If you were a designer tasked with choosing the construction materials for a new development, what would be the first options that come to mind? Most people would think of wood, concrete and steel – the most common building materials. But now mass timber is becoming a very popular choice, so why should you choose that? There are plenty of benefits to building with mass timber, including the pleasing aesthetics and speed of construction. Connection design has a direct impact on aesthetics and practicality for construction.

Aesthetics of mass timber

Mass timber has a unique look and feel and is often left exposed indoors providing a natural and bright interior finish. The clean wood look is aided by using hidden engineered connections. Engineers spend time detailing concealed connections using a variety of steel components including specialty screws to resist forces all the while maintaining the look of the wood.

Practicality of mass timber

Mass timber installation time is related to the connection design, and engineers will look for practical ways to connect mass timber panels, beams and columns to ensure that installation will be carried out efficiently during construction. In some locations, forces may be so high that hardware cannot be concealed. Whereas buildings with higher fire ratings may require that the hardware be concealed within the wood members to provide additional fire protection through encapsulation (where the wood chars and insulates the steel within). In all cases, the connection design will be reviewed by the supplier and installer to ensure that the construction process is not adversely affected while meeting the building’s performance criteria, particularly when a type of connection is repeated multiple times within a building.

So, which is the more important trait for your design – aesthetics or practicality? They work hand-in-hand and require a careful balance of engineering, constructability, and aesthetics. Mass timber is a versatile material and suits many different types of projects. Connect these qualities when you design your buildings – your occupants will enjoy the benefit of the appearance, and your builders will love you for the speed and efficiency of practical, straightforward construction using mass timber.