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Generally, lumber is only considered appropriate for the construction of homes that do not exceed a few stories in height. But numerous academics and construction officials in the United States are hoping that lumber will soon be adopted for the construction of high-rise buildings. Last fall, architecture students and professors with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology introduced a new form of building construction that makes use of cross-laminated timber (CLT). This new form of structural timber is meant to resist degradation arising from environmental factors. These factors include: moisture buildup, fungal rot and termite damage. The use of CLT for constructing homes and buildings is gaining popularity all over the US, but Massachusetts is leading the industry revolution, as the John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is the largest and one of the first CLT constructed buildings in the US. But researchers are skeptical about CLTs effectiveness at resisting termite damage.

The Massachusetts Congressman, John Olver, was so impressed with the CLT constructed buildings in his state that he ordered an additional 36 million dollars for further CLT construction projects. However, one study showed that CLT is susceptible to termite attack, as well as high moisture retention and the development of fungal organisms. This is a potential area of concern, as termites prefer to infest wood with high moisture retention, and studies have shown that termites are attracted to fungal rot on timber. Another study showed that glue laminated timber (GLULAM) is likely to retain moisture and sustain termite attack if wood preservatives are not also applied. Yet another study found that untreated GLULAM timber materials are at a very high risk of sustaining subterranean termite damage, while smoked GLULAM timber was categorized as having a moderate to high risk of sustaining termite damage. However, GLULAM timber treated with the preservative, Imidacloprid, proved to be highly resistant to termite attack. At the moment, there are few studies published that detail the termite resistant features of laminated wood materials, which is of concern to certain academics who believe that officials in Massachusetts are being too hasty with their approval of cross laminated timber as a new form of building material.

Do you believe that the chances of termite attack in your state are too great to allow for the construction of timber-framed high-rise buildings and residential homes?