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‘Mass timber’ in Oregon’s future, speaker predicts

Experts believe making tall buildings from cross-laminated wood panels could help revitalize the timber industry.
Eric Mortenson

Capital Press

Published on March 30, 2017 10:46AM

Valerie Johnson, co-owner of D.R. Johnson Lumber Co. in Riddle, Ore., says the state should be the center of producing cross-laminated timbers for use in building tall wooden buildings.

Eric Mortenson/Capital Press

Valerie Johnson, co-owner of D.R. Johnson Lumber Co. in Riddle, Ore., says the state should be the center of producing cross-laminated timbers for use in building tall wooden buildings.


PORTLAND — Speakers at the Oregon Mass Timber Summit acknowledged some hangups, but said they’re still optimistic using fabricated wooden panels in tall buildings can revitalize the state’s timber industry and restore jobs in rural areas.

Valerie Johnson, whose D.R. Johnson Lumber Co. in Riddle, Ore., was the first to make cross laminated timbers certified for tall construction, said the state is still having “intense” harvest management discussions. “But if there’s a way to create more jobs with the same log supply, why don’t we get on about that?” she said.

The March 27 summit in Portland focused on the Oregon industry and served as a prelude to the International Mass Timber Conference held in Portland later in the week.

In September 2015, D.R. Johnson became the first American company certified to make cross-laminated timber panels. Certification by the American Plywood Association and the American National Standards Institute assures the panels, called CLT, can be used in building construction.

Johnson said the company she and her sister, Jodi Westbrooks, co-own is working to supply multiple tall wood construction projects, including half a dozen schools in Washington. The city of Springfield, Ore., once home to major wood products companies, will build a parking garage made from wood.

Johnson said the estimated market opportunity for cross-laminated timber panels in U.S. construction is $1.5 billion to $4 billion. She said Oregon is a natural center for the industry.

“Well, why not here?” she said. “We’re as smart and hardworking as anybody.”

A four-story commercial building under construction in Portland, called Albina Yard, is the first project built with domestically produced CLT panels. Such products now are referred to generically as mass timber construction.

Meanwhile, Oregon State University’s College of Forestry and College of Engineering have formed a partnership with the University of Oregon’s School of Architecture and Allied Arts. A new facility at OSU, called the TallWood Design Institute, will be the nation’s first research collaborative that focuses exclusively on the advancement of structural wood products.

Meanwhile, D.R. Johnson may soon have company, or competition, on the production side of things. In a March 16 opinion piece in the Capital Press, Tyler Freres of Oregon-based Freres Lumber said in 2017 the company intends to complete a production facility that can make “veneer-based” panels up to 12 feet wide, 48 feet long and 24 inches thick.



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