When a group of architecture students at Virginia Tech needed a partner to bring a design to life they turned to the R&D Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency (CAMEE). R&D CAMEE is an initiative of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) in South Boston.

Led by professor Kay Edge, Virginia Tech College of Architecture & Design students designed a train-viewing platform for the city of Radford. A major design element was the use of Cross Laminated Timbers or CLTs, a sustainable building material that has been used for many years in Europe and Canada, but not as much in the United States.

For the project, R&D CAMEE was tasked with producing and pressing CLTs using southern yellow poplar, a hardwood species abundant in the southeastern United States. Historically, hardwoods have been used very little in CLT production, but the R&D Center’s staff helped attract market awareness to CLTs as an excellent material suitable for a wide range building application, and their work on this project highlights its economic potential.

“High-value wood products have been identified as an economic development opportunity for southern Virginia, and CLTs fit within that conversation and sector perfectly,” said David Kenealy, special assistant for research and development. “There’s been a meaningful push to bring CLTs to the Commonwealth.”

The collaboration between R&D CAMEE and Virginia Tech came at an opportune time to continue said conversation and R&D CAMEE’s staff leveraged their experience, expertise and available resources to prep, press and produce the CLT panels.

Edge was pleased with the end product CLTs and expressed her gratitude to Kenealy, his staff and SVHEC.

“One of the best things about working with David Kenealy and SVHEC was their willingness to include my students in the work of actually producing the panels and to make it a learning experience for them,” she said. “I’m sure it slowed them down, but they were generous enough to do it.”

The New River Train Observatory, which opened to the public in September, provides an attractive, sustainable observation deck along the banks of the New River in Radford.

To learn more about the observatory, visit https://archdesign.caus.vt.edu/galleries/new-river-train-observatory-2/ or for more information about the R&D Center, visit www.svhec.org/rdcamee.

About R&D CAMEE: The R&D Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency (CAMEE), established in 2006 under the umbrella of Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC), provides three core services -- technology adoption, custom production runs and applied research — for a diverse clientele ranging from entrepreneurs to international corporations. In 2019, R&D CAMEE moved to an 11,000 sq.ft space within South Boston’s new Imperial Lofts mixed use commercial space.