“A real mind-changer”

In early October, the OFRI board of directors hosted nearly 60 Oregon policymakers on a tour of Portland area mass timber buildings. Among the participants were State Treasurer Tobias Read, representatives from about 15 Oregon legislative offices, and key staff representing three members of Oregon’s congressional delegation, plus county commissioners, city planners and building code officials. Other tour attendees included reporters from the Capital Press and Portland Business Tribune.

We visited The Future of Tall, a new exhibit at the World Forestry Center, and heard from architects, developers and contractors about the virtues of advanced wood products and mass timber construction. The group toured four mass timber buildings: First Tech Federal Credit Union’s new Oregon headquarters under construction in Hillsboro (you can watch a video documenting the project here); the Leland James building being refurbished in Portland’s Slabtown neighborhood by Cairn Pacific and Capstone Partners; the 38 Davis building that’s home to Ankrom Moisan Architects; and Carbon12, the nearly-complete condo project developed by the Kaiser Group.

The enthusiasm for the topic among our tour hosts was palpable. One developer who had other obligations the day of the tour, Cairn Pacific’s Noel Johnson, even made the effort to deliver insights via video.

Ben Kaiser, the Carbon12 developer, told the crowd that his building is decades ahead of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum rating for sustainable construction. He explained that this is thanks to the carbon sequestration properties of Carbon12’s wood frame and the carbon emissions avoided by choosing wood over concrete and steel for the majority of its structural system. And by the way, it took Oregon timberlands just 6.1 minutes to grow the 24,411 cubic feet of wood used for the project.

LEVER Architecture’s Doug Sheets and Tom Cody of the development company project^ talked about how fire and seismic testing proved their Framework project, set to break ground later this year, is just as safe as any other high-rise structure. The project utilizes a unique post-tensioned wood rocking wall system designed to improve the building’s seismic resiliency and allow it to be re-occupied in short order after a major earthquake, unlike the vast majority of buildings.

The project architect for the new First Tech Federal Credit Union building, Scott Barton-Smith with the Portland architecture firm Hacker, spoke during the tour. He extolled wood’s renewability and carbon storage capabilities but added, “The best reason to use wood on a project like this is, it’s really beautiful. Every time I come out here, I feel like I really want to work in this building. It’s hard to imagine a single decision you would make about a material in a building that’s as impactful as using wood.”

Meanwhile Chris Evans, project executive on the job for general contractor Swinerton Builders, stated simply, “We’re all in” on wood construction.

Hearing developers, architects and contractors sing wood’s praises was gratifying. It was also, it seems, effective. One participant from the city of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability told me, “Thanks a ton for the great tour the other day. For me, it was a real mind-changer.”

Now that’s what I like to hear.

Timm Locke

Director of Forest Products

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