Congress gets a chance to back tall wood buildings

By Pete Danko, Portland Business Journal

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Washington, March 8, 2017 | comments

Tall wood buildings, a movement that’s begun to pick up steam in Oregon, would get a boost from the federal government under bipartisan legislation proposed in Congress on Tuesday.

The Timber Innovation Act instructs the Department of Agriculture to work with the forestry products industry and institutions of higher learning on performance standards and research and development that could help commercialize “mass timber” products.

The legislation also calls for the feds to run an annual tall wood building design competition, and would allow the USDA to dole out wood-innovation grants.

The bill, introduced in the House and Senate, lists Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Reps. Kurt Schrader, Suzanne Bonamici, and Peter DeFazioas co-sponsors. But it’s not only Democrats who are backing it — five of 12 Senate sponsors are Republicans, as are six of 13 House sponsors.

In Oregon, D.R. Johnson Wood Innovations has gained attention for its efforts to build a market for a mass timber product called cross-laminated timber. These are panels made from hundreds of compressed boards, layered and glued together in alternating directions.

Among other projects, the Riddle, Ore., company manufactured CLT panels for the Albina Yard building in North Portland, the first building in the country to use U.S.-made panels for a building-wide structural system.

“We applaud the members of Congress who co-sponsored the Timber Innovation Act bill and encourage others to sign on," Valerie Johnson, president and CEO of D.R. Johnson, said in a statement. "Mass timber construction can drive the green building revolution of the 21st century and catalyze job creation in rural areas."

Another Oregon company, Lyons-based Freres Lumber Company, has developed a product called “mass plywood panel," or MPP. Like CLT, it’s an engineered panel, but instead of layering and gluing together boards, Freres uses veneer.

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