Cantwell Sponsors Bipartisan Bill to Accelerate the Use of Cross-Laminated Timber and Green Buildings

This bill is the first in a series to be introduced over the next couple months on Cross-Laminated Timber

May 3, 2016

Read the bill text here. 

Washington, D.C. – Today, along with a bipartisan group of senators, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) sponsored bipartisan legislation that would provide research, assistance, and incentives for the construction of tall wood buildings in the United States.  The bill, known as the Timber Innovation Act, would drive innovation by promoting the use of wood for constructing buildings over seven stories in height.

The effort to replace concrete with wood in construction is being driven by a new technology called cross-laminated timber. These buildings are cheaper to construct, more energy efficient, and comprised completely from renewable materials.

“Cross-laminated timber is an integral piece in several of our ongoing discussions. Constructing buildings from wood instead of concrete and steel yields huge benefits in terms of carbon savings and carbon storage. This is just the first of a series of bills I plan to introduce both to foster the construction of more efficient buildings and to bring additional economic growth to our state,” Sen. Cantwell said.

Wood products have been an integral part of construction for centuries, but most wood buildings do not exceed three to four stories in height. With recent developments in wood products engineering alongside other new technologies, it is now possible to expand the use of wood into larger construction projects.

Building on that momentum, this bill would incentivize investment through the National Forest Products Lab and American colleges and universities to conduct research and development on new methods for the construction of wood buildings. Additionally, the bill would support ongoing efforts at the United States Department of Agriculture to further support the use of wood products as a building material for tall buildings.

“CLT will revolutionize how our nation designs, constructs, and experiences the built environment.  CLT allows us the opportunity to build with a material that promotes forest health and sequesters carbon rather than carbon emitting concrete and steel. For rural communities here in the West, CLT means jobs.  These jobs encompass a wide range of professional, technical, advanced manufacturing jobs that diversify the fabric of these small communities. The bill introduced by Senator Cantwell will provide the steps necessary for a sustainable new technology to root,” said Dan Rankin, mayor of Darrington, Washington.

“The Timber Innovation Act is an exciting step forward, creating new markets and opportunities for wood construction. While wood is one of the oldest building materials, new technology utilizing engineered mass timber panels and wood-based building systems is opening new possibilities for wood use,” said Adrian Blocker, Weyerhaeuser senior vice president of wood products.

New “mass timber” technologies, such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), are becoming more frequently discussed in the state of Washington. Research on building with CLT is underway at Washington State University, and the University of Washington and several towns and businesses around the State are exploring this technology.  Multiple parties are seeking to develop in Washington tall wood buildings and the production facilities to source them.

“These bills represent an important development in moving forward on CLT development in the US.  When wed with sustainable forest management, CLT represents a building product that will dramatically reduce the ecological impact and carbon footprint of our ever expanding urban environs,” said Thomas DeLuca, director of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington.

“If we are to truly sustain our region’s ecosystems, communities and economies into the next century, we must change the game and explore market-based solutions to the challenges confronting our region, from our urban centers to our wild and working landscapes,” said Gene Duvernoy, president at Forterra. “The sustainable use and production of cross-laminated timber allows all boats to rise together, strengthening rural economies while providing a new building product for cities.”

Sen. Cantwell joined U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) in introducing this bill.

Read the bill text of the Timber Innovation Act here.