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Wood's heyday has arrived

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RENDERING COURTESY: LEVER ARCHITECTURE - Framework, made from Cross Laminated Timber, will be a home for Beneficial and Albina banks, plus B-Corp offices and dozens of affordable housing apartments. Eschewing structural steel and concrete, the building has a slot in the front to flaunt its wood core.Announcements practically weekly about tall wooden buildings, government grants and wood products research is changing perceptions about wood’s potential. Here in Oregon, long regarded the nation’s leader in timber and wood production, we’re on the threshold of something big with Portland in the vanguard.

Growing recognition of timber’s environmental benefits is fueling a renaissance in construction of multistory structures using wood. In the metro area alone, more than a dozen buildings are being erected using mass timber products such as glulam posts and beams, and exposed wood ceilings and walls.

In September, D.R. Johnson in Riddle became the first company in the nation certified to produce structural cross-laminated timber, or CLT. New to the United States, CLT has been used in Europe and elsewhere for years. It’s made by gluing dimension lumber at right angles to form sturdy panels for walls, floors and roofs. The panels can be up to 18 inches thick, 10 feet wide and 80 feet long. Pound for pound, CLT is as strong as steel or concrete. Plus it’s cheaper and faster to build with and comes from a renewable resource. Wood also requires less energy to produce than other materials and sequesters carbon, a greenhouse gas linked to global climate change.

The first CLT panels produced in Oregon already are going up at Western Oregon University’s new Richard Woodcock Education Center, an $18.6 million facility in Monmouth that will train the next generation of educators.

Farther south, a collaboration among Oregon State University’s colleges of forestry and engineering, and the University of Oregon’s School of Architecture and Allied Arts, has attracted state and federal funds. The National Center for Advanced Wood Products Manufacturing and Design will offer education and research on the design, engineering and construction of multistory buildings using wood products.

Also, the College of Forestry has announced plans to build a $60 million Forest Science Complex that will highlight wood use and research.

In July, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced formation of the Pacific Northwest Manufacturing Partnership, a 16-county, bistate region led by Business Oregon that will focus on advanced wood products and CLT.

This month, Oregon BEST and the PNW Partnership announced receipt of a $120,000 U.S. Economic Develop-ment Administration grant to study how CLT can help stimulate the rural economies of Oregon and southwest Washington. Oregon BEST and the State of Oregon also are sponsoring a CLT design contest that will award up to $200,000 for product and code compliance testing.

To top it off, a 12-story Portland project, Framework, was named by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as one of two winners of the Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. The winners (the other is in New York City) will demonstrate the use of engineered wood products in high-rise structures.

The design and build community, academicians, wood manufacturers and members of conservation groups are coalescing around a common theme: Wood is good. And 25 years from now, we’ll look back and say, “The Wood Century began here — in Oregon.”

Paul Barnum is executive director of the

Oregon Forest Resources Institute, with

offices in Portland and Silverton. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.