Who Will Be the Future of Industrialized Construction?

Originally published by the following source: SBC MagazineNovember 22, 2019
by Jess Lohse with contributions by Molly Butz, Sean Shields and Kirk Grundahl


SBCA participated in the Industrialized Wood-Based Construction Conference (IWBC) held in Boston November 4th-6th. Both SBCA members and staff were among the roughly 450 attendees, learning from the keynote and breakout speakers while networking in the exhibit space between sessions. Among the key note presenters were Craig Curtis, Katerra’s Chief Architect, Phil Bernstein of Yale’s Architecture School, George Legendre of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, John Burns of JBREC, Margaret Whelan of Whelan Advisory, and Robert Hairstans of Edinburgh Napier University

Attendees were challenged to think beyond status quo construction practices and imagine a significantly more efficient construction industry built around the use of wood and wood fiber. All members of the supply chain were encouraged to embrace more efficient techniques from architectural design to framing labor installation practices. Specifically, cross laminated timber (CLT), volumetric modular, component systems and digital technology for streamlined design were addressed in multiple sessions. The approach became one of thinking about all of our past knowledge and how that knowledge interfaces with items like Autodesk’s machine learning program that designs the entire framework of a building automatically. The goal was to stimulate a discussion about what the future of construction can look like if it is centered on wood-based construction.

The exhibit space included companies looking to be viewed as the disrupters of the construction industry. Among them were SBCA and a number of its members, including: Hundegger USARandek ABStiles MachineryDietrich’s SoftwarePaslode (Alpine ITW), Metsä Wood USASauter TimberSpida USAStiles MachinerySEMA Software, and MiTek

Of unique interest was Earlybird Technologies, which is working on an Artificial Intelligence (machine learning) software tool for I-joist floor layout and design.  Of specific value to component manufacturers, is the possibility of this approach being adapted to floor truss and roof truss layout and design software.

SBCA sponsored IWBC and encouraged its members to attend in order to learn more about the future of wood-based construction and be engaged in the conversation, advocating for the use of industrialized structural framing in residential and light-frame commercial construction. Wood-based framing including roof trusses, wall panels and floor trusses remain the most cost efficient method of structural framing, and market opportunities exist to combine components with emerging construction trends such as CLT. To that end, Kirk Grundahl, SBCA’s executive director, presented at IWBC on Leveraging the Component Industry to Provide Efficient Wood Based Structures.

In its second year, IWBC provided an opportunity for construction industry professionals to gather and think beyond their day-to-day operations, inspiring the building practices of the future. IWBC announced that it will once again hold its conference for 2020 in Boston, allowing it to tap into academic speakers located in the northeast, as well as a wide array of presenters from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

For additional information on SBCA's involvement with the IWBC Conference, please visit the following articles and SBCA's webpage created for the conference: