International Mass Timber Conference 2018

International Mass Timber Conference 2018

The International Mass Timber Conference saw a global audience of over 1,000 delegates gather in Portland, Oregon to discuss the latest and greatest on timber construction. Holmes were well represented with a number of speaking slots and it was great to hear perspectives from other leading experts within the industry. Read below for our top-5 takeaways from the conference.

International Mass Timber Conference 2018

Wood is (justifiably) sexy

Unsurprisingly there was a lot of discussions promoting the use of mass timber and its benefits. The case studies came thick and fast. People are pitching all sorts of reasons for using mass timber over other materials (It’s nostalgic! It’s sustainable!), but sometimes the numbers tell the best story. One case study found mass timber to be 20% faster, 11% cheaper and provided a 15% lift in rental rates. Whatever the reason, it is clear that building with mass timber is trendy and getting trendier. Research predicts global growth of 15% through to 2025, at which point the global mass timber market will be worth USD 2.3 Billion. In support of this forecast it is worth noting that the conference itself is in its third year and has grown from 300 to over 1,000 delegates in this time. Impressive stuff!

Not enough trees…

The increasing volumes of mass timber are now starting to create a new issue. Advocates of mass timber are quick to cite the sustainability of timber as a building material. However, Iztok Sustersic (Research Group Leader, InnoRenew CoE) noted that European timber stocks are struggling to keep pace and research indicates that useable spruce stocks may run out by 2020. To be clear, there is more spruce growing, it just won’t be ready for harvest. As such people are now being forced to consider alternative timbers, use inferior feedstock or use evidence-based-design to rationalise the volume of timber used. Whatever the strategy adopted it is clear that innovative thinking, combined with rigorous testing, will be the key to tackling this somewhat absurd paradox.

Connections – behaviour and borders

Max Closen of MyTiCon gave an excellent presentation regarding connection design and structural behaviour. Max’s key point was that failing to understand connection behaviour can punish projects. He also explained that you can be punished by failing to recognize that different countries adopt different design philosophies, and therefore there is often no easy conversion of data across borders. This is something we see on a regular basis with products entering new markets. Often there is no easy answer and retesting is required. To indicate the potential levels of punishment Max cited a NASA case study where their failure to understand this issue cost them US$ 325M!

New thinking and lessons learned

There is a learning curve with any new product or system. It was great to see people sharing lessons learnt or explaining their new mindset which allowed them to unlock unexpected advantages. Gary Caulfield of XLam summed this up best with the following equation:

New Technology + Old Thinking = Expensive New Product

The best way to take advantage of new products is to embrace their advantages and shift your current processes to adapt. Examples of this were given with new business models such as Katerra’s vertical integration, or process driven perspectives like treating delivery trucks as the conveyor belt of construction. Other examples included case studies of hybrid systems where concrete and steel still have an important role to play. In every case, data is being used to catalogue the benefits and allow people to embrace change.


There was an excellent showcase of research posters. We took a few snaps of some of the more interesting examples and have provided them below for your viewing at your leisure.



If you would like more information regarding our work regarding mass timber or the construction industry in general, please contact Tim Porter on +1 303 901 6743 or email

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Published April, 2018