WARRENTON — The new Fibre Federal Credit Union branch at the North Coast Retail Center uses a cross-laminated Douglas fir roof, one of the first commercial structures in Clatsop County to incorporate the timber technology.
The roof, however, comes from Austria, an example of the evolving nature of what many in the U.S. see as the new frontier for timber.
The Longview, Washington-based Fibre Federal wanted an affordable way to use exposed wood for a more Pacific Northwest feel, said Chris Bradberry, the president of the credit union. Architects recommended cross-laminated timber, a wood panel made from gluing layers of lumber together.
The technology has been used in thousands of buildings across Europe and has recently taken root in the U.S. Portland, for example, is home to Carbon12, an 85-foot condominium and retail tower that is the tallest cross-laminated timber building in the country.
“It gave us that ability to have the architectural design we wanted,” Bradberry said of the technology. “It’s also quicker on the build.”
Crews under general contractor Momentum, Inc., are building out the interior of the new branch, expected to open late this year as TLC Federal Credit Union, acquired as a division of Fibre Federal.
Raising the structure of the building took less than two weeks. The posts and beams holding the building up are made from glue-laminated timber, an older technology gluing boards parallel to the grain for longer spans.
The posts, beams and roof all came preassembled from KLH Massive Wood in Austria. The company was the only one available that could supply the cross-laminated roof to fit the schedule of the branch. The timber components were shipped from Europe to subcontractor Carpentry Plus in Boring for further assembly before heading to Warrenton.
“It has a lot to do with product supply,” said Jenny Bengeult, director of design for Momentum. “We looked at different species. We look at what wood is available at a given time.”
Tom Williamson, a wood technology expert based in Vancouver, Washington, helped write the building standards for cross-laminated structures in 2010, when there were no suppliers in the U.S. By 2012, two cross-laminated producers in British Columbia came online.
“The Europeans have been doing this for like 25 years, so they’ve built up an infrastructure,” he said.
Oregon’s only cross-laminated supplier is D.R. Johnson in Riddle, responsible for a four-story office building in Portland called Albina Yard. The company helped build Peavy Hall, Oregon State University’s Forest Science Complex, which was meant to symbolize the rebirth of the state’s timber industry. The project highlighted some of the risks of the technology after a collapse during construction last year.
Williamson sees European producers losing their edge over the U.S. as more local mills come online. The global cross-laminated timber market, valued at $670 million in 2016, is expected to grow to more than $2.3 billion by 2025, according to an analysis by Transparency Market Research.
“It’s kind of like how glue-laminated timber started in the 1940s with a couple producers,” Williamson said. “Now there are 20 to 30. I think the U.S. industry is going to catch up with the European industry pretty quickly.”