NEFF to investigate new uses for New England wood products

LITTLETON, May 18, 2016- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service has awarded a Wood Innovations Grant to New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) in Littleton, MA to analyze the potential for manufacturing engineered wood products in New England. The study will set the stage for expanded local production of wood products that are being used to revolutionize construction around the world.

Wood construction can be an important strategy in mitigating climate change and could also reduce construction costs, all while revitalizing New England forests. A 2015 study by Yale University professor Chadwick Oliver and colleagues found that using more sustainably produced wood in construction could reduce global carbon emissions by up to 31 percent.

“Renewable products like wood from New England forests are crucial to a sustainable future for our region,” said Monty Lovejoy, a member of NEFF’s Board of Directors and chairman of its Build It With Wood committee.

NEFF will use the USDA funding to analyze demand for engineered wood products and the suitability of local wood for use in such products. The grant will also identify the potential return on investment associated with the development of a mill. This investment analysis would inform public and private initiatives aimed at fostering construction of such a mill, which could then serve to reduce the cost of wood construction in major Northeast markets such as Boston or New York, while simultaneously improving forest health in the region’s abundant woodlands.

Of the 42 Wood Innovations Grants issued, NEFF was the sole recipient in Massachusetts and one of only four in New England. Grants are awarded to projects focused on expanding markets for wood products and wood energy.

The analysis funded by the grant is part of NEFF’s Build It With Wood project. Build It With Wood aims to expand the use of wood building materials in long-lasting infrastructure and increase the use of renewable and sustainable wood products. “We see Build It With Wood as a crucial part of our region’s response to a diverse set of challenges— declining forest health, a need for more affordable housing, and the ever present challenge of climate change,” said NEFF Executive Director Bob Perschel. “This grant is a key step forward.”

Founded in 1944, NEFF pursues innovative programs to advance conservation and forestry throughout New England. Through private ownership and partnership with land owners, NEFF has conserved more than 1.1 million acres of forest, including one out of every three acres of forestland protected in New England since 1999. For more information, please call 978.952.6856 or visit newenglandforestry.org.

NPR discusses CLT in Northwest

National Public Radio’s (NPR) Morning Edition presented a segment on the growing popularity of cross-laminated timber in Oregon.

Last week, David Greene and Rachael McDonald hosted the broadcast, “New Technology Could Revive Pacific Northwest’s Ailing Timber Industry.” McDonald opened the segment with a tour of the new Albina Yard with Thomas Robinson, architect and founder of LEVER Architecture. Robinson focused on the importance of Albina Yard during the tour; it is the first building to use cross-laminated timber (CLT) made in Oregon and built in the United States.

Mayor Christine Lundberg then discussed the CLT parking garage in Springfield, Oregon, which is currently in early planning stages. “It’s an entirely different looking structure than a typical parking garage… it’s a signature piece,” Lundberg said.

Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator with Oregon Wild, voiced his concerns over the source of the materials, emphasizing that clearcutting the Pacific Northwest’s old-growth forests in order to produce CLT would not be the best solution.

The segment concluded with a trip to Riddle, Oregon where CLT is being produced by D.R. Johnson Mill. Todd Black, the Marketing Director for D.R. Johnson, explained that CLT is being tested in a varied of ways to ensure safety.

You can hear the NPR segment or read the entire transcript at “New Technology Could Revive Pacific Northwest’s Ailing Timber Industry.” Read more about Albina Yard on our blog at “Reworks and LEVER gearing up for Albina Yard” and at “Mass timber building tour an informational start.

Senators introduce wood buildings bill

Senators Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Mike Crapo (ID) introduced a bill yesterday focused on various components of tall wood buildings. The Timber Innovation Act (S. 2892) is designed to help accelerate research, development and construction of wood buildings in the United States.

New England Forestry Foundation, along with over 75 organizations such as The American Wood Council, American Forest Foundation, and Binational Softwood Lumber Council, expressed their strong support of the bill.

Senator Stabenow stated in a press release, “Wood construction is a winner for our rural economies and for our environment…Our bill helps drive a new market for forest products – keeping loggers at work in the woods and helping to sustain rural communities.  At the same time, using wood for construction reduces carbon pollution and gives private landowners an economic incentive to keep their land forested, instead of parceling it up for development.”

In their press release, the American Forest Foundation explains that the bill would:

  • Establish performance driven research and development program for advancing tall wood building construction in the United States;
  • Authorize the Tall Wood Building Prize Competition through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) annually for the next five years;
  • Create federal grants to support state, local, university and private sector education, outreach, research and development, including education and assistance for architects and builders, that will accelerate the use of wood in tall buildings; and
  • Authorize technical assistance for USDA, in cooperation with state foresters and state extension directors (or equivalent state officials), to implement a program of education and technical assistance for mass timber applications.

A copy of the Timber Innovation Act along with a list of the 75 supporters are available.