Mass timber is on the move. Just ask Matt Miller.
Miller is the superintendent for the newly formed Webcor Timber, a division of San Francisco-based builder Webcor, which is geared specifically to meet burgeoning demand for mass timber in the Bay Area.
Here, Miller speaks with Construction Dive about why Webcor started the company, what it expects to accomplish and the shifting attitudes toward mass timber as a material.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: Why is Webcor launching a mass timber venture?
MATT MILLER: We saw the opportunity with the workforce that we currently have to get into a more sustainable market sector. A lot of the work that's done for these mass timber buildings is putting together a big puzzle, no different than putting together a concrete structure. In fact, a lot of the time, there's still concrete components that can't go all mass timber for the high seismic loads that are here in California.
Being a contractor that can do all that work at the same time, instead of having two different contractors out on site, one to do the concrete and one to do the timber, we're a one-stop shop. It's one contract that you're writing at the end of the day.
A lot of owners and developers have started reconsidering the carbon footprint of the buildings that they're building. We believe it is an emerging technology that is shaping the way people think, and a lot of our clients are considering it.
What's demand like for mass timber in California?
Right now, it's crazy. The current backlog of a lot of the mass timber suppliers is about two years. The appetite is huge.
Basically, every project I've looked at in California over the last two years, whether office or residential, they're considering mass timber. It could be a full mass timber system, or a hybrid system with structural steel and mass timber floor panels on the project, which wouldn't have been considered in the past.
How many projects do you anticipate Webcor Timber will complete over the next few years?
Currently, we have two that are both beginning construction right now. They're in the foundation phase, which is still a concrete foundation.
We'll be installing on both those projects come February and March, and then we have a couple more that are currently in the bidding and estimating phase that we're in hot pursuit with. I would imagine, by year's end, we'll probably be in the middle of three or four projects and hoping to gain six or eight next year.
Do you think there's still a hesitancy towards new types of construction like mass timber? Are you seeing that resistance subside at all?
There is still some skepticism out there, but I'm seeing it start to break down.
When you work with it, you see the benefits. There's less on-site labor required than a structural steel project or a concrete project. More of the components are able to be manufactured and built off site and then just get delivered to the site ready to be put in place.