Wood more environmentally sound building material, OSU forester says

Thomas Maness

SUNRIVER, Ore. — Oregon State University College of Forestry Dean Thomas Maness gets excited when he talks wood.

“I get excited about this stuff, so you’ll forgive me if I tend to go on a bit,” he said during a recent presentation at the Oregon Forest Industries Council annual meeting.

“But this is important,” he said. “This is really important. We are producing something that is vital to human survival.”

Earlier in the presentation, Maness said housing demands are increasing at a rapid rate, and, with the world’s population expected to reach 9 billion in another two or three decades, the demand isn’t expected to slow.

“On top of that,” he said, “in developing countries, people are moving in mass numbers from rural to urban areas, and a large number of large buildings are being built to accommodate that movement.”

Further, he said: “Architects and engineers have realized that if we continue to build skyscrapers at the rate we have been, it is going to have an enormous environmental impact due to the construction of concrete and steel building.

“Their answer, which they have come up with on their own, is to build with sustainable building materials,” he said.

Wood, Maness said, fits that description. And increasing the demand for wood are new wood products, such as cross-laminated timber.

“Think of plywood made with thick lumber instead of 5 millimeter plies, and making a panel that is 80 feet long, 10 feet wide and 14 inches thick,” he said in describing cross-laminated timber.

“That is an incredible building material,” he said. “It is strong, and what gives it its real advantage is it is light.

“In a seismic event, the lighter the building, the less the sway you get as a result of the ground swell.”

The panels can be constructed in factories, complete with windows and doors cut out, trucked to job sites and tipped up, he said.

“It is an incredible shift in how you build,” he said.

Also, Maness said, Oregon is ideally positioned to meet the increasing demand for wood.

“We have an 18 million-acre reserve protecting the environment here,” he said. “Nowhere else on earth do you have that.”

And, according to the models developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Western Oregon is only place in the world that shows an improving climate for growing trees.

“We’re looking at a good future for growing trees,” he said.

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