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Seattle School District celebrates new cross-laminated timber modular classrooms

Pilot project brings potential environmental and economic benefits as well as efficiency in construction process

The Seattle School District is celebrating completion of new modular classrooms using an innovative new building product called cross-laminated timber (CLT) under a pilot project funded by the state Legislature and overseen by the state Department of Enterprise Services.

In all, 20 kindergarten through third-grade classrooms have been constructed using CLT in five school districts in Washington. CLT is a prefabricated, solid engineered wood panel. CLT stores and sequesters carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere, and is a renewable natural resource.

In the Seattle School District, four third-grade classrooms were constructed at Maple Elementary.

"We are pleased to have been included as a pilot site for the cross laminated timber classrooms," says Flip Herndon, associate superintendent for Seattle Public Schools' Capital, Facilities and Enrollment Planning division. "With our growing enrollment, we urgently need more classroom space. Plus, seeing this beautiful material, it's clear that children will enjoy being around it."

CLT is manufactured in the Northwest using trees that in the past have not been economical to harvest, including Douglas fir, Western hemlock and other trees that have diameters as small as 4 inches -- or are dead or diseased trees. Forests in the state are filled with such trees, which can fuel wildfires and pest outbreaks.

"The cross-laminated timber pilot project is a win for the economy, the environment and for public schools where additional classroom space is needed," said Gov. Jay Inslee.

"A Seattle schoolroom is an excellent place to demonstrate this innovative wood product," says Hilary S. Franz, the state's Commissioner of Public Lands. "Children, parents, and the greater community are learning how beautiful and sustainable CLT is. This project and product can stimulate the market to create manufacturing and rural jobs, while providing a great way for us to turn unhealthy trees into a marketable product, sustain the forestry economy and most importantly, return our state's forests to less crowded, healthier ecosystems."

This project and product can stimulate the market to create manufacturing and rural jobs, while providing a great way for us to turn unhealthy trees into a marketable product, sustain the forestry economy and most importantly, return our state's forests to less crowded, healthier ecosystems," she said.

CLT Pilot

The state's 2016 supplemental capital budget included $5.5 million in the state building construction account for the pilot project to construct the classrooms and to measure:

  • Efficiencies in the construction process.
  • Other environmental and economic benefits from using the engineered wood products.

"The cross-laminated Timber classrooms are exactly the type of pilot project we need more of because there are huge potential benefits for both the economy and the environment," said Enterprise Services Director Chris Liu. "I'd like to thank the Governor and the Legislature, the participating school districts and our private sector partners for helping to make this happen."

In addition to the pilot project, the Department of Enterprise Services oversees numerous public works design and construction projects on behalf of the state.

Additional CLT projects

In addition to the classrooms being built at Maple Elementary, four modular classrooms were built in each of the following school districts:

Western Washington

  • Mount Vernon School District – Jefferson Elementary
  • Sequim School District – Greywolf Elementary

Eastern Washington

  • Wapato School District – Adams Elementary
  • Toppenish School District – Valley View Elementary

More information

Learn more about the pilot project and the potential benefits that will be assessed on the DES Cross Laminated Timber Pilot Project webpage.

View the CLT Flickr photo album.

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