(The Center Square) – Oregon will be home to a new technology hub focused on innovative and sustainable materials for industrial, commercial and residential construction. The cutting edge material? Wood.
Once reviled as a danger to woodland animals, water quality and a cause of climate change, now the timber industry is seen as a boon to ecology, potentially replacing more damaging materials such as cement and steel that can also curb destructive wildfires by thinning forests.
Oregon’s new tech hub received a green light recently from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. It exists because of the Tech Hubs program, enacted as part of a Biden administration marquee achievement, the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022.
Here is a description of the project, according to Oregon Democrat U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s office:
“The Pacific Northwest Mass Timber Tech Hub (PNW Mass Timber Tech Hub), OR Mass Timber Coalition aims to be a global leader in mass timber design and manufacturing to lower the construction industry’s carbon footprint and increasing housing affordability,” the description said. “Building off the region’s wood products research and development expertise and density of architectural, engineering, and construction firms, this Tech Hub will invest in advanced materials science to position mass timber as a viable and sustainable construction alternative.” Mass timber layers together durable woods for use as structural panels, posts, and beams.
The announcement does not provide the hub with funding. However, it makes this one of 31 hubs nationwide eligible to compete for $500 million in federal grants through the CHIPS and Science Act. Any given hub could get up to $75 million next year. Oregon’s hub is the only one based on technology older than homo sapiens, humanity itself.
Wyden called this a positive development for the state.
“This is great news for our entire state when it comes to jobs in Oregon and cutting-edge research that flows from the investments made by the CHIPS & Science Act,” Wyden said. “I’m gratified this landmark legislation that I worked to pass continues to generate such positive benefits for mass timber, semiconductor technology, and green energy.”
Along with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, Wyden urged the Biden administration to authorize the Pacific Northwest Mass Timber Tech Hub earlier this year.
Oregon State University, which is leading the push to boost the mass timber tech hub, sees the project as a way to improve home affordability.
“Ten years ago, mass timber construction was essentially just a concept in the U.S., but with its collaborators and partners, the TallWood Design Institute has led the way in turning concept into reality through interdisciplinary research, education, and outreach,” Tom DeLuca, Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford of the Oregon State College of Forestry said. “The Mass Timber Tech Hub will build on this, advancing the College of Forestry’s goals of equitably promoting sustainability and innovation to drive economic growth and policy change while also meeting the natural resource demands of a growing population.”