What is Glued Laminated Wood (Glulam)?

What is Glued Laminated Wood (Glulam)?

Glued Laminated Wood (Glulam) is a structural material manufactured through the union of individual wood segments. When glued with industrial adhesives (usually Melamine or Polyurethane resin adhesives), this type of wood is highly durable and moisture resistant, capable of generating large pieces and unique shapes.


Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge / GEC Architecture. Image © Adam Mork


The Roof House / MILODAMALO. Image © Ilya Ivanov


Casey Key Guest House / Sweet Sparkman Architects. Image © George Cott


Wooden House / MAATworks. Image © Marcel van der Burg






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Via Shutterstock

Via Shutterstock

Suitable for use on beams, pillars, ceilings, stairs, panels, and cladding, one of the great advantages of this type of structural wood is the ease with which it can produce arched shapes or curves in beams or pillars. Another interesting feature is its diversity of tones, since there are a multitude of wood species available. The most used species include eucalyptus in brown-pink or beige-pink versions and pine. The connections between different elements can be made with steel connectors.

Check out some advantages of using Glued Laminated Wood below.


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Via Shutterstock

Advantages

  • Unique dimensions: Thanks to its high load capacity and low weight, Glulam allows you to cover large areas with small components. It can cover sections of up to 100 meters without intermediate support.
  • Resistance: Successfully resists various chemicals. It also resists transformations caused by moisture, such as deformations and/or torsions.
  • Flexibility: Curved, arched, and folded shapes are reproduced quite easily. Pieces also don’t necessarily need to follow the geometry of the tree trunk.
  • High fire resistance: Structures made of glued laminated wood are safer than unprotected steel in fire. This is because a carbonized layer forms around the Glulam’s core, decreasing oxygen consumption and retarding combustion.


Mountain Restaurant Björk in Hemavan / Murman Architects. Image © Åke E:son Lindman

Mountain Restaurant Björk in Hemavan / Murman Architects. Image © Åke E:son Lindman

  • Dimensional stability: Glulam has a humidity of 12%, which corresponds to an equilibrium humidity of 20°C and 65% relative humidity. Contraction and swelling behavior is therefore minimized.
  • Less need for connections: These structures may require a smaller number of joints when covering large openings without intermediate supports.
  • Lightness: This feature eases maintenance and assembly/disassembly. Studies show that a Glulam beam has the same strength as a concrete beam of the same volume, yet the weight of the piece of wood is approximately five times less.
  • Sustainability: Serious suppliers operate primarily with reforestation wood. We recommend reviewing this information by looking into the specific type of wood in your projects. A useful tip is to look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification seal.


Freemen’s School Swimming Pool / HawkinsBrown. Image © Jack Hobhouse

Freemen’s School Swimming Pool / HawkinsBrown. Image © Jack Hobhouse

About the manufacturing process

The manufacture of Glulam brings together two very old techniques: 1) the gluing technique and 2) the lamination technique. Therefore, when talking about “glued laminated wood”, we talk about a wood composed of pieces glued and bonded together with parallel fibers.


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Via Arcwood. Image © 2018 Peetri Puit OÜ


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Via Shutterstock

To generate efficient structural elements, the pieces must be joined with adhesives of such high resistance that they can replace the joints usually made by steel elements and screws.

Glued Laminated Wood is manufactured with an optimum degree of humidity, minimizing contraction and swelling behavior and guaranteeing the dimensional stability of the material.


Hybrid Wooden House / Architecture Studio Nolla. Image Cortesia de Architecture Studio Nolla

Hybrid Wooden House / Architecture Studio Nolla. Image Cortesia de Architecture Studio Nolla

What kind of projects can be used?

Glulam wood is recommended for any type of construction from residential projects to industrial buildings. It can even be applied to buildings located in areas with specific climatic demands, provided that a moisture protection treatment is applied.


Wooden House / MAATworks. Image © Marcel van der Burg

Wooden House / MAATworks. Image © Marcel van der Burg

Before designing structures with this type of wood, it’s important to review local regulations and pay special attention to the conditions surrounding the project. As a reference, you can review the US standard: AITC 115-2009 – Standard for Fabricated Structural Glued Laminated Timber Components and Assemblies.


Curved Girder Bridge Neckartenzlingen / Ingenieurbüro Miebach. Image © Burkhard Walther Architekturfotografie

Curved Girder Bridge Neckartenzlingen / Ingenieurbüro Miebach. Image © Burkhard Walther Architekturfotografie

References

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