Mass timber has emerged as an attractive option for builders who want to achieve construction projects that are more sustainable but also cost- and time-efficient. Yet mass timber presents design and construction challenges that are different from those inherent to more conventional building systems and enclosure products, so specialized knowledge is necessary to produce a successful mass timber project.

RDH’s integrated team has contributed to mass timber projects throughout North America and has developed a solid understanding of the considerations needed to create durable and high-performance enclosures in mass timber projects. In an effort to share our knowledge and advance the industry’s understanding of mass timber construction, we have shared our expertise through events, presentations, and publications, most recently at the RDH Mass Timber Enclosure Symposium.

Mass Timber Enclosure Symposium

At conferences that focus on mass timber buildings, the enclosure can sometimes become an afterthought. To help close this gap in knowledge sharing, we organized and hosted a day-long Mass Timber Enclosure Symposium held in Seattle in February 2020. The sold-out event featured seven 50-minute sessions covering a range of topics related to mass timber enclosures and concluded with a moderated Q&A panel discussion that gave the audience and speakers time to reflect on the day’s topics and address additional questions.

The symposium presenters focused on developing the audience’s understanding of mass timber, starting with an overview of mass timber and various enclosure design principles and approaches from the perspective of managing heat, air, moisture, and fire. The day continued with discussion on the economics of selecting mass timber building systems and evolved into an understanding of construction practices and managing construction phase risks, particularly moisture exposure.

The symposium’s diverse audience of architects, designers, contractors, product manufacturers, and developers were able to strengthen their understanding of mass timber enclosure design practices and the impact of key decisions on the enclosure’s ability to provide long-term protection for the structure and its occupants. The slate of presenters included some of our own building enclosure specialists plus industry leaders who regularly present and consult on mass timber enclosure design and construction practices:

  • Colin Shane (RDH), “Mass Timber Enclosure Overview”
  • Brian Hubbs (RDH), “Mass Timber Prefabrication + Panelization”
  • Joe Mayo (Mahlum), “Mass Timber in Practice”
  • Lisa Podesto (Lendlease), “The Economics of Mass Timber Construction”
  • Bevan Jones (Holmes Fire), “Fire Safety Considerations for Mass Timber Buildings”
  • Graham Finch (RDH), “Construction Phase + Risks”
  • Nate Bergen (Kinsol Timber Systems), “Constructability Lessons Learned”
  • Michael Kramer (RDH), moderator of the Q&A Panel + Discussion

The symposium included multiple opportunities for attendees to network and interact with a variety of building enclosure product systems or product exhibitors to learn about a range of products and tools designed to support the use of mass timber assemblies and enclosure systems. In turn, the event gave vendors the opportunity to share their products and services with a targeted audience of mass timber enthusiasts.

 

Mass Timber Design Guides

As a complement to the symposium, our team also authored and published two mass timber-focused enclosure design and construction guides that share the depth of our team’s knowledge and experience with mass timber enclosures. These practical guides, which were distributed to all the symposium attendees, describe best practices for mass timber construction and are filled with helpful illustrations, details, decision matrices, and reference tables.

  • Mass Timber Building Enclosure Best Practice Design Guide provides straightforward design guidance that is applicable to all regions of the US and Canada. This guide focuses on design and application in a quick-access format.
  • Moisture Risk Management Strategies for Mass Timber Buildings provides information and design guidance for managing construction and occupancy phase moisture, but it goes a step further by taking the reader through the decision-making process for specific building designs.

These guides won’t replace having a consultant on board, but they cover key design concepts and what to consider early on and throughout a project to help project teams get started in the right direction. See example pages from both guides below.

Read more about the Mass Timber Enclosure Symposium on this blog post: https://www.rdh.com/blog/mass-timber-enclosure-symposium/

Videos of the symposium presentations and digital versions of the design guides are available at learnbuildingscience.com.

 

Date:

August 17, 2021

Our Roles:

Symposium Event Host and Organizer; Guide Author, Designer, and Publisher

Project Completed:

2020

Key Services

Knowledge Sharing

At RDH-BSL, we’re constantly striving to understand and meet industry needs. We’re on site, learning through hands-on experience, and also in the lab and the field, conducting wide-ranging research on building performance. We are always asking “why” so we can share new insights with others in the fields of building science, construction, architecture, and design.

This sharing takes a number of forms, for example: developing clear, practical guides; leading seminars, webinars, and other online and offline events; developing curriculum packages and training materials; and writing for a wide range of industry publications. We make many of these resources available through our Technical Library and learnbuildingscience.com.

Bailey Brown | MS, PE

Principal, Building Science Specialist
View Bio

Graham Finch | Dipl.T., M.A.Sc., P.Eng.

Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist
View Bio

Brian Hubbs | P.Eng., BEP

Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist
View Bio

Colin Shane | M.Eng., P.Eng., PE

Principal, Building Science Specialist
View Bio

Michael Kramer | LEED AP

Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist
View Bio

National Masonry Systems Guide: Northwest Edition

The National Masonry System Guide: Northwest Edition provides comprehensive design and construction detailing information for 8 primary above‑grade wall assembly options successfully used in the Northwest climate.

Read More

Osmotic Blistering of Waterproof Membranes

Pairing the testing procedure our team developed with existing ASTM guidelines has enabled us to measure the osmotic flow rate of a membrane, a service unavailable elsewhere in the industry. We established a threshold for membrane vapor permeance, long-term water absorption, and osmotic flow, to quantify whether a particular membrane is low risk for blister...

Read More
RDH Building Science