Wood is a wonderful building material; it is renewable, it stores carbon for the life of the building (a lot longer than the life of the tree) and new technology like Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) is breaking the height barriers, permitting taller and safer wood buildings. Now the US government is backing the research and development of wood construction. From the press release:
Wood may be one of the world's oldest building materials, but it is now also one of the most advanced, said [Agriculture secretary Tom] Vilsack. Building stronger markets for innovative new wood products supports sustainable forestry, helps buffer reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and puts rural America at the forefront of an emerging industry. Presently, the market for wood and other related forest products supports more than one million direct jobs, many in rural America. As these markets expand, so will the economic opportunities.
They love it for the same reasons we do:
Emerging engineered wood technologies can be used in industrial building projects such as tall buildings and skyscrapers, as well as other projects. By some industry estimates, a 3-5 story building made from emerging wood technologies has the same emissions control as taking up to 550 cars of the road for one year. Wood-based designs have also been demonstrated to improve energy efficiency, thereby reducing energy consumption for heating and cooling.
They are throwing a million bucks into a new training program, and supporting a competition "for developers, institutions, organizations and design teams competing to demonstrate the architectural and commercial viability of using sustainable wood products in high-rise construction."
When you read all the puerile comments on the Oregonian, they tend to "Shhhhh!!! Don't let the environmental whackos know that trees are renewable and the ultimate "green" product." and "What? Use a renewable resource? How old fashioned. Sure it is strong, energy efficient to produce and regrows its own material ... but surely the eco-terrorists will protest." and "The tree huggers won't like this." The other half of the commenters say that the wood will either burn or rot and Obama will be to blame.
One should never read comments, but it is really important to note that a lot of tree huggers DO like this. They get that wood is renewable, that you can have properly harvested and managed forest, that there are millions of acres of beetle-ravaged wood that has to be used up fast before it rots. But the commenters would rather leave foresters out of work and let trees rot than give President Obama credit for getting something right.