These days one doesn’t see Republicans and Democrats agreeing on much, but apparently they do agree on one thing: research and development into the use of wood for construction. They even agree on spending money; among other things, the just reintroduced Timber Innovation Act would:
- Establish a performance driven research and development program for advancing tall wood building construction in the United States;
- Authorize the Tall Wood Building Prize Competition through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) annually for the next five years;
- Create federal grants to support state, local, university and private sector education, outreach, research and development, including education and assistance for architects and builders, that will accelerate the use of wood in tall buildings;
- Authorize technical assistance from USDA, in cooperation with state foresters and state extension directors (or equivalent state officials), to implement a program of education and technical assistance for mass timber applications; and
- Incentivize the retrofitting of existing facilities located in areas with high unemployment rates, to spur job creation in rural areas.
Wood is a renewable resource and if sustainably harvested and replanted, has a far lower carbon footprint than almost any other building material. Architects and engineers are pushing it higher and higher, and it could displace millions of tons of CO2 producing cement and concrete. Forestry also used to be a huge employer but has been in decline for decades. Promoting wood could put a lot of people back to work.
TreeHugger has covered D.R. Johnson before, the first company in America to make certified structural cross-laminated timber; their president, Valerie Johnson, is excited, saying “Mass timber construction can drive the green building revolution of the 21st century and catalyze job creation in rural areas. It is a win-win.”
Alas, there is nothing in the bill that promote the sustainable harvesting and replanting of trees, which is critical if it is going to drive a green building revolution. There is no win-win and not much point in replacing concrete with wood if we destroy the forests in the process.
This will all be handled through the US Department of Agriculture, which does not yet have have a Secretary, for reasons that are unclear, so who knows when or what will actually happen. But it’s all a start, and it is nice to see bipartisan support for something in this day and age.