Wood: the perfect choice for school construction

Many of the people I know have heard that I spent a week in the United Kingdom last fall on a fact-finding mission to learn more about what has made that country so successful in mainstreaming mass timber construction projects. While I was there, I learned that the movement began in earnest when government agencies at all levels made a concerted effort to use wood in buildings because of its unique sustainability features.

In an effort to be more sustainable, government officials showed preference for cross-laminated timber for the buildings over which they had jurisdiction. At the time, a large percentage of the public buildings going up in Britain were schools, so scores of schools were built with wood.

In the process, those involved learned that wood buildings were not only superior from a sustainability aspect, but could also be constructed faster and less expensively than those built with traditional materials. Later, they found that student learning increased in these wood buildings, likely because of the innate affinity humans have for natural materials and daylight.

Environmentally superior, faster construction, less expensive to build and better learning environments. It doesn’t get much better than that.

So what’s all this have to do with Oregon? Last November, Oregonians collectively passed construction bonds in nine school districts totaling more than $1.4 billion. In May, another $1.5 billion in school construction bonds will likely be on the ballot. In all, there could be nearly $3 billion in school construction money made available across 15 Oregon school districts. Design teams and decision-makers in those districts will have multiple material options to choose from to renovate and build new schools – whether that be steel, concrete or wood.

One of these options comes from a renewable resource, requires very low energy to produce and stores carbon to the tune of nearly a ton of CO2 emissions offset for every cubic meter of material used. It offers nearly limitless design potential and can be used to create soothing spaces that enhance learning.

And since Oregon is the nation’s largest producer of this remarkable building material, its use helps provide family-wage earnings for some 60,000 Oregonians, many of them in rural communities that could use an economic boost.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Timm Locke

Director of Forest Products  

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