The Think Wood mobile tour is a beautiful museum-quality display showing environmental & economic benefits of different softwood lumber and engineered wood products. I attended the launch at the National Building Museum.
New wood technologies
New technologies and innovative techniques are transforming the way we build with wood. The key to much of this improvement is mass timber. This category includes heavy timber beams and various sorts of laminated timber (held together with glue, nail and dowels). The most revolutionary is Cross laminated timber (CLT). As the name implies, boards set across each other creating a mass wood product with strength in tension and compression and giving it the strength and spanning capacity of steel and fire resistance of concrete.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman from Arkansas & architect Susan Jones were among the speakers.
Westerman gave the perfect talk about how and why we need to care for forests. I was mightily impressed that he did it w/o notes. I am not accustomed to such environmental competence in politicians, and I briefly considered moving to Arkansas just so I could vote for this guy. When I looked up his biography, I understood. He has a MA in forestry from Yale.
Besides the discussion about properly caring for forests, Westerman went on that building with wood was something that we can right now do to address climate change. Trees absorb carbon as they grow. When harvested trees go into buildings, the wood may hold that carbon for decades or even centuries. Wood buildings are essentially part of the forests life cycle.
Susan Jones is probably America’s leading evangelist for cross laminated timber. In fact, it was her talk at the National Building Museum in 2016 the converted me to the cause of mass timber and the forest connection.
She was also instrumental to changing building codes to allow building taller with wood.
Nothing we can do that is more effective to address climate change
I am not an engineer or an architect, so I can tell you only what experts tell me about these wood innovations. Forests I know from personal experience and lifelong passion and it is my land ethic and understanding of a total forest life cycle and my land ethic that drives my commitment to building with wood.
Most of our mid-rise and almost all our tall buildings are made mostly from concrete and steel. Production and transport of concrete and steel buildings is extremely energy intensive and emits massive amounts of CO2. Fortunately, there is a simple solution – wood. Wood is the original green building material.
Besides caring for my own forests and helping others do the same, nothing I can personally do that will do more to address climate change than advocating for more wood used in building medium-rise and tall buildings. Healthy forests and cities built with wood is a virtuous cycle.
Beyond all that, wood is just nice. It makes people feel better to be around wood. Most people like to look at it, touch it and smell it. I know that scientists have figured out the connection. I just know it is true.
My first picture show the exhibit on the rainy day. I took the pictured sheltered in the tent with little salmon sandwiches and free beer. The next picture shows what happens when mass timber is exposed to fire. The outside chars, but it does not easily burn and it maintains its structural integrity. Scientists and fire departments around the world are testing this product and finding wonderful results. Next are pictures of Rep Westerman and Susan Jones. My last picture is one I took a couple years ago at the “Timber City” exhibit showing the types of mass timber.