June 01, 2016
BRUNSWICK, ME – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today announced his support for the Timber Innovation Act, bipartisan legislation introduced last month by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) that would support the advancement of the forest products industry by accelerating research and development – and ultimately construction – of wood buildings in the United States. More specifically, the legislation would focus on finding innovative ways to use wood in the construction of buildings above 85 feet in height or roughly seven or more stories.
“Maine sits on a goldmine of fiber, and all we need to do is work together to figure out new and innovative ways to put it to good use,” Senator King said. “This legislation will help do that by sparking research and development efforts for wood construction that will support Maine’s forest products industry, drive rural economies, and benefit the environment by reducing carbon emissions – a win for everyone involved.”
The legislation is also supported by the Maine Forest Products Council and the University of Maine School of Forest Resources:
“Our members support the Timber Innovation Act because Maine’s lumber, wood panels and cross-laminated timber will go into these tall buildings,” said Patrick Strauch, Executive Director of the Maine Forest Products Council. “Locally sourced wood from our sustainably managed forests provides a low-carbon, renewable and economical building solution. It’s an important part of our region’s growing green economy.”
“The use of Maine sourced timber and engineered wood composites could be increased in important and developing construction applications such as mass timber non-residential structures,” said Dr. Stephen Shaler, Director of the University of Maine School of Forest Resources. “This bill could help accelerate and expand Maine commercial manufacturing opportunities and associated engineering and architectural services. UMaine's expertise and R&D facilities are actively engaged and working with Maine industry in these sectors.”
While wood products have been an integral part of construction for centuries, most wood buildings do not exceed three to four stories in height. However, with recent developments in wood products engineering alongside other new technologies, it is now possible to expand the use of wood into larger construction projects.
Building on that momentum, the Timber Innovation Act would incentivize investment through the National Forest Products Lab and American colleges and universities to conduct research and development on new methods for the construction of wood buildings. Additionally, the bill would support ongoing efforts at the United States Department of Agriculture to further support the use of wood products as a building material for tall buildings. More specifically, it would:
· Establish 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; and
· Authorize technical assistance for 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.
The bill, which is also cosponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine), is supported by Weyerhaeuser, National Wildlife Federation, and the American Wood Council, in addition to more than 75 other stakeholders.