Mass Timber Series Week 2: Comparing Housing Construction in North America and Europe

Why does North America continue to use other materials in new housing developments, while Europe more commonly implements timber (despite their seemingly similar access to natural resources)?

Mass Timber 3
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Both North America and Europe have access to similar natural resources and yet, build houses with different materials. While Europe incorporates timber into the construction of new housing, North America constructs with other materials. Why does timber implementation vary between these two countries and how might the inconsistency affect the industry?

Participate in the discussion alongside industry experts @David_Stallcop @David_Bagdy @Igor_Adriaensen @Andrey_Tikhomirov @Neill_Gibson @Bella_Carmelita_Carr !


One factor here may be the emphasis on cost in building homes. The US is a very mobile society, and construction has evolved over the centuries to be as affordable as possible, without a true emphasis on how sturdy the structure is, and how long it will last. People think of buying or building a home for 10, 20, or 30 years. In contrast, in Europe people still live in homes build 100s of years ago, sometimes dating back to the 1400s.
Another difference is the percentage of homes that are single family is likely a lot higher in the US and Canada, due to the availability of land, which is much more scarce in Europe. So in Europe the majority of housing is not single family. I don’t know the official statistics on that, especially since we are lumping many countries together as “Europe”, but will try to look for some references.
My immediate thoughts gang! @David_Stallcop @David_Bagdy @Igor_Adriaensen @Andrey_Tikhomirov @Neill_Gibson @Bella_Carmelita_Carr !


This is a great site to reference


@Franco_Piva How does the Mass Timber industry of Italy / Europe compare to North America? I hear Europe is farther along in the adoption of Mass Timber, is that right?


My question is specifically about comparing the construction of new apartment buildings in urban areas-- it seems like there’s a lot of new housing going up of similar type/ scale in North America and Europe right now, but America especially still prioritizes concrete and steel systems, over Mass Timber. Currently, I’m seeing more Mass Timber apartment buildings built in Europe, does this just boil down to costs? How can we get developers in the U.S. to value Mass Timber in the construction of housing?


Excellent way to laser focus the discussion. It would be helpful to get some developers/builders to participate and weigh in here.
@David_Stallcop were such developers and builders represented at the MassTimber conference 2 weeks ago?
@Nic_Wilson which developers/builders should we invite that have expertise on the topic?


Mass Timber construction originated in Europe, so it has a head start there. Additionally, because it is a new method of construction it takes time for architects, the construction industry, and building codes to adjust and become comfortable with the new technology. It also has to prove it can outcompete the existing ways of doing things. While Europe may be ahead in this, they also use quite a bit of brick and concrete in home construction in my experience. Europe may be ahead of North America in mass timber construction, but it is still a small fraction of total construction everywhere, even if it is an interesting technology.


Yes, at the mass timber conference there were developers/builders represented as well. People from every part of the Mass Timber supply chain from nearly every continent were in attendance.


Here is an article from 2014 titled “Mass Timber Revolution?” It takes time for new ways to be adopted. "


In order to begin a proper comparison of the Mass Timber Industry of America and Europe, could we begin by mapping out the complete set of players in the industry?

From what I’ve learned so far, the Mass Timber Industry needs

  1. Manufacturer/Fabricators
  • These players produce the Mass Timber Components.
  • Could this be further subdivided into
    A. Primary Manufacturers → manufacturers of the strips of wood that go into CLT?
    B. Secondary Manufacturers → manufacturers of complete CLT blocks
    C. Fabricators → manufacturers that cut CLT blocks to specified dimensions & attach connection links
  1. Structural Engineers → produce structural specifications for fabricators?
  2. Designers/ Architects → produce models, design specifications, and assembly plans
  3. Assemblers / Builders → connecting the components together

@ARNIE_DIDIER @Dusan_Milutinovic @Oleg_Semenov @Steve_Marshall @Ben_Jordan @KayCee_Hallstrom @Jerry_Truex @Jerry_Truex @Aitor_Arteta @Josh_Trayner @Nic_Wilson @David_Stallcop @Franco_Piva @Andrey_Tikhomirov @Igor_Adriaensen

Do you think Europe’s adoption of Mass Timber is ahead of America? If so why?


For sure Europe has always been way ahead of North America in terms of mass timber, glulam beams and CLT panels. The first glulam was used in Europe in the early 1890’s and in 1901 a company in Sweden patented it. The first glulam structure in the US was in 1934. CLT panels were first developed and used in Germany and Austria in the early 1990’s. CLT panels were first introduced to the North American market in the early 2000’s.


How does this difference in material use affect the prices of the housing market on both continents?
@ARNIE_DIDIER @Dusan_Milutinovic @Oleg_Semenov @Steve_Marshall @Ben_Jordan @KayCee_Hallstrom @Jerry_Truex @Aitor_Arteta @Josh_Trayner @Nic_Wilson @David_Stallcop @Franco_Piva @Andrey_Tikhomirov @Igor_Adriaensen @David_Bagdy @Neill_Gibson @Bella_Carmelita_Carr


To get started

click "All channels"

to select what

interests you