Don Ryan/Associated Press
PORTLAND — Oregon’s push to use mass timbers in high-rise construction takes a political turn Oct. 3 when the Oregon Forest Resources Institute hosts a tour of wood building projects in the Portland area.
A dozen state legislators or staff, some county commissioners, building officials and others, including a U.S. Forest Service representative, have committed to a day-long look at what advocates say potentially could revive Oregon’s timber industry.
Products such as cross-laminated timbers and mass plywood panels have the size and strength to replace concrete and steel in modest high-rise construction. At least two Oregon mills are making the products, although the market is not fully established.
Timm Locke, forest products director for Oregon Forest Resources Institute, or OFRI, said the organization hosts an annual tour and usually focuses on harvest technology and timber management. This year, OFRI wanted to highlight the end use of timber products, he said.
Locke said policymakers generally appear to be aware of mass timber products, but may not understand their full potential use or the issues, including building codes and diminished timber harvest on federally-managed land, that slow implementation.
OFRI established by the Oregon Legislature to encourage collaboration between the timber industry, forest scientists, government agencies, conservation groups and forest landowners.
“Wood products in general is an industry that’s been around this state for a long time, and it’s still important to rural Oregon,” Locke said. Mass timber products are the only building materials that store carbon – unlike concrete and steel – and can safely be used to support multi-story buildings, he said. Buildings six- to 12-stories high can be supported by timber panels and beams, according to advocates.
Locke said legislators and others who influence policy and development also should know about the state’s TallWood Design Institute, housed at Oregon State University.
The institute is a collaboration between OSU’s colleges of forestry and engineering, and architectural faculty and students at the University of Oregon’s College of Design.
“It’s a huge benefit to the state,” Locke said. “I don’t think people understand what a big deal that is. We’re leading the way nationally in this movement.”
One of tour stops is the construction site of the First Tech Federal Credit Union in Hillsboro. Locke said it’s possible cross-laminated timbers will be lifted into place at that time, “Replacing what would have been poured concrete.”