Mass Timber Opportunities: When Innovation and Nature Merge

By Steve Borritt and Adnan Siddiqui
RBC Capital Markets
December 1, 2022
Category: Opinion / EdiTOADial
Region: Canada, United States

From timber long houses in Europe to temples in Asia, wood has been a primary construction material in buildings since the Stone Age, with some still standing more than a thousand years later. Today, modern technology and engineering is turning wood into a “new” building material, mass timber, which is set to transform the North American lumber industry. …For decades, Europe has been at the forefront of this revolution, but growing momentum in the still-nascent North American market is fostering an environment ripe for commercial opportunities. …The number of North American mass timber plants has grown to 22 from just 4 in 2016, and that number could more than double by 2027… and there are many opportunities to participate in different parts of the business. These include fabrication of and design services for the various components and connections, all the way to working with architects and engineers on fully integrated design and supply solutions.

This is not to say that barriers no longer exist. …The nature of manufacturing off-site means that the capital required to procure materials and begin production is often two to three times higher in the beginning than a typical construction project. …Lenders and developers, however, are beginning to adapt. …Mass timber typically does not cannibalize existing wood products and instead creates new demand for lumber. Overall, if current adoption patterns continue, some estimates suggest that mass timber could eventually make up as much as 10 percent of the North American lumber supply by 2035. …Importantly, the benefits of mass timber must be coupled with sustainable forestry practices that factor in high forest management standards. Done right, mass timber buildings not only carry environmental and economic advantages, but are a beautiful testament to what can be achieved when innovation and nature merge.

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