The Conversation Plinth is the First Hardwood-Cross-Laminated-Timber Structure in the US. The winning proposal located in midwestern architecture mecca Columbus, Indiana pays homage to J Irwin Miller and aims to celebrate the community of Columbus. Its form takes cues from the conversation pit from the Miller House, as well as the plinths that elevate the iconic landmarks surrounding the site. The installation offers a place for the community to gather and converse, and elevates people, both literally and metaphorically.
The Conversation Plinth is constructed from the first ever commercial pressing of Hardwood Cross laminated timber (HCLT) here in the US, an effort led by IKD out of mix species, low-value hardwoods. IKD was awarded a 2017 Wood Innovation Grant by the US Forest Service to develop this material innovation for the installation and product certification.
The installation is intended to be a catalyst for a new timber industry by upcycling low-value hardwood that are extracted from regional forests. Indiana’s largest cash crop is hardwood, but over 55% of each log processed is of low value. The idea is that low-value hardwood, such as grade 3 oak, maple, and ash, can be used to create high-value HCLT. HCLT offers numerous benefits over softwood, included superior mechanical properties, material volume savings, and increased resistance to fire.
By demonstrating the viability and the benefits of a new, high value timber market in the mid-west, the project has the potential to initiate a cascade of effects: job growth in rural forestry and manufacturing, diversifying hardwood lumber markets, higher land value, and improved forest management practices to reduce wildfires and encourage biodiversity leading to an abatement of climate change.
The project leveraged the full support of the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) and the Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association (IHLA), and has secured partnerships with SMARTLAM, the first CLT manufacturer in the United States, timber structural engineering expert Chris Carbone from Bensonwood, and Clemson University’s Wood Utilization + Design Institute. IKD has also partnered with the Indiana department of Nation Resources, the Hoosier National Forest office, and the Indiana Society of American Foresters. Working with project partners and client(Exhibit Columbus), IKD sourced local materials and fabrication to construct the installation within a period of two weeks.
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