Give students what they deserve: wood schools

“Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a $790 million construction bond that would modernize four schools and fund…“

So began the article on OregonLive about the results from last month’s statewide election. That $790 million was the record-sized Portland Public Schools bond that will go toward rebuilding two schools (Lincoln High School and Kellogg Middle School) and upgrading several others. And it passed by a two-to-one margin, indicating voters think highly of the need for suitable school buildings.

The PPS bond may have been the biggest, but it wasn’t the only one voters passed. Nine other school districts in the state passed similar (albeit much smaller) bonds earmarked for school construction. Notable among those were Bend-La Pine ($268 million), Lake Oswego ($187 million) and Greater Albany ($159 million) school districts. Even the tiny Jefferson School District, with fewer than 900 students, passed a $14.4 million bond for a new middle school and elementary school gymnasium. Combined with the $1.4 billion in bonding passed by nine districts last November, this gives Oregon nearly $3 billion over the next few years to build and improve schools across 19 school districts.

With money in hand, these districts can set about planning and building the schools in which we’ll be educating the next several generations of Oregon schoolchildren.

I, for one, think they ought to be planning those schools in wood. And why not?

Wood products are our most sustainable building material by far. They come from a renewable resource and require far less energy to produce than other traditional materials like steel and concrete, and the buildings we create with them serve as gigantic carbon storage units. Half the dry weight of wood is carbon sequestered from the atmosphere while the trees were growing. Harvested trees are replaced to the tune of 40 million seedlings planted in Oregon each year, ensuring that the carbon storage cycle continues into the future. Here in Oregon, wood is one of our most abundant resources. In less than 10 minutes, Oregon timberlands grow enough wood to build each one of the schools we’ll be replacing with this bond money.

Not that we need any more good reasons to choose wood, but consider that wood construction is often the most cost-effective way to build schools. With innovative wood products like cross-laminated timber (CLT), it’s also often the fastest way to build.

Wood products manufacturing is one of Oregon’s enduring legacy industries. The plants that produce our lumber, plywood and CLT have for decades (going on two centuries in fact) given economic vitality to dozens of rural communities since the earliest pioneers trekked across the Oregon Trail.

Maybe the most important reason to use wood for our schools is that it results in better learning environments where students can excel. Countless studies have shown that students are more relaxed and better able to concentrate when surrounded by warm, natural materials like wood. And that translates to better learning outcomes.

So, let’s give the next generations of Oregonians what they deserve — better, modern schools built with wood.

Timm Locke

Director of Forest Products 



Cascades Academy of Central Oregon

Hennebery Eddy Architects, Inc.

WoodWorks Wood Design Award Winner - Wood School Design

Photo credit: Josh Partee 

Add new comment

CAPTCHA Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive. Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.