Pulling in the right direction: Update in Pullman

Through our networking Callum and I have been able to arrange various factory tours as well as a stay in the college campus in Pullman. 


As mentioned in previous blogs, the state of Washington, is an exciting place to for the mass timber industry in the U.S, two manufactures currently opening factories in the area practically doubles the amount of factories in the US. Coupled with code changes, the natural resources the state has the potential to be a north American hub for mass timber in the future. We had the privilege of visiting the Katterra, soon to be the biggest in the world, as well as having the honour of a personal tour of Vaagen timbers by the CEO. The levels of control as well as automation looking to be installed within the factories was both impressive and unfathomable, with the sheer scale of the operation. We were also able to continue the conversations that we had with the University professors and gain an understanding from an industry perspective. Furthermore it was extremely beneficial for the learning journey have a discussion with the factories who operated differently and had varying business models. The two companies come from polar opposite backgrounds although both are massively passionate about the potential of CLT, the enthusiasm is definitely contagious.


During week 7 of our internship we were invited down to Pullman, the main campus for Washington state University, by Ryan Smith the dean of the architecture school who made this internship possible and whom we owe a massive thanks to. During our time in Pullman Ryan was able to get us in contact with some key figures at the University research labs who are playing a pivotal role in the development and certification of CLT in the state. We had the opportunity to sit down have a chat with the professors, direct questions to them on key issues on CLT as well as grey areas which would help up dot up the missing pieces together. It’s a situation where I have always been on the receiving side, the first time was very strange but as each interview passed confidence grew, questions as well discussions from previous dialogues could be matured and more refined for going into the next.

We had the opportunity to talk to people from different backgrounds and fields, from wood engineers, civil/structural engineers to construction managers. It was valuable getting views and opinions of questions/topics from completely different perspectives, to create a comprehensive outlook of Cross laminated timber from academia. It also allowed us to gain in inside perspective from people who have watched the movement and progression of CLT in America, seeing how the journey has developed.  

Callum and I had such good time in Pullman, even though the place was destered due to the town being mainly being habituated by students, who were obviously away for summer. It was nice getting to see a different part of the state, which landscapes changes drastically, where the norths trees, mountains and waterfalls transitions into the mesmerizing rolling wheat fields of the Palouse in the south. Made iconic by the Windows XP screensaver. We were also overwhelmed by Ryan and his wife’s incredible hospitality who had invited us for an brilliant dinner even though they were hosting 5 other family members on top of their family of 7!! Which would seem a nightmare for anyone to cook for that amount of people, however Ryan’s wife is a chef, so she didn’t have a problem at all and on top of that probably cooked my favourite meal of the trip so far! We were also took on a hike to witness a stunning sunset, and took on a trip to a farmers market in the near by town of Moscow, Idaho. It was a pleasure getting to know Ryan as well as his family.


Our next steps heading back up to Spokane, are to try and transcribe then dissect and analyse the I vast amount of first-hand information collected through our interviews. Hopefully use the individual interviews as aggregate in a larger generalised opinion and then to document it into something tangible which will help us tell the story of clts journey. 

This week has been a standout, and really has been incredibly beneficial, to come down and get first-hand accounts of expert’s knowledge and experience with CLT has been invaluable. It has also gave me more interest in the material, after hearing the enthusiasm of some professors, some whom have over 30 years in the industry and have never been so excited about one single product. It really puts it into perspective how revolutionary CLT has been and will be.,