Established in 1922, Freres Lumber may be one of the oldest family-owned and operated businesses in Oregon, United States, but it is also known for adopting cutting-edge technologies that transform and modernise construction practices. As a premier wood products manufacturing company known for its innovative, high-quality and sustainable wood products, Freres Lumber recently developed and released a new patented engineered wood product, the Mass Plywood Panels (MPP).
PFA speaks to Tyler Freres, vice president of Sales.
A veneer-based engineered wood product, MPP is a Mass Timber Panel that is produced by combining extremely thin 1/8 inch thick Douglas Fir veneers, resulting in a densely layered, large-format wood platform that can be made to exact specifications and cut with CNC machines. It is considered to be a Structural Composite Lumber (SCL), rather than plywood.
Kyle Freres, Vice President of Operations (left) and Tyler Freres, Vice President of Sales, at the Freres MPP Plant
“We call our product Mass Plywood Panels ‘plywood’ as an homage to the product we have been making for decades. In reality, the certification codes require the classification of the panels first as SCL under ASTM D 5456 and then as CLT under PRG 320. There is a required product path in the PRG 320 standard,” said Freres.
SCL is a family of engineered wood products that includes laminated veneer lumber(LVL), parallel strand lumber (PSL), laminated strand lumber (LSL) and oriented strand lumber (OSL) and is typically used as structural elements such as headers, beams, joist and columns.
THE ONLY MASS TIMBER PANEL MADE ENTIRELY OF SCL
MPP is currently the only Mass Timber Panel constructed entirely of SCL. It has also earned a CLT classification. Simply put, the MPP is the embodiment of both the SCL and CLT.
So what is the significance? In manufacturing terms, Freres explained that “Mass timber panels typically include CLT, NLT(nail laminated timber), and DLT(dowel laminated timber) which use lumber as the primary raw material to construct a panel with definable design values across the minor and major force directions.”
“NLT and DLT are primarily uni-directional and have the most strength in the long-grain direction of the lumber. CLT allows for values in both directions due to the orthogonal layup of lumber lamellas within the CLT panels. Using SCL in the format designed and constructed by Freres allows for definable minor and major force direction design values in each individual lamella, offering stability across both axis of the panel. This allows MPP to increase by 1-inch increments instead of by 2-plies for each increase in structural requirements.”
While its PRG-320 certification allows for MPP to be currently used in plank orientation, similar to CLT, Freres anticipates the use of MPP for columns, beams, floors, roofs and walls in the future, due to its SCL properties.
Freres invested more than US$35 million since 2015 to develop the product as well as to build its production facility.
Versatility is one of MPP’s strongest selling points. With the raw panel size limited to 12 feet (3.6 metres) wide by 48 ft (14.6 m) long by up to 24 inches (61 cm) thick, MPP can be cut to almost any shape and size, with required joints. Current operations limit cut panel thickness to 12 inches (30.5 cm), although plans are in the works to allow processing up to 24 inches.
An interesting fact – there are 108 veneer layers within a 12-inch thick panel, which Freres like to think of it as “108 layers of versatility”. Each veneer layer can be engineered by density, orientation and grade, allowing flexibility for every panel.
This means that MPP products can go big – used for almost any structural wood element in a mass timber building; or go small, where it is available in thickness as thin as 2 inches, potentially allowing cost effective use in single-family residential structures.
Additionally, MPP panels can be “skinned” with any finished architectural panel for an aesthetically pleasing wood finish, such as the small knot appearance of 2nd or 3rd growth Douglas Fir.
MPP is also strong, fire-resistant, and lighter per volume than traditional building materials such as concrete or steel. In addition, the dense layering of wood veneers in MPP can result in high levels of thermal insulation. All resins used within the MPP are CARB-compliant.
For the rest of the article, please refer to the most recent issue of Wood in Architecture.