Inspiration For Designing With NLT

Innovation with NLT is inspiring new opportunities for large- and small-scale buildings across sectors with projects like Clay Creative and T3.

Mass timber interior of UBC Bookstore
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Nail-laminated timber (NLT) allows the creation of a monolithic “slab” of wood from off-the-shelf dimension lumber, supporting a broad range of architectural opportunities.

Historically, NLT was primarily used for the construction of warehouses and other large buildings. While flat floors and roofs remain the most common NLT building elements, more expressive and dynamic forms are being explored.

Here we explore different ways NLT can be used in designs.

Creating simple curves from NLT is relatively easy. The roof of Aberdeen Station is composed of gently curving steel channels which support the lumber, creating a modular, prefabricated panel that was craned into place. The channels were bolted to the adjacent panel channels.

Aberdeen Canada Line Station, Richmond BC Architecture: Perkins + Will. (Photo Credit: Martin Tessler)

Overhead view of Abderdeen Canada Line Station with NLT ceiling

NLT is most commonly exposed at the ceiling, where it is protected from wear and the elements.

Although NLT floors and roofs can be covered by finishes, it is often left exposed as a key design element.

T3 Minneapolis MN | Architect: Michael Green Architecture + DLR Group | Photography courtesy of Ema Peter and wood specialist consultant architecture firm MGA | Michael Green Architecture.

T3 interior view of mass timber ceiling and windows

Although NLT floors and roofs can be covered by finishes, it is often left exposed as a key design element.

Samuel Brighouse Elementary | Architecture: Perkins + Will | Photo: Nic Lehoux.

The atrium at Samuel Brighouse Elementary School, advances the same concept with integrated steel struts and tension cables, turning the NLT into a truss system to create a whimsically undulating roof. Compound curves are also possible.

Brentwood Station, Burnaby BC | Architecture: Perkins + Will | Photo: Nic Lehoux

The NLT at Brentwood station is curved perpendicular to the laminations, and used a combination of curved NLT, curved-in-plan. The NLT is curved to follow the shape of the glued-laminated beams. This photo shows the form of the NLT curved-in-plan to accommodate the overall form of the station. The NLT spans between the curved glued-laminated beams set at varying angles, resulting in a building form with compound curvature.

This is an overview to help designers and architects become familiar with NLT’s versatility to create compelling designs.

More detailed information is available in the US NLT Design and Construction Guide.

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