Could this building signal a reboot of Oregon’s timber industry?

Framework (courtesy of LEVER Architecture.)

Portland, Ore. – Rural Oregon counties have been struggling financially for years due to a lack of forestry jobs and federal timber revenue. Now, a recently approved building could herald a new age for the Northwest timber industry.

It all centers around a relatively new building solution called “cross laminated timber.”

According to a Seattle Business report, cross laminated timber, or CLT, is a part of a broader category of engineered wood products called “mass timber.”

CLT panels are made from layers of wood that are glued together in a pattern perpendicular to the next, up to more than a foot thick. This results in an extremely strong and stiff material that rivals that of steel or concrete.

The panels are catching the eyes of Northwest lawmakers, who say CLT manufacturing can not only create a sustainable building solution, it can create jobs and help prevent out of control wildfires by reducing fuels.

The unique thing about CLT is it can be manufactured from trees with diameters as small as 4 inches, well under what is typically harvested for building use. The technique can even use dead trees. Thin trees are currently too uneconomical to be harvested and forest managers often don’t have the money to clear the thickets that can clog forests and create a fire hazard.

Washington Senator Maria Cantwell recently sent a letter to President Donald Trump addressing the benefits of CLT.

“Scientists have found that using forest products in building construction could help markedly lower carbon in the atmosphere because of how sequestered carbon is stored for decades in wooden buildings,” Sen. Cantwell wrote. “Fortunately, slowing carbon emissions can go hand in hand with creating jobs in rural areas that need them.”

Framework interior (Image courtesy of LEVER Architecture.)

Sen. Cantwell isn’t the only one who sees a potential with innovative timber products.

A bi-partisan group of politicians recently introduced the Timber Innovation Act.

The bill would help drive innovation, research and development to advance tall wood building in the United States, as CLT has the potential to replace steel in high-rise buildings. The method is well illustrated by a 14-story wood apartment building in Norway called “The Tree.”

The legislation would also work to retrofit existing facilities such a lumber yards and mills in area of high unemployment to spur job creation.

The first company in the U.S. to receive certification to manufacture CLT panels is based in Roseburg. That company, D.R. Johnson Wood Innovations & CLT, issued the following statement:

“We applaud the members of Congress who co-sponsored the Timber Innovation Act bill and encourage others to sign on,” said Valerie Johnson, President and CEO of D.R. Johnson Wood Innovations. “As the nation’s first certified manufacturer of cross-laminated timber, my team has worked with architects, engineers and researchers to pioneer mass timber construction in the U.S. We’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish thus far and know that focused investment in this emerging sector can be a game changer. Mass timber construction can drive the green building revolution of the 21st century and catalyze job creation in rural areas. It is a win-win.”

On June 6, Portland city officials approved a plan for the first all-wood high-rise in the United States.

State officials hope the 12-story “Framework” building will serve as a proof-of-concept for a construction method that could reboot Oregon’s dwindling timber industry.

Construction on Framework is expected to be completed in late 2018.

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