How Cross-Laminated Timber Buildings Are Built

Adera + Structurlam Featured on

Published August 7, 2017

BRITISH COLUMBIA – Sustainable construction firm Adera and cross-laminated timber (CLT) pioneers Structurlam met with media to discuss the construction of Adera’s new Virtuoso building. Virtuoso is poised to become North America’s first market multi-family development using CLT.

“Yes, a lot of people are suspicious (of mid-rise wood construction) at first,” acknowledges Eric Andreasen, vice-president of marketing and sales at Adera. “But the reality is that CLT — or mass timber, as it’s also known — meets or exceeds concrete in many areas. It’s seismically superior because it doesn’t crack or shatter like concrete. You can’t light it on fire because it self-chars, meaning oxygen can’t get at it. It’s more sustainably produced, requires less energy to recycle, and since the panels are pre-assembled by computer, there’s virtually no on-site waste.”

Cross-laminated timber is a solid, large scale, prefabricated, engineered wood panel typically made of multiple layers glued to form structural panels with enhanced strength, rigidity and dimensional stability.

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How Adera built Virtuoso

Cross-laminated timber panels weigh somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 lbs. — more than two tons of solid, prefabricated material. Using cranes, Adera’s panels were easily transported to their predetermined spots, where two construction crew members gently guided them into their slots, ready to be anchored into the building frame.

Prefabricated panels arrive on site ready to install, producing less on-site waste. Each floor at Virtuoso consists of approximately 160 CLT panels, which were lifted at a rate of one every 12 minutes. Seagate Structures, Adera’s partner for the framing of the building, worked at quite a high speed – installing 4,500 sq. ft. of flooring in less than three hours.

Quick construction is a highlight of CLT. Brock Commons, the world’s tallest CLT building at 18 stories, was erected in nine weeks, at an average rate of two floors per week.

“One of CLT’s primary benefits is the way it influences design and scheduling,” explains Ron McDougall, mass timber specialist. Unlike conventional construction, where you build the sheer walls and then frame with plywood, CLT panels are tilted up and connect directly to the steel columns — a ‘click and play’ method that’s simple, fast and very accurate.”

It’s also virtually silent — a definite bonus for the neighbors. “If you compare the noise level on the Virtuoso site to the site right next door, there’s a significant difference,” McDougall says.

Looking ahead, Andreasen and McDougall both predict CLT construction will continue to make inroads as a viable, environmentally superior alternative to traditional “stick-on-stick” construction or concrete and steel design in the multi-family and high-rise market. “Virtuoso is shining a light on CLT,” McDougall says. “As the market becomes more educated about the benefits of this product, demand will only continue to increase.”

“I always like to see our glulam replaces steel, our CLT replaces concrete, and I think you’re seeing what we can do with all this technology coming together. I don’t think there’s a building we can’t make anymore.”

“There are so many benefits to using these materials for construction. It offers superior acoustic, fiber, seismic and thermal performance, not to mention a reduced carbon footprint.”

For more information about Virtuoso at UBC, visit For information about CLT, visit