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Our View: Timber is back in vogue in construction

Innovative products leading to a bright future

Published on October 19, 2017 12:01AM

A worker guides a Glulam beam into place Oct. 3 during construction of the First Tech Credit Union headquarters building in Hillsboro. The building, which will be five stories high and contain 156,000 square feet of office space, is believed to be largest U.S. structure so far built using advanced lumber products such as cross-laminated timbers (CLT) and Glulam beams, posts and flooring. Advocates believe wood products can replace concrete and steel in modest high-rises, and revive Oregon’s timber industry.

Eric Mortenson/Capital Press

A worker guides a Glulam beam into place Oct. 3 during construction of the First Tech Credit Union headquarters building in Hillsboro. The building, which will be five stories high and contain 156,000 square feet of office space, is believed to be largest U.S. structure so far built using advanced lumber products such as cross-laminated timbers (CLT) and Glulam beams, posts and flooring. Advocates believe wood products can replace concrete and steel in modest high-rises, and revive Oregon’s timber industry.

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These are exciting times for the timber industry. It’s been awhile since that’s been the case in Oregon.

Government forest managers and their political bosses finally appear to recognize that more effective management of public forests is needed to help prevent future wildfires and reduce their severity. Rep. Greg Walden and Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have all stated their support for legislation that accomplishes those goals — rare agreement between Oregon’s Republican and Democrat leaders.

Beyond timber management, however, are innovations that promise new uses for timber in construction. Among them is “mass timber” that is used in “tallwood design.” As an example, a credit union in Hillsboro is using glulam beams to construct its new five-story, 150,000-square-foot headquarters building.

Another building planned for Portland will be 12 stories tall and constructed of cross-laminated timber, called CLT. It will dwarf the seven-story building in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that is currently the tallest mass timber structure in the nation.

To explore the uses and design possibilities of mass timber, the University of Oregon architecture program is combining efforts with Oregon State University’s forestry and engineering programs to create the Tallwood Design Institute.

In other words, wood construction is sexy again. Once relegated to home construction and one- or two-story projects, lumber was seen as an excellent material for relatively small structures.

Then came cutting-edge projects such as the Metropol Parasol in Seville, Spain. It is among the largest wooden structures in the world. Made of laminated lumber coated in polyurethane to protect it from the weather, the ethereal design of six interconnected “mushrooms” soars 85 feet tall and covers an area that is 490 feet by 230 feet.

Built in 2011, it shades the entire city square and houses a restaurant, museum, farmers’ market and a walkway that allows visitors a bird’s-eye view of the historic city.

The future of mass timber is nearly unlimited. Larger mass timber such as CLTs made by DR Johnson Lumber Co. in Riddle, and mass plywood panels made by Freres Lumber Co. in Lyons, offer architects and engineers possibilities that didn’t even exist a few years ago.

Better-managed forests, combined with innovative products, designs and structures demonstrate that the timber industry’s future is brighter than it’s been in a long time.



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