Cross-laminated timber gets kudos in Northwest and D.C.

by Ashley Bach

It’s been a big month for cross-laminated timber and tall wood buildings. So good in fact that we need numbers to list all the highlights.

1) The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week split its $3 million Tall Wood Building Prize among two high-rise projects (both still to be built) in Portland and New York City. The New York project is a 10-story condo building and the Portland project is a 12-story office/apartment building in the city’s Pearl District. The USDA awards drew stories from the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post about the benefits of tall wood buildings.

From the Post story:

…To hear (U.S. Agriculure Secretary Tom) Vilsack tell it, this is also about the environment  and about forests (the Agriculture Department manages the U.S. Forest Service). Ultimately, he hopes, there could be a way of pairing together tall wood construction with U.S. forest restoration — namely, by putting insect-ravaged trees into buildings before a wildfire can come along and torch them, releasing their carbon into the atmosphere. Instead, it will be stored in the wood of a building.

“There’s 45 million acres of that diseased wood that’s available, and that currently presents a fire risk,” Vilsack says. “And so, to the extent that we can create this opportunity, it will result, I believe, over time, in more of that diseased wood being removed as opposed to burned.”

But most of all, the secretary believes that wood buildings will win people over by how they look and feel.

“I tell you, when you’re in New York City, all of a sudden you see a 10-story wood condominium building, and that becomes the talk of the town, that’s obviously going to encourage a lot of attention,” Vilsack says.

2) D.R. Johnson in Riddle, Ore., announced it has become the second mill in the U.S. to produce cross-laminated timber.

D.R. Johnson is producing 24-foot-long CLTs that will be used in a new education center building at Western Oregon University in Monmouth and in the four-story Albina Bank project in northwest Portland. Panels are scheduled to be shipped to Monmouth in the next week or so, and the order for the Portland project will be shipped north by the end of this month.

“We’re very happy with it,” said Valerie Johnson, co-owner of D.R. Johnson, of the cross laminated timber.

“The response to the product has been very positive,” she added. “The reaction from the market is showing there are projects ready to design with CLTs. Having a source now where the product can be bought will help build the market for it.”

Johnson said the company is in design conversations involving CLTs with over a dozen projects along the West Coast.

3) Seattle’s Plum Creek, one of the largest landowners in the U.S., pledged $1 million to the new $60 million Oregon Forest Science Complex at Oregon State University. The complex, which we’ve written about before, will be built not just with CLT but will be a huge boost for the use of cross-laminated timber with promotion to the public and among forestry and design students from Oregon State and University of Oregon. 

Plum Creek CEO Rick Holley said Tuesday in a prepared statement that his company sees the planned complex “as a unique place that will effectively showcase the innovation and sustainability of wood products.”

4) The Innovative Wood Products Collaborative, sponsored by the Washington Forest Protection Association and the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, announced the launch of a new website – TheMostNaturalResource.com – designed to promote the use of wood in the construction of large buildings.

“This collaboration between Oregon and Washington sustainable forest growers and manufacturers is capturing the recent wave of recognition among architects, builders and conservation groups that wood products have real carbon benefits, and can be used in tall buildings,” says Mark Doumit, executive director of the Washington Forest Protection Association.

Wood products are carbon-negative because they sequester and store carbon,” says Joseph Mayo, a designer at Mahlum Architects in Seattle. “There is no other natural building material like wood. Increasing the use of wood also supports local jobs and industry.”

“The forest landowners and lumber manufacturers in the Pacific Northwest are the largest supplier of wood building materials in the nation,” says Paul Barnum, executive director of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute. “Using those wood products in new and better ways will benefit both the environment and the economies of Oregon and Washington.”

This post originally appeared on the Washington Forest Protection Association website >>>