Merkley, Wyden Announce Over $1.6 Million in Federal Investments in Mass Wood Products

Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that $1,611,351 in federal funds to support mass wood product production and affordable housing construction are headed to Oregon through a program Merkley spearheaded in 2018.

“We have been working to establish Oregon as a hub for mass timber products, using local timber and bolstering our forest products economy,” said Merkley, who is the Chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the U.S. Forest Service, which is distributing the grants. “That’s why we fought to create this pathway for the federal grants we need to strengthen this growing sector—so we can continue to innovate, create jobs, and address our state’s critical affordable housing construction needs. I’m looking forward to seeing the impacts these investments will have on our communities.”

“These federal resources heading to Medford, Portland and Riddle strengthen the bridge linking rural and urban Oregon, generating jobs and new economic opportunities that can increase the supply of affordable housing,” Wyden said. “This investment in innovative uses for our state’s signature timber products is good news for Oregon’s economy and for families in our state and nationwide who very much need housing options that fit their budgets.”

Oregon has long been at the forefront of developing mass timber products, including cross-laminated timber, nail laminated timber, glue laminated timber, laminated strand lumber, and laminated veneer lumber. However, U.S. building codes do not currently recognize mass timber products as official construction materials, leaving the products without a standard rating system for quality, fire resistance, earthquake resistance, and more.

Merkley led the charge, which Wyden joined, to address this by successfully including the Timber Innovation Act in the 2018 Farm Bill—a move that established a new research and development program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture that focuses on developing the application of mass timber products for building construction; analyzing the safety of tall wood buildings; identifying building code modification for wooden buildings; and calculating the environmental footprint of wood buildings. In addition, the Timber Innovation Act created the grant program that made today’s funding possible.

“With critical support from Senators Merkley and Wyden, Oregon is now ground zero for demonstrating how to integrate climate-friendly building materials into affordable housing projects,” said Greg Block, president of Sustainable Northwest. “This will ensure a strong role for equity and environmental considerations in this burgeoning sector of the economy.”

“Thanks to the leadership of Senator Merkley and Wyden, we can now pursue the potential of mass timber to help resolve Oregon’s affordable housing challenges,” said Ben Kaiser, partner of Kaiser Group/Path Architecture. “We look forward to working with local government, developers, and community advocates to make this vision a reality.” 

“With the support of our Congressional delegation, Oregon is poised to be in the vanguard of green building and affordable design centered on equity and local community benefit,” said Mark Edlen, co-founder of Edlen & Co.

The grants will be allocated as follows:

  • Sustainable Northwest in Portland will receive $250,000 to build affordable housing with mass timber;
  • Kaiser + Path in Portland will receive $250,000 to build affordable housing and replacement housing;
  • Wisewood Energy in Portland will receive $250,000 for bulk pellet storage and distribution aimed at helping stabilize Oregon’s institutional biomass heating market;
  • Beam Construction & Management, LLC in Portland will receive $230,000 to use demonstrate mass timber cost-effectiveness as part of a mass timber office and retail development project;
  • Blue Forest Conservation in Medford will receive $249,130 for a Forest Service restoration project;
  • Shortstack Housing, LLC in Portland will receive $235,000 to develop prototype replicable affordable housing using mass timber;
  • LEVER Architecture in Portland will receive $100,000 to develop designs that support resilient forests; and,
  • DR Johnson Wood Innovations in Riddle will receive $47,221 to support the use of hem-fir trees for cross-laminated timber manufacturing.