In good (Fast) company

It’s not every day a nearly 100-year-old company gets recognized as being among the world’s most innovative. Oregon-based Freres Lumber Co. did just that.

The business magazine Fast Company recently named Freres Lumber as the fifth-most innovative company in the world in the Urban Development/Real Estate category for developing mass plywood panels (MPP), the first wood veneer-based mass timber product to be certified for structural use in building construction.

Fast Company compiles its annual list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies, along with top-10 lists in 35 industries, to draw attention to companies that are leading their fields and transforming the world. Making the list places Freres Lumber squarely alongside other more obviously innovative companies such as Apple, Ali Baba Group, 3M Corporation and Rocket Lab. Not bad for a 97-year-old, third-generation family-owned lumber and plywood producer based in the small town of Lyons.

Billed as an alternative to cross-laminated timber (CLT), MPP is the first and only mass timber panel product to be made entirely out of structural composite lumber, a type of engineered wood product created by layering dried and graded wood veneers, strands or flakes with moisture-resistant adhesives into blocks of material that are subsequently sawed into specified shapes. MPP can be used just like CLT, but requires 20 percent less wood fiber to manufacture, making the product lighter and more efficient than CLT and other competing products, according to Freres Lumber.

In addition to its MPP product, Freres produces veneer, plywood and lumber. It also operates a cogeneration facility fueled primarily by wood residuals from the milling process, producing electricity for over 5,000 households while simultaneously generating heat for the company’s production processes. The family also owns and manages more than 17,000 acres of timberland, located primarily in the Santiam Canyon. Not the sort of company that immediately comes to mind when talk turns to innovation – but one deserving of being in that conversation.

Along with Freres, Fast Company also recently recognized international architecture and design firm Snøhetta (number 38 on the overall Most Innovative list) for its design of the new Calgary Central Library, which features wood products prominently

Coincidentally, just a day before I’d heard about these innovator awards, I’d read about the Calgary Library in Wood Design & Building magazine’s annual wood design awards issue, in which the project is recognized with the highest honor in the North American category. The library’s design is truly spectacular, as you can see for yourself.

According to Fast Company, its World’s Most Innovative Companies lists are intended to provide both a snapshot and a road map for the future of innovation across the most dynamic sectors of the economy. It’s great to see mass timber products and wood buildings being recognized in that light.

Congratulations, all.  

Timm Locke

Director of Forest Products

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