple with the dual challenges of rapid urbanization and the pressing need for sustainable development. Amidst this critical juncture, CLT emerges not merely as an innovative building material but as a beacon of eco-friendly construction methods that promise to reshape our urban landscapes.

The urgency for sustainable urban development is more pronounced than ever, with the United Nations projecting that 68% of the world’s population will reside in urban areas by 2050. This demographic shift underscores the imperative for building methods that not only accommodate this growth but do so in a manner that is harmonious with the environment. Enter CLT, a material that is revolutionizing the construction industry by offering a viable alternative to traditional building materials such as concrete and steel.

Crafted from layers of lumber stacked crosswise and bonded together, CLT stands out for its strength, versatility, and minimal environmental footprint. Its production process is inherently less carbon-intensive, given that trees naturally sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Thus, when harvested sustainably, the use of timber in construction acts as a carbon sink, effectively locking away CO2 for the lifespan of the building.

Moreover, the prefabrication nature of CLT panels streamlines the construction process, reducing on-site waste and noise pollution. This efficiency not only accelerates project timelines but also minimizes the environmental impact associated with traditional construction practices. Additionally, the lightweight nature of CLT can lead to lower foundation costs, further underscoring its economic as well as environmental benefits.

Building Better: CLT’s Role in Sustainable Urban Development

Matías Abergo spoke about his two projects that aim to revolutionize the way construction is done locally: Enkel Group and Arboreal.

Enkel Group is the first mass timber construction company in Uruguay, and Arboreal is a sawmill that provides wood solutions. Both projects are strongly oriented towards sustainability and the production and use of materials that have a positive impact on climate change. “We handle both fronts,” said Matías Abergo about these two companies he leads.

He argued that, although Uruguayans are very fond of brick construction, in the United States, large-scale wooden buildings are constructed in adverse climates and “there are no issues.”

“In 2017, with Enkel, we ventured into traditional construction, but dissatisfied with the execution, we explored alternatives,” he recounted during the first local edition of the Forbes Real Estate Summit. “We researched different construction models and fell in love with mass timber.”

They decided to train in wood construction in Europe, and then bring the system to Uruguay. “In 2020, we decided to acquire the largest sawmill in the country, investing 60 million dollars. We established a plant to produce 12-meter panels, revolutionizing the construction process and exporting more than 400 containers per month. Our plant is the seventh largest in the world,” he detailed.

“Basically, what you do is assemble an Ikea furniture in a house. They are automated lines that, after those panels, pillars, and beams are processed, a robot makes all those cuts with millimetric precision and it is totally customized,” he explained. This procedure, he added, reduced on-site problems by 90% and optimized construction time by 40%.

In the future, he spoke of two projects: the St. Catherine school and a 160-apartment building, along with other high-level developments. Regarding the construction method, he highlighted its efficiency compared to traditional methods: “We have managed to reduce on-site problems by 40% because they are resolved beforehand.”

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“Mass Timber: How the system works in Uruguay to create everything from buildings to schools in wood.”. Forbesuruguay.com,
https://www.forbesuruguay.com/summit/forbes-sostenibilidad-summit-frases-mas-destacadas-segunda-edicion-local-n49601

Uruguay will have the tallest wooden building in Latin America

The building will have seven floors and will feature a construction system that promotes energy efficiency and speed in its construction.

In a year, Uruguay will have the tallest wooden building in Latin America, thanks to the company Arboreal, a project that required an investment of nearly 60 million dollars and that would position the country as a reference in both small and large-scale wooden construction.

With a height of seven floors and a construction system that promotes energy efficiency and speed in its construction, the company Arboreal – composed of a Uruguayan investor and an American one – will be in charge of carrying out this project. Arboreal decided to venture into the Mass Timber business (solid wood construction) in 2021 when it acquired a Uruguayan sawmill located in Tacuarembó.

The American investor Mark Crandall and the Uruguayan Matías Abergo, president of Arboreal and CEO of Enkel Group specialized in Mass Timber construction, bought the Frutifor Lumber Company sawmill for over 25 million dollars. They then invested around 12 million dollars in the installation of wood drying plants and automatic wood board sorting, and another 22 million dollars in a new CLT plant, reaching almost a total of 60 million dollars, as reported by Uruguay XXI.

This investment added to the transformation of Uruguay’s wood production matrix, positioning it in the global CLT market, and also contributed to increasing the sawmill’s drying capacity, doubling its production, and benefiting wood input exports for construction.
The construction will take place in the department of Durazno, will have seven floors, and is expected to be ready by next year, specifically by October 2024, with a construction duration of 290 days. The building is part of the 40 Mass Timber construction projects expected to be carried out in Uruguay between 2024 and 2025, as explained by the Uruguayan investor.

Faster and less polluting constructions

The Mass Timber wood processing system allows for the construction of tall buildings, houses, housing complexes, sports centers, medical institutions, schools, among others, using wood. Walls built with this process allow for walls to be made in a single panel of up to 30 centimeters thick, which has several advantages.

Firstly, it contributes to the decarbonization of construction – responsible for 40% of carbon emissions in the environment – and also allows for better thermal insulation compared to concrete and steel, while also acting as a natural moisture regulator. Furthermore, it allows for a “fitting” style system, which favors execution times. This system includes precision cutting robots, which allow the pieces to be quickly transported and assembled.