By Barbara Coyner
Who would have thought that climate change would give the timber industry a boost — and a new found respect? If building with wood is now considered more environmentally responsible than building with concrete and steel, then sourcing the raw products sustainably is basic to the national conversation on climate change. It’s all about carbon storage.
“Wood buildings are massive carbon storage units,” said Timm Locke of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute as he recently addressed a one-day mass timber summit at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Oregon. One of Locke’s jobs is to educate the public, including loggers, architects, and urban planners, on the evolving mass timber products that are already used in Europe to reduce the carbon footprint.
“Wood buildings make us feel good,” he pointed out, citing that many new public buildings such as schools are again being built of wood, specifically laminated wood. “These buildings are faster and cheaper to build,” he added, citing positive economic aspects.
Among mass timber products are cross-laminated timber, dowel and nail laminated timber, glue-laminated timber, and mass plywood panels. Some products such as the mass plywood panels are relatively new, with mills coming up to speed on production. Most products will be custom made rather than mass-produced, making the design work critical to the manufacturing process.
Locke and other speakers showed off real-world projects now taking place in the Northwest and across the country, noting that considering mass timber construction usually means first educating the public about the benefits.
Lech Muszynski, a wood sciences professor at Oregon State University, re-emphasized that mass timber is not a one-size-fits-all wood product pumped out in quantity. Because specialized products require the same species of wood for consistency, he sees a positive future for Oregon’s ponderosa pine, for example. “This is not about thinning versus harvesting, this is about quality,” he said. “It’s about what we can do with our local fiber. It’s a boutique size industry.”
Beyond targeting certain species for specific projects, the industry is now fine-tuning adhesives and manufacturing methods. It is also drawing people into the industry in an entirely different work force dynamic. Because much of a specific building project is accomplished in the design process, computerization and design skills are key to producing the pre-constructed panels that frequently come with wiring and plumbing already built in and ready to set up. No hammer and nails, but rather cranes setting panels in place with precision and energy efficiency. Already schools in Oregon and Washington are using mass timber construction, seeing more energy efficiency and cost effectiveness. Some taller buildings are now being built of wood, as well.
Interestingly, the Mass Timber Conference and the La Grande conference evolved from the Small Log Conference started in Idaho over a decade ago. The early conferences drew loggers, mill people, and foresters, while the recent spin-off conference in Portland drew 1,200 attendees, many working in architecture and city planning. The evolution is noteworthy as timber workers, urban designers, rural development specialists, and forestry professionals all gather under one roof to learn from each other.
“I’ve spent my entire career in the forest products sector, and mass timber is the biggest game changer I’ve seen in forty years,” said Craig Rawlings, founder and CEO of the Forest Business Network. “Besides the environmental benefits of using high-tech wood like mass timber in 21st century construction, it’s actually solving a societal issue, bridging the urban-rural divide. Loggers and mills in rural Oregon, collaborating with top design firms in cities like Portland and Seattle, have been unheard of up until now.”
Pacific Logging Congress Official Show Guide
Information on the 8th Live In-Woods Show
Fire season arrives with a vengeance.
Montana Logger Finds His Niche in Fire Salvage and Cleanup
Hall Wood Processing specializes in salvage logging and fire cleanup, working for both the state and Forest Service and following up if necessary to restore forest lands.
Taking on the Steep Slope Challenge
Galen Kuykendall Logging decides to tackle winch-assisted steep slope logging for some of his timber contracts in north central Idaho’s Clearwater region.
What to Know When Harvesting Burned Timber
Several industry professionals discuss the challenges of harvesting burned timber.
Brothers Team Up
Joe and Mark Mahon, are a well-oiled machine, complementing each as they operated a long-established outfit.
Oregon Mass Timber Summit Review
Review of the one-day summit held at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Oregon.
A look at the harvester and processor heads.
Time for Another Look at Biochar?
Guest columnist, Jack Petree, looks at new research regarding biochar.