Modular builder Katerra plans mass-timber plant
Turnkey modular construction company Katerra has announced plans to open a mass-timber production facility in Spokane Valley, WA. Construction will begin this fall and production is expected to start in early 2018. The facility will generate 150 jobs.
The 250,000-square-foot plant will produce engineered wood products including cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glulam for floor and wall panels and structural beams. The company is working with Washington State University’s Composite Materials and Engineering Center to develop and test the products.
Products from the facility will be used on Katerra projects, including the hospitality center at Kootenai Health, in Coeur D’Alene, ID, which will combine Ronald McDonald House and Walden House temporary residences.
The company's move to mass-timber manufacturing has a few purposes, Todd Beyreuther, senior director of advanced building materials at Katerra, told Construction Dive. For one, it will help the company scale up production of the emerging CLT product category in North America. The plant will support Katerra projects as well as those of other area contractors looking to build with the material.
"If you look at the actual supply chains for the market that we're addressing, there is need for strategic placement of this manufacturing and also operations related to the actual source of the fiber," Beyreuther said. "The site selection of Spokane is strategic on the market side but also very strategic on the resource side."
The factory is initially targeting capacity of 115,000 cubic meters of engineered wood products per year. In addition to wood production, Katerra will also produce modular assemblies at the plant. The Spokane facility joins a light frame wall and floor assembly plant in Phoenix.
Katerra's primary focus is multifamily construction — for now. Beyreuther says the new material type could allow the company to expand into other building types and heights (of six to 12 stories) that are not achievable with light-frame construction. Those include larger hospitality, student housing, commercial and retail projects.
Of course, the challenges facing CLT in the market are many. For one, the still-emerging product commands a higher price-point than more common materials like concrete and steel. Scaling up production requires demand, and that's something high prices can keep at bay. Changes to how mass-timber products like CLT are addressed in the building code relative to heavy-timber and stick-frame construction is perhaps the most significant catalyst for broader adoption.