Just two weeks ago, the Timber Innovation Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate. The bill, with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) as one of the sponsors, would increase federal research and grants into the construction of tall wood buildings, extend the Tall Wood Building Prize for five more years and help implement a state-by-state education program for the use of CLT in tall buildings.
“This legislation will not only help reduce the environmental footprint of the built environment, it will help keep families, who own and care for a large portion of U.S. forests and supply a majority of the timber we use, on the land and help them keep their land in forest. In this respect, it is an incredibly powerful forest conservation strategy and we thank Senators Stabenow, Crapo, Klobuchar, Daines and Cantwell for leading the effort,” said Tom Martin, (American Forest Foundation) President and CEO.
According to NPR, CLT is being used not just for office and residential buildings but a parking garage in Springfield, Ore.
Timber used to be a huge driver of the Northwest economy. But over the past 30 years, it’s shrunk due to stricter environmental laws and changes in the housing market. Other CLT projects in the works contribute to that sense of hope. For instance, 100 miles south of Portland in Springfield, Ore., Mayor Christine Lundberg is in the early stages of building a city parking garage using CLT.
CHRISTINE LUNDBERG: It’s an entirely different looking structure than a typical parking garage. So it’s a signature piece.
REPORTER: Instead of a heavy gray concrete block, Lundberg shows off sketches of a blonde wooden ramp. It’s actually an attractive building. Lundberg says CLT can bring the rural and urban parts of Oregon together and stimulate the timber industry here.
LUNDBERG: We could actively manage the forests in a way that we save money. We save our forests. We do something that is renewable and sustainable and provide jobs in the state.
Of the many experts to speak at the conference, one of the first to take the microphone was Thomas Maness, Oregon State University Dean of the College of Forestry and Director of the Oregon Forest Research Laboratory. His remarks focused particularly on the Northwest.
According to Maness, from an environmental perspective, the Pacific Northwest is the best place in the world to grow high value trees. “If you care about the environment, and you want to grow trees to serve a growing population, the Pacific Northwest is the place to do it. Our trees are high value, and they grow fast. We have the largest ecological reserve area native ecosystems in the world. Our forests are growing native species. This is the place to grow trees.”
Maness further explained that the close proximity of the Asian markets is also a major benefit.
“We’re positioned in THE place to produce buildings and ship them around the world. Particularly to Asia, places like Singapore and Hong Kong,” he said. “We’re here, and it’s relatively inexpensive to move wood to those places. The high quality wood that’s needed is not in those places. In Australia, they’re building a lot of tall wood buildings. There’s twenty buildings going up now, and the wood is coming from Austria.”
In addition, the increased use of mass timber and the building of tall wood buildings will also play an important role in saving rural communities here. “One of the biggest reasons we care about this is that Mass Timber means producing a high value product that will increase employment in rural areas,” Maness said.