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Congresswoman Suzan DelBene

Representing the 1st District of Washington

DelBene, McMorris Rodgers, Thompson, Kilmer Introduce Bill to Support Innovation in Wood Building Construction

Jul 6, 2016
Press Release
The bill would create federal grants to encourage the use of less expensive and less carbon-intensive building materials in tall buildings.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Reps. Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-05) and Derek Kilmer (WA-06) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would open up new markets and create jobs for rural economies by providing research, assistance and incentives for the construction of tall wood buildings throughout the United States.

The Timber Innovation Act (H.R. 5628) would spur the use of tall wood building construction – those above 85 feet or seven stories – through the use of less expensive and less carbon-intensive building materials, like cross-laminated timber (CLT). While wood has been used as a building material for centuries, through modern advancements, buildings can now be constructed with wood products that are more flexible, less flammable and sturdier than ever before.

“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.”

“Good stewardship within our National Forests should be a priority,” said McMorris Rodgers. “The Timber Innovation Act is a win for rural communities, because it will incentivize forest thinning and forest health management, and reduce wildfires. Encouraging the use of cross laminated timber (CLT) will provide new markets for the production of advanced wood buildings throughout Eastern Washington.”

“In Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District, dozens of small communities depend upon timbering, forest products and revenues generated though the multiple uses of the Allegheny National Forest and privately held lands,” said Thompson. “Responsible forest management will continue to ensure this economic engine is going to remain strong. The Timber Innovation Act will promote wood based products by creating new opportunities for uses and jobs in rural communities.”

“Folks in my region don’t want the top export of our rural communities to be young people,” said Kilmer. “Now we have an opportunity to grow the timber industry in a way that doesn’t put conservation at odds with job creation. With cross-laminated timber we can utilize an abundant and sustainable product native to Washington state that connects rural economies to greener urban growth. Our bipartisan bill would make it easier for construction sites across the country to use sturdy, innovative, renewable wood products grown and manufactured on the Olympic Peninsula.”

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Establish a new performance driven research and development program advancing tall wood building construction in the United States;
  • Authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) popular Tall Wood Building Prize Competition for the next five years;
  • Create federal grants to support state, local, tribal, university and private sector education, outreach, and research and development to accelerate the use of wood in tall buildings;
  • Incentivize the retrofitting of existing facilities located in areas with high unemployment rates; and
  • Authorize technical assistance for USDA, in cooperation with qualified state officials, to implement technical assistance and education when utilizing mass timber products.

A provision authored by Kilmer would ensure that the newly established wood innovation grant program would help rural communities hit by declining timber harvest levels by prioritizing projects that would utilize existing mill infrastructure in areas currently experiencing high unemployment. This could provide a boost to cities like Forks and Port Angeles that have experienced recent mill closures.

Nearly 100 organizations have endorsed the bill, including American Forest Foundation (AFF), American Wood Council (AWC), The Conservation Fund, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Weyerhaeuser.

“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 use. Because the potential of these advanced materials is enormous, the Timber Innovation Act will help to build new markets for these new wood products. I want to thank lawmakers for introducing this important bill,” said Tim Punke, Senior Vice President of Weyerhaeuser Company.

“By increasing the use of wood sourced from sustainably managed forests for tall building construction will encourage landowner investment in forests, which will improve forest health, watershed quality, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration. We commend the sponsors of this bill for their efforts to advance the research and development of wood as a tall building material which will promote greener buildings and improved forest management,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of National Wildlife Federation.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) have introduced the Senate companion measure (S. 2892).

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