Now Sierra Pacific Industries, a large timber company based in California but with strong roots in Washington, has pledged $6 million to the new forest science complex at OSU. Sierra Pacific is the second-largest lumber producer in the country, with 1.9 million acres of timberland in Washington and California. In Washington, the company has mills in Aberdeen, on the coast; in Burlington, north of Seattle; and Centralia, about halfway between Seattle and Portland.
The donation will build an advanced wood products laboratory at the new OSU forest science complex, with one of the priorities the continuing study of cross-laminated timber in the construction of tall buildings.
One of the university’s goals is to use the laboratory to establish Oregon as an international leader in the way wood is used in tall commercial and residential structures. That research, said OSU president Ed Ray, could have a profound impact on the state’s economy.
“Sierra Pacific’s commitment is a tremendous investment in the region’s future,” Ray said. “By developing new technologies and products that could be manufactured in Oregon and throughout the West, this lab will have a lasting positive impact on our state and its rural communities. We are deeply grateful for the company’s partnership.”
The Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce and Oregon Public Broadcasting both wrote in the last week about the project, which developers say will be the tallest wood building in the U.S. when it’s completed in 2017.
The building, by necessity, will be closely connected to Northwest forests, said Thomas Robinson, the building’s architect.
Instead of pouring large amounts of concrete and fashioning the right parts on the building grounds, cross-laminated timber panels can be engineered near the forests from which they came and then shipped straight to the construction site. Robinson told OPB’s Think Out Loud this makes construction much less obtrusive.
“When you think of construction, it’s something you think of as very noisy and a little bit messy. What’s great about this type of technology is that these panels will need to be made very close to where the forests are located and timber is harvested.”
Like the new forest science complex at Oregon State University, tall wood buildings can boost timber communities, according to the OSU forestry dean.
Thomas Maness, dean of Oregon State’s College of Forestry, said the benefits don’t stop there. He argued that wooden highrises could create new jobs in rural parts of the state.
“This is a huge opportunity for rural Oregon,” Maness said. “We’ve seen massive reductions of employment in rural communities and we’re experiencing real poverty in some of these communities.” He cited wooden highrise buildings as “an opportunity to create good manufacturing jobs that can support families, and to do that based on resources that we already have.”