A new interdisciplinary collaboration between colleges is set to make Auburn University a leader in the rapidly growing mass timber industry.
The Auburn Mass Timber Collaborative will work to advance research, education and outreach in mass timber design and construction with a focus on the forestry, architecture, engineering and construction industries in the Southeast.
"We start with forestry, where we provide expertise on wood as a material, followed by engineering, who ensures structural safety. Then architecture helps to make these structures more functional and appealing, and the end product is a mass timber material that opens up new pathways for nonresidential construction in Alabama."
“Mass timber building technologies represent some of the most promising solutions to the challenges associated with how we build in the 21st century,” said David Hinson, associate dean and the R. Hugh Daniel Professor in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction (CADC). “Helping advance and expand the use of advanced wood building systems will translate to economic growth and jobs throughout Alabama and the region.”
The organization will offer coursework, certificates and research initiatives for undergraduates, with the goal of ensuring all students in related areas of study are introduced to mass timber. Graduate students will have the opportunity to work with faculty to research mass timber production, performance, design and application, aiming to expand and accelerate the adoption of mass timber construction in the Southeast.
In terms of outreach, the collaborative plans on offering workshops and conferences both on campus and regionally, as well as online learning resources. Faculty will share experience-based knowledge, perspective and expertise with industry professionals, taking a Southeastern forest-first approach to mass timber and aligning the construction industry with the local forest ecology.
Members of the Auburn Mass Timber Collaborative have already received more than $12 million in extramural funding to support research in this growing field.
With some of the top research facilities in the region, Auburn University is well-equipped to dive into this collaboration. Available resources include the Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory, the Forest Products Development Center's wood science laboratory, the CADC Research Shop’s CLT press and fabrication equipment, the Robins & Morton Construction Field Lab and Rural Studio, a design-build studio in rural Alabama that allows for full-scale prototyping and performance research.
Architecture Program Chair Il Kim conducts a review with fourth year architecture students during a studio exploring the benefits of mass timber.
“We’re getting the opportunity to test the limits of mass timber here in our Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory for everything from designing blast-resistant structures for the Department of Defense to advancing hybrid steel-timber floor assemblies in low- and mid-rise structures,” said David Roueche, a Ginn Faculty Achievement Fellow and associate professor in civil engineering. “We are excited to be pushing the boundaries with this research, not only for the direct research benefits, but also for the talented students it is attracting to our university and the opportunity to integrate it into our timber design courses.”
The Auburn Mass Timber Collaborative features expertise spanning the full spectrum of the mass timber supply chain, including four faculty members from various areas of study in forestry, five faculty members from architecture, one from landscape architecture, three from structural engineering and two from building science. As the team members gear up to begin research operations, they are currently applying for grants, reaching out to industry partners and reviewing campus projects that have the potential to utilize mass timber, just as the recently built Hey Day Market did. The group is also planning the 2024 Mass Timber Conference at Auburn.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how my colleagues’ disciplines fit together,” said Brian Via, Regions Bank Professor and director of CFWE’s Forest Products Development Center. “We start with forestry, where we provide expertise on wood as a material, followed by engineering, who ensures structural safety. Then architecture and engineering help to make these structures more functional and appealing, and the end product is a mass timber material that opens up new pathways for nonresidential construction in Alabama.”