Oregon’s Next Revolution
There is nothing more interesting to us than innovative technologies. We are big fans of visionary ideas and bold leadership that have the potential to disrupt entire sectors. It’s why we dislike cookie cutters and love white boards.
It’s rare that these disruptive innovations come with “win-win” solutions that achieve triple bottom line returns. But Oregon, and by extension the nation, is witnessing it with the emergence of cross-laminated timber (CLT).
CLT is a revolutionary mass timber product. It is an engineered wood panel made of three, five, or seven layers of dimension lumber that can be used as an alternative to carbon-intensive building materials like steel, masonry, and concrete. CLT is designed to form structural wood panels with exceptional strength, dimensional stability, and rigidity.
As of this month, Oregon has become the first state in the U.S. to have certified manufacturing capability to produce these panels locally. Simply put, CLT will have profound economic, environmental, and social impacts in the Pacific Northwest.
These impacts are why last year the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would offer grant money to projects that use CLT in their structural design. Just last week, the USDA announced its winners, which included Framework, a 12-story mixed-use building being developed in Portland’s Pearl District.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown recently announced her own grant competition to encourage more Oregon projects – placing Oregon at the epicenter of knowledge development for tall wood buildings. These projects will provide valuable experience that will help other projects become more cost-effective and efficient.
You may be surprised to hear that wood products remain a vital economic driver in Oregon. Today, the state remains the #1 producer of both softwood and plywood in the country and the sector employs nearly 60,000 Oregonians.
Oregon has the raw material, industry infrastructure, and know-how to lead in wood innovation. Developing an entirely new market for rural Oregon will bring economic development to communities that desperately need it.
Of course, the Pacific Northwest is known for its environmental consciousness. So it is important to underscore that, unlike concrete and steel, wood actually removes carbon from our air and stores it. At nearly 2.8 billion metric tons of CO2, Oregon stores more carbon dioxide in its forests than any other state. That is 17 percent more than carbon-regulated California.
These environmental benefits of CLT remain an important part of the architectural community’s desire to build with wood. It’s the next step in reducing carbon emissions from our built environment – allowing designers to use a renewable resource and source it from local forests managed under strict environmental standards.
It’s “urban + rural ecology.” That’s how the developers of the Framework project in Portland describe it. We think that perfectly captures why CLT has policymakers, architects, developers, conservationists, and innovators ready to build – and to lead.
RELATED NEWS COVERAGE
Portland Business Journal: Oregon company first to earn coveted certification for timber construction
Oregon Public Broadcasting: Oregon Firm First In U.S. To Produce New Timber Product