Critical Factors in the Willingness to Adopt Innovative Wood-Based Building Materials in the Construction Industry: The Case Of CLT

6.5 hours
Poster Session
Meridian Foyer

Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) is an innovative structural system based on the use of large-format, multilayered panels made from solid wood boards glued together and layered at 90 degrees to each other. Developed in the early 1990s in Switzerland, the system has been successful in Europe for the past 20 years, and more recently has made inroads into the North America markets. There is an abundance of information on the technology of building with CLT. However, one area that has received limited attention has been potential adopters’ perceptions and willingness to accept CLT, which will ultimately lead to trial and adoption of this new system. No previous research has been reported or is underway analyzing the acceptance of CLT by major decision makers in the construction industry. This research contributes to a better understanding of the approval process and market potential for CLT and other novel wood-based construction materials in the United States. This project is aimed at identifying the critical factors influencing the willingness of US construction professionals to accept new wood-based construction materials. The overall objective was achieved by: (a) investigating the level of awareness, perceptions, and willingness to select CLT among structural engineers and construction firms; (b) developing a conceptual model including the most critical factors that influence the adoption of innovative wood-based construction materials among structural engineers and construction firms; and (c) identifying distinct market segments for CLT implementation in the US.

The project was carried out in five stages: (1) Literature review related to CLT and adoption of new materials; (2) a nationwide survey of 3200 engineering and construction firms, to statistically infer the level of awareness, perceptions and willingness to support CLT; (3) interviews to 60 engineering and construction firms, to follow up on the information obtained in the surveys and gain a deeper understanding on CLT; (4) development of a model of the factors that influence the willingness to take up CLT among US engineering and construction firms; factor analysis was for this analysis; and (5) identification of the most promising market segments for this innovative wood-based building system in the country. Cluster analysis software was used to identify segments. This study found that environmental and aesthetic performance were the main perceived advantages of CLT. The most commonly cited disadvantages of CLT were its fire performance, durability, and lack of availability in the US market. Regarding familiarity with CLT among the target audience, results show that the level of awareness of CLT is low. The conceptual model developed for US engineering firms includes factors such as firm size, aesthetics, moisture performance, vibration performance, LEED credits, and availability of design tools as the main factors affecting willingness to consider CLT. Using cluster analysis, six distinct market segments were identified in the two populations of interest (US engineering and construction firms). The outcomes from this research help fill the gap in the knowledge about the market adoption process for novel wood-based materials in the construction industry.

This study also contributes to advance the development of the CLT industry in the United States by increasing the demand of wood-based construction materials and supporting the creation of employment in a sector of critical importance to the US economy. The target audience for this study is composed of construction professionals, manufacturers, organizations supporting the wood industry, government agencies, and building officials. Findings from this thesis provide useful information that will help these actors accelerate the acceptance of CLT through well-designed educational programs, demonstration projects, marketing strategies, and policy incentives.