Murray Woolcock

Lendlease recently celebrated the opening of the new Candlewood Suites at Redstone Arsenal, the first hotel in the United States to be completely constructed using cross laminated timber (CLT). The hotel’s completion, made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Army, Lendlease and IHG Army Hotels, highlighted the many benefits and potential uses for CLT in both private and public developments. Murray Woolcock, executive general manager at Lendlease, shared insight on why the project was a success, as well as his observations on the growing momentum of CLT in the United States. 

As the exclusive developer for the DoD’s only lodging privatization program, can you speak to the dynamics of working on a public-private development within the context of sustainability? 

We at Lendlease are focused on triple bottom line, and social, economic and environmental sustainability within the program has been a core focus of ours. Just completing the first CLT hotel is a testament to the innovation that arose from a challenge to the status quo. Our goal was to be more sustainable and efficient in the way that we develop and construct our buildings. 

Incorporating CLT into any project requires cooperation and teamwork early on in the process, so as to maximize the potential benefits and effectiveness of the material. We are very fortunate to have a collaborative partner in the DoD, and especially the Army, in addition to our CLT manufacturer Nordic. Additionally, a large part of the dynamic was the education and training required to implement such an innovation at multiple levels. Without such a progressive and adventurous partner in the DoD, this would not have been possible. 

Why was this particular material a good fit for the project needs? 

CLT is an excellent fit for a variety of projects depending on design criteria, labor and schedule needs.

The material is 75 percent lighter than concrete, and can be assembled with fewer workers in less time than traditional concrete and steel framing. In the case of the Redstone Arsenal project, on-site framing labor was reduced by 43 percent, and we reduced the schedule’s structural duration by 37 percent. CLT also has lower embodied energy and a lower carbon footprint than steel and concrete. The thermal mass provided by CLT acts as a ballast between temperature swings and can increase energy performance by 31 percent. Moreover, CLT can greatly reduce construction waste compared to traditional projects; the Redstone Arsenal project generated only 4.5 pounds of waste per square feet. 

CLT also provided us a great system for delivering our projects safely through innovations in edge protection and coordinated design and by employing less labor on site. Additionally, Lendlease employed and trained Army veteran workers to build the Redstone Arsenal project.

From your perspective as a developer, is CLT becoming a more readily available material? 

Since CLT is made from wood, and tree species vary widely within the United States and Europe, the manufactured CLT product varies accordingly, based on the local timber available in each area. These engineered products have different sizes and strength—properties that may influence the ultimate building design. Understanding these nuances up front is essential for a cost-effective project design.

Although today there are more CLT manufacturers in Europe than North America, the product is readily available from both foreign and domestic manufacturers, with increasing market interest in the United States. There is a large supply of wood in the States that has the potential for use in CLT manufacturing. 

Lendlease has five CLT projects under its belt, which suggests that other developers can find success in the material too. Do you anticipate a rise in the use of CLT industry-wide? 

Momentum is growing for CLT utilization in the United States, and we hope that the example set at Redstone Arsenal will help further others’ efforts to incorporate CLT into building projects in both the private and military sectors. You can see the emergence of CLT reflected in the winners of the USDA and Softwood Lumber Board’s Tall Wood Building competition; both prizewinners plan to use CLT and mass timber as the primary structure. We are certainly encouraged by the increasing activity of CLT projects being developed or planned here, and expect to see many more emerge as the industry realizes the many benefits—including sustainability, safety, cost and schedule efficiencies.