Walk into a Pacific Northwest forest and you will be dwarfed under the branches of a Douglas fir. Their tall conical peaks dot the horizon, growing strong and straight. The qualities that make them majestic also make them an extraordinary building material: they are strong, relatively light, easy to mill, and dimensionally stable.
Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) are fast-growing trees, native to the western US and able to flourish without irrigation. They are more fire resistant than other tree types because they have a thick corklike bark and lack lower foliage. Fire may leave them charred, yet they have evolved to survive — even thrive — within such extremes.
Carbon12 uses Douglas fir lumber in its columns, beams and the bottom layer of the exposed CLT panels. The interior of the panels are spruce-pine-fir (SPF) from the forests of British Columbia, including those infested by the Mountain pine beetle. While the beetle kill wood’s beauty has been diminished, the strength of the lumber remains. Finding a good use for this damaged wood decreases fire risk and increases the overall health of the forest.
- Learn more about Douglas firs
Read more about Mountain pine beetle
Beetle kill references trees that have been infected by the Mountain pine beetle. The pine beetle burrows through the bark and leaves a fungus in its wake that it is easy to spot. Most lumber has a “blue” discoloration in various areas and can have pin needle sized holes or grooves. Eventually this fungus would kill the tree. Infected or dead trees are then left standing in the forest where they are susceptible to forest fires or decomposition which allows its stored carbon to be released back into the atmosphere. Removal of these trees from the forest promotes health regeneration and further carbon sequestration.
Responsible timber harvest for long-lived wood products like mass timber helps reduce the risk of wildfire and disease and provides climate-positive materials for our economy.
— Mark Wishnie, Director of Global Forestry and Wood Products, The Nature Conservancy
Working with Our Forests
It may surprise many Americans that the United States has some of the largest tree stands in the world. We have more trees standing in America today than we did 100 years ago. Since 1953, the US annual net timber growth has exceeded annual harvest. Because Oregon’s forests are currently growing twice as much wood annually than is harvested, there is a surplus of trees and the potential for increased harvesting if done properly.
Unfortunately, many of the forests in our country are threatened from undermanagement. Global climate change is creating some of the hottest temperatures on record, and some of the coldest winters. These extreme conditions allow insects and diseases to flourish, moving through our forests unabated. Millions of acres of beetle kill wood sit unharvested, leaving a tinder box for forest fires.
The removal of dead and dying timber, the use of controlled burns, and the removal of carefully selected timber stands promotes regrowth of healthy trees. This, in turn, maintains a healthy habitat for wildlife and lessens the potential for large scale, devastating wildfires. Since CLT and mass timber use small-diameter trees, these properly managed approaches support the use of mass timber.
Mass timber buildings constructed with wood from climate-smart forests in the Pacific Northwest are an effective and powerful solution to the climate crisis.
— Brent Davies, VP Forests & Ecosystem Services, Ecotrust
Did You Know?
132 tons of carbon were sequestered in the CLT, glulam columns and beams of Carbon12.
The use of concrete is so ubiquitous that it renders it almost invisible — seen as inconsequential and inevitable. Yet concrete production releases millions of tons of carbon dioxide per year, far faster than trees can absorb. In fact, concrete is second only to water as the most-consumed resource on the planet. If concrete production were a country, it would sit behind only the United States and China as a producer of carbon emissions. Source
Revitalizing Rural Economies
In Oregon, once considered the Timberland Empire, timber represented more than 50% of the state’s economy. As of 2019, the figure is below 12% and falling — and not for lack of inventory. Formerly thriving timber towns are now struggling to provide basic services such as schools, law enforcement, and public libraries. Young people are fleeing to the cities and better-paying jobs. An investment in mass timber could be the catalyst for a momentous revitalization of small timber towns.
If urban centers started using mass timber as the primary material in large scale buildings, rural logging and lumber industries of the Pacific Northwest would be turned back on. Well-paying jobs would be available in mills and new advances in equipment would mean increased efficiency and improved safety. Large tracts of dormant timber stands could then be harvested and replanted as demand for lumber increases.
Did You Know?
More than 76% of Oregon’s timber harvest production comes from forest lands that are owned by private companies, small private families, and native tribes.
Historic Wood Buildings
Across the world, wood structures range from log cabins, simple homes, opulent mansions, soaring warehouses, ancient temples and more.
Horyuji Temple — Considered the oldest standing wood structure in the world, this temple in Japan has stood the test of time for 1300 years.
Tillamook Air Museum — The air museum in Oregon is currently the largest wooden building in the world. Built in 1923, this giant blimp hangar covers seven acres and is 15 stories high.