Oregon State University is investigating the failure of a massive cross-laminated timber panel in a new building going up on campus but says it has no plans to abandon the project or switch to more conventional materials.
The incident, which was disclosed by the university on Tuesday, happened a week ago at Peavy Hall, under construction at Southwest 30th Street and Jefferson Way.
A section of subflooring between the building’s second and third stories gave way on the morning of March 14, according to Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president for marketing and university relations.
He said the 4-foot-by-20-foot CLT panel, made up of five layers of 2-by-6 boards glued together at right angles, came crashing down after it delaminated at one end.
“There were no contractors in the area, and no one was injured,” Clark said.
The panel that failed has been replaced and other sections of CLT flooring have been shored up, Clark said. In addition, work has been halted in portions of the project where other cross-laminated timber panels still were being installed.
Andersen Construction, the general contractor on the project, has determined that the worksite is safe, OSU officials said.
The CLT panels used in the building were manufactured by D.R. Johnson Lumber in Riddle. Executives of the company did not return a phone call seeking comment on Tuesday.
Clark said the university plans to bring in an outside engineering firm to determine what caused the CLT panel to fail and evaluate whether any other cross-laminated structural elements in the building were at risk of failure.
“This is quite like any other construction project that has an issue with its construction,” he said. “You stop, you evaluate what the problem is, you fix the problem and you take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
He stressed that the placement of cross-laminated timber panels will resume once the independent evaluation has been completed and any issues have been addressed.
“We have the utmost confidence in CLT,” Clark said.
“Our full intention is to complete the project using cross-laminated timbers.”
The three-story, 80,000-square-foot Peavy Hall is destined to become the new home of the OSU College of Forestry and is intended to be a showcase for the Oregon timber industry, which is eager to show off its capabilities in the emerging field of mass timber construction.
This building technique, which involves using solid wood panels to frame a structure’s walls, floors and roof, has been used for years in Europe, Canada and elsewhere but is just coming into vogue in the United States.
However, the construction project has been deeply unpopular with some students and faculty in the College of Forestry, who argue that the original Peavy Hall, which was demolished in 2016 to make way for the new building, could have been renovated for much less money.
Originally budgeted for $60 million, the project has been dogged by cost overruns and now is slated to cost $79.5 million. Additional funding to complete the building is expected to come from the college in the form of donations, internal loans and revenue from extensive logging of the Blodgett Tract, a 2,400-acre research forest owned by the college in Columbia County.
Anthony Davis, the college’s acting dean, said he did not expect the failure of the CLT panel to further increase the project’s cost or significantly delay its completion, which is scheduled for early next year.
And he added that he still believes the completed Peavy Hall will serve as a compelling advertisement for Oregon’s wood products industry.
“I know the capacity we have, I know the strength of Douglas fir and I am confident in our ability to continue to lead in the development of this material for use in midrise or high-rise buildings,” Davis said.