In late 2014, my company had the opportunity to frame a 1,500-square-foot infill home in Seattle using a panelized building system called “cross laminated timber,” or CLT. We were one of the first residential builders in the U.S. to use it. Although we were familiar with a panelized approach, having used structural insulated panels, we found that CLTs have their own learning curve.

CLT panels are solid, made from 2-by stock bonded together under pressure with a thermosetting adhesive. The layers are cross-laminated, like plywood, with the grain on each layer running 90 degrees to the adjacent layers. Panels for commercial construction (the biggest market worldwide) can have as many as seven layers, but the ones we used for...

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