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Exposing the beauty of engineered wood

A glimpse into the creative application of engineered wood products on one of the largest mass timber projects in the Pacific Northwest.

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October 01, 2020 |
APA – The Engineered Wood Association

The McLaughlin Middle School/Marshall Elementary School, located in Vancouver, Washington, is one of the largest mass timber projects in the Pacific Northwest, at an astonishing 203,000 square feet. The project was carried out by Western Wood Structures, a local construction company based out of Tualatin, Oregon, that specializes in mass timber installation. 

Mike Dyer, project manager for Western Wood Structures, is no stranger to the benefits of engineered wood products. His company has been building with mass timber for more than 50 years. “We love the product because it doesn’t have the natural flaws of traditional timber. It’s a very consistent building material” he said. 

Vancouver Public Schools wanted to begin incorporating wood into its schools. 

“People are moving toward wood because of the environmental benefits,” Dyer said. “It’s sustainable and renewable, and people feel good about that.” 


Environmental Benefits of Engineered Wood 

Increased demand for wood products encourages healthy forest maintenance, and the regeneration absorbs more greenhouse gases. Wood sequesters carbon from the environment as the tree grows, and buildings made with engineered wood continue to have a net benefit on the environment. More at

In addition to sustainability, the school district was also enamored by the warmth and natural aesthetic of the mass timber. The school district chose to leave the wood exposed, so people could see its natural beauty and the structural elements, creating a strong focal point. 


Biophilia and Learning

Wood products can positively affect the learning environment. The natural beauty and aesthetic of exposed wood creates a warm and enriching atmosphere. More research is backing the hypothesis of “biophilia,” or the tendency for humans to prefer natural materials. Research suggests that natural materials, like engineered wood, support increased focus and productivity that is conducive to an effective learning environment. Read more about biophilia and the research behind it at



Optimizing Efficiency

The Vancouver school project used cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glulam, provided by APA member Structurlam, for the main horizontal systems. Using mass timber significantly increased the speed of erection. “Our crew was able to set entire floors of CLT panels in just a few days, which would normally take a week or two with traditional framing,” Dyer said. “The beauty of mass timber is that all the fabrication required for the project is done when it shows up. It’s much more precise and very beneficial for the timeline of the project.” 

Engineered wood products can be manufactured in dimensions specific to the project, resulting in less wasted scrap materials. Traditional lumber requires cutting, drilling and tooling on location, which requires more labor hours, produces more waste and creates more room for errors. 

The mass timber improved safety on the job site. “It allowed our crew to spend less time preventing safety issues and constructing components to walk on, because instead, they had a large, sturdy panel to walk on,” Dyer said. “It reduced the number of our crew members that were in the air.” 

The project was met with innovation by Western Wood Structures. “We developed a special rigging form for lifting the different sized CLT panels and ensuring they were precisely set in place,” he said.

With over 800 CLT panels, and more than 700 different shapes and weights, the company needed a rigging system that was simple, but could accommodate the variety. Western Wood Structures’ project engineers designed, developed and manufactured a rigging system that allowed the crew to install over 30 panels, or 10,000 square feet of floor or roof a day. 


Read more at  

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APA – The Engineered Wood Association

For over 85 years, APA – The Engineered Wood Association has focused on helping the industry create structural wood products of exceptional strength, versatility and reliability. Combining the research efforts of scientists at APA’s 42,000 square-foot research with the knowledge gained from decades of field work and cooperation with our member manufacturers, APA promotes new solutions and improved processes.

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