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U.S. Ag Dept. Mass Timber Initiative Good For Environment

Construction With Wood-Based Products Traps Carbon

List of Universities selected for the Ag Dept Tall Building Fund

10 Universities Selected For Funding

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service established a $1 million in fund designated for supporting the construction of mass timber projects on college campuses across the country. The initiative is designed to simulate the use of engineered wood products, which use small pieces of wood laminated and compressed to create large solid panels that serve as load-bearing members in the building envelope.

According to the Ag Department, the mass timber market helps maintain forest health, creates employment opportunities in rural communities and “advances sustainability of the built environment.” Advances in the engineering of wood have made construction of tall buildings viable. The International Building Code recently raised its allowed height of wooden buildings to 18 stories.

The traditional method of using concrete to build taller buildings requires much higher embodied energy to produce the raw materials and generates high levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Rice is currently one of the 10 universities selected to participate in the program and recently announced plans for the first of many buildings to be constructed using wood-based products on its campus.

CIMA has promoted the use of wood products, including cellulose insulation, for the environmental benefits including the lower embodied energy and the capture of carbon in homes and buildings for the life of the structures. The concept is not new. In 2010 the first post was published here about the benefits of wood-based construction and carbon sequestration. That concept for “Carbon Sink” homes in the post was supported by the Athena Institutes’ study: Prospects for Carbon Neutral Housing. The use of wood products instead of concrete and steel extends the concept to carbon neutral taller buildings.

This funding established by the Department of Agriculture Forest Service is welcome news and hopefully the first of a wave toward using wood-based products to help reduce greenhouse gases and stem climate change. Filling homes and buildings with insulation made from recycled paper, rather than fiberglass or foam products, is an even easier way to increase the use of wood-based products in just about any home or building.