Merkley, Wyden urge bipartisan Timber Innovation Act to be included in Farm Bill

The innovative mass wood products industry supports both rural and urban Oregon economies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today submitted a bipartisan letter urging the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to include the Timber Innovation Act, which supports the development of mass timber products for building construction, in the next Farm Bill.

“We have been working to establish Oregon as a hub for mass timber products, using local timber and bolstering our forest products economy,” Merkley said. “This bill supports innovative manufacturing that creates jobs in the rural part of the state and encourages more sustainable tall wood building construction in urban parts of the state.”

“Oregon is leading the way in producing and engineering cross-laminated timber, which is revolutionizing the way our country constructs buildings,” Wyden said. “The Timber Innovation Act promotes job growth in Oregon’s timber counties and encourages the kind of Oregon entrepreneurship that can catapult our state’s economy to new heights.”

Merkley is co-leading the letter with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID); cosigners include Sens. Wyden, James Risch (R-ID), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Steven Daines (R-MT), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Gary Peters (D-MI), Angus King (I-ME) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

Oregon has been at the forefront of developing mass timber products, including includes cross-laminated timber (CLT), nail laminated timber, glue laminated timber, laminated strand lumber, and laminated veneer lumber. However, U.S. building codes do not currently recognize mass timber products as official construction materials, leaving the products without a standard rating system for quality, fire resistance, earthquake resistance, and more.

The Timber Innovation Act establishes a new research and development program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture that focuses on developing the application of mass timber products for building construction; analyzing the safety of tall wood buildings; identifying building code modification for wooden buildings; and calculating the environmental footprint of wood buildings. The bill also creates a grant program that provides funding to accelerate the adoption of emerging wood technology for building construction, and extends the Tall Wood Building Prize Competition for the next five years; previous winners include a Portland, Ore.-based project that is set to break ground this fall.

“There are significant new market opportunities for using a variety of engineered wood products as structural components in commercial buildings,” said Thomas Maness, Dean of the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. “New product testing, research, and professional training are all important as the wood products sector and building design profession transition to using mass timber in innovative ways to construct tall wood buildings. The Timber Innovation Act will help frame strategic investments in the innovation of mass timber technologies and applications that will help our timber-dependent rural communities participate in the growing domestic and international markets for these building products.”

“Architects are embracing the use of sustainable materials. We have a strong interest in mass timber, which sequesters carbon, is a renewable resource, has been demonstrated to be fire resistant and perform well in seismic events, and can play a significant role in transforming the economies of rural communities in the Pacific Northwest,” said Judith Sheine, Professor of Architecture, University of Oregon and Director of Design for the TallWood Design Institute. “Universities are already working on mass timber innovation and educating the professionals of the future, but additional investment in research, testing and product development is needed for full market acceptance and adoption among building industry professionals, government officials and the general public. The Timber Innovation Act would provide critical support for realizing the potential for mass timber to benefit our environment and our economy.”

“CLT and other mass timber products offer great promise for Oregon,” said Paul F. Barnum, Executive Director Oregon Forest Resources Institute. “They provide a path to economic vitality for our rural communities while harnessing wood’s carbon storage potential in the fight against climate change.”

“We have staked our future on Mass Timber Products,”said Rob Freres, Executive Vice President of Freres Lumber. “We endorse the Timber Innovation Act. New product development provides the means to compete worldwide and gives rural communities the opportunity to prosper.”

“We are on the cusp of changing the way we build in the U.S.,” said Thomas Robinson, Founder and Principal, LEVER Architecture. “Support for wood innovation will allow us to ‘grow’ future cities using a natural material that sequesters carbon and connects urban growth to rural economic development.”

“The emergence of Cross Laminated Timber in the U.S. is about more than innovative options for construction, it’s about the resilience and renewal of cities across America where quality of manufacturing is community tradition and identity,” said Courtney Griesel, Economic Development Manager, City of Springfield, Oregon. “CLT offers an opportunity to shine a light on the value and innovation of our jobs, our families, and our local economies as proud manufacturing communities.”

“As architects we feel extremely lucky to live and work in a time when sustainability and material innovations like mass timber are becoming a reality,” said Corey Martin, Principal, Hacker Architects. “Our work comes with great responsibility, as we must continually find the best ways to reduce the impact of the buildings we design, and marry that pursuit with the need for economic development. Mass timber systems are truly one of the most important innovations available. The Timber Innovation Act will help all of us create more beautiful, humane spaces that are durable, economical and efficient while supporting and growing sustainable regional forest economies.”

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow,

 

We write to express our strong support for the inclusion of S. 538, the Timber Innovation Act (TIA), in the forthcoming 2018 Farm Bill.  As you are aware, this bill enjoys a strong base of bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.

 

The steps taken by S. 538 to promote the application of mass-timber technologies will assist the U.S. Forest Service in achieving their mandate of maintaining healthy, sustainable forest production for years to come.  By expanding the research and development of mass timber technologies and applications, the TIA presents Congress with the opportunity to support the deployment of a proven-safe, domestic renewable resource.  Passage of this important legislation will drive innovation in engineering forward as well as provide rural economies with the market and tools necessary to achieve long-term prosperity.

 

Importantly, the legislation does not sacrifice building safety or structural integrity.  Mass timber has been used safely in Europe, Australia and Canada for many years and is fully aligned with International Code Council’s (ICC) model building code for up to six stories in the United States since 2015, with recommendations under review for buildings as tall as 18 stories by the end of the decade.

 

We greatly appreciate your consideration of our request and hard work on behalf of agriculture across the United States.  The 2018 Farm Bill is the opportunity to be landmark legislation for America’s forests, and we look forward to working with you on this important endeavor.