Cantwell, House and Senate colleagues introduce bipartisan Timber Innovation Act

Legislation aims to spur economic development through the construction of tall wood buildings

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, reintroduced the Timber Innovation Act Wednesday — bipartisan, bicameral legislation that aims to find new and innovative uses for wood as a building material Wednesday.

According to a statement from Cantwell’s office, the legislation will accelerate the research and development of wood for use in construction projects, such a cross-laminated timber, focusing on the construction of buildings more than 85 feet in height — like the 12-story cross-laminated timber building currently in development in the Pearl District of Portland, Ore.

“Devastating fires across the Washington state have cost billions to fight. Innovative timber products and long term timber contracts could help us achieve better forest health while bolstering local economies,” said Cantwell. “This is something the forest products industry has shown us time and again: new innovations and technologies can create new markets for wood and assist us in maintaining healthy working forests.”

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 encourage investment through the US Forest Service’s 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.

U.S. Representatives Suzan DelBene from Washington’s 1st Congressional District and Glenn Thompson introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. District 6 Representative Derek Kilmer and District 5’s Kathy McMorris-Rodgers are cosponsors of the House bill.

“Advancing tall wood building construction through the Timber Innovation Act is a win for working families and our environment,” DelBene said. “Technological advancements in cross-laminated timber have made it easier for us to support healthy forests, wildlife habitats and rural economies dependent on forest products. Encouraging the use of green building materials instead of building materials dependent on fossil fuels reduces greenhouse gases creating a cleaner, healthier environment for future generations.”

The bipartisan bill is supported by Weyerhaeuser, the National Wildlife Federation, and the American Wood Council, in addition to more than 100 other stakeholders, according to Cantwell’s office.

Adrian Blocker, Weyerhaeuser senior vice president of wood products, said, “There is enormous potential for mass timber and the Timber Innovation Act takes an important step forward to advance this new technology. While wood is one of the oldest building materials around, new technology utilizing engineered mass timber panels and wood-based building systems creates new possibilities for wood construction.”