OSU Oregon Forest Science Complex

Geoff Huntington, director of strategic initiatives for the Oregon State University College of Forestry, leads a tour Nov. 4 of the Oregon Forest Science Complex, which is under construction using mass timber products from Oregon manufacturers.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Wooden beams, walls and ceilings highlight the new George W. Peavy Forest Science Center under construction at Oregon State University, where Geoff Huntington, with the College of Forestry, led a tour of the unfinished building Dec. 4.

Just about everything inside is made of wood, from the elevator shaft to windows clad with Douglas fir. This is the future of forestry, Huntington said, as wood products such as cross-laminated timber, or CLT, are increasingly used in place of traditional steel and concrete in bigger, taller commercial buildings.

"The field of forestry is much broader than we think of it," Huntington said. "That's what this building is going to represent."

The new Peavy Hall — part of the $79 million Oregon Forest Science Complex at the main OSU campus in Corvallis — is meant to be the showcase building for materials such as CLT, glue-laminated wooden beams and mass plywood panels, collectively referred to as "mass timber."

According to one study by Grand View Research, a market research company in San Francisco, the global market for CLT is expected to hit $2 billion by 2025, tied to the increasing world population and demand for environmentally friendly "green" housing. Figures provided by the Oregon Forest Resources Institute show it takes 26 percent less greenhouse gases to produce CLT compared to steel, and 50 percent less than making concrete.

Mass timber was first developed in Europe decades ago, and on Aug. 1 Oregon became the first state to approve language in its building codes allowing for wood-framed buildings up to 18 stories tall. The product is even attracting congressional support, with the 2018 Farm Bill poised to include the Timber Innovation Act, establishing a federal research program for mass timber.

Similar to the "farm to fork" movement in agriculture, Huntington said more people are now interested in knowing where their buildings come from, a trend he calls "forest to frame."

"I think there is a warmth to building with wood," he said. "There is a connection to the outdoors."

Planning for the Oregon Forest Science Complex began in 2012. Peavy Hall will house the College of Forestry, while the nearby A.A. "Red" Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory will quadruple the college's capacity to test and design new mass timber technology.

As for the buildings, Huntington said the project sourced as much mass timber as possible from within 300 miles of campus. That includes CLT panels from D.R. Johnson south of Roseburg, Ore., mass plywood from Freres Lumber in Lyons, Ore. and glue-laminated beams from Zip-O-Log Mills in Eugene, Ore.

"It's an opportunity to demonstrate what our wood products industry in the Northwest, and Oregon especially, is capable of doing," Huntington said.

Despite a highly publicized setback at Peavy Hall, Huntington said the complex is slated to open by late 2019 or early 2020. In March, a half-ton CLT panel made by D.R. Johnson delaminated and fell 14 feet on the third story of the building. Nobody was hurt, but the incident halted construction while officials and contractors worked to determine what went wrong.

Ultimately, the problem was traced to a manufacturing error at D.R. Johnson. The company had pre-heated lumber in stacks outside during a period of cold weather before gluing them together into CLT, which caused premature curing of the adhesive and weakened the bond.

Steve Clark, a spokesman for OSU, said work is ongoing to identify and replace other potentially defective panels. To date, the contractor has found 293 such panels, of which 270 have been replaced. Clark said the university will not be held responsible for costs associated with the delamination.

Huntington said he has no concerns about safety moving forward, and is 100 percent confident that every panel in the building meets specification.

"There is no question or concern about it in our mind," he said. "We just happened to have a spotlight on us. It was big news when a single panel failed."

OSU has the second-best college of forestry in the world, according to the 2017 World University Rankings. Enrollment is also on the rise, with 1,206 students this fall, up 3 percent over the previous year.

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