Mass Timber in Vibration-Sensitive Laboratories

Jennifer Hardy, Payette

Mass timber has many potential benefits for laboratory design and performance goals, contributing to aesthetics, indoor environment quality, human health, reduction in operational and embodied carbon, and faster construction with the benefits of prefabrication. Despite the benefits, mass timber is traditionally seen as a non-starter in spaces that require strict vibration limits for equipment, as framed mass timber floors with cross-laminated timber (CLT) on glulam do not typically have the mass and stiffness required to meet the vibration limits.

This session will present research on the feasibility of using some mass timber as part of a hybrid structural solution in vibration-sensitive laboratories, to utilize mass timber's benefits toward laboratory design goals. The primary goal of the research was to assess, through theoretical structural analysis, whether any hybrid mass timber options were viable to pursue further. The study was framed around a typical lab floor plate with a limit of 2,000 micro inches per second, and all options were evaluated based on parameters including structural performance, depth of structure, weight, global warming potential, acoustics, cost and constructability. The exciting conclusion is that mass timber is theoretically viable in vibration-sensitive laboratories, and with its many potential benefits, warrants expansion of this research into full-scale testing, in collaboration with other industry experts.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the benefits of mass timber toward laboratory design;
  • Identify challenges with mass timber in vibration-sensitive spaces and ways to address them;
  • Investigate a targeted approach to reducing embodied carbon through structurally innovative solutions; and
  • Identify key parameters to assess mass timber viability in a laboratory project.


Jennifer Hardy AIA is a Senior Associate at Payette and 2020 AIA Young Architect Awardee. She is currently leading the Penn State College of Engineering West 2 building, utilizing a hybrid mass timber structure and curtain wall to reduce operational and embodied carbon and enhance broader design goals.


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