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Seattle Could Be at the Forefront of the Mass Timber Industry

Cross-laminated timber offers a multitude of environmental and economic benefits. With the state’s resources and Seattle’s construction needs, the city is the ideal location for mass timber production to take off.
February 25, 2019, 2pm PST | Camille Fink
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Bureau of Land Management

"With vast timber resources and ready for retrofit facilities, the Pacific Northwest has an opportunity to lead a revolution in sustainable building and with the major challenges Seattle is facing around housing affordability and homelessness, our city can and should be at the center of demand for mass timber," writes Conor Bronsdon.

Cross-laminated timber is an ideal alternative to steel and concrete, argues Bronsdon. It performs well as a construction material, can be assembled quickly and easily at construction sites, and requires much less energy for production than steel.

Bronsdon notes that developments at the state and national levels are making cross-laminated timber a more viable option:

The passage of the Timber Innovation Act, officially signed into law in December as part of the national Farm Bill, is a big step for incentivizing the use of CLT. One of the most important provisions of the bill is that it provides annual matching grants to advance innovation in wood construction including prioritizing the use of funds to retrofit sawmills in areas of high unemployment. 

He says this is an opportunity to revitalize the flagging economies of rural Washington communities dependent on the timber industry. Washington also last year changed its state building code to allow for mass timber to be used in taller buildings.

Bronsdon says that a partnership between environmental groups and the timber industry would encourage sustainable in-state production. "With responsible and economically incentivized forest management, we can change the calculus of deforestation, encourage replanting and continued harvesting as younger and lower grade trees can be used in mass timber products such as CLT."

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Published on Thursday, February 14, 2019 in The Urbanist
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