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Grant uncovers potential for wood technology to create jobs

A block of cross-laminated timber or CLT
CLT is made from layers of dried lumber boards stacked in alternating direction at 90-degree angles, glued and pressed to form solid panels. The panels consist of an odd number of layers of wood, usually, three, five, or seven.

A Forest Service-funded grant helped uncover a potential economic boon for the Northeast and elsewhere in the United States through a new wood technology.

Northeastern Area State & Private Forestry awarded a Wood Innovation grant to the New England Forestry Foundation in 2016. The $149,875 grant was used to analyze the potential for manufacturing engineered wood products in New England. The foundation provided $98,175 in matching funds.

The grant analysis revealed there is market potential within New England to establish at least one mill to manufacture cross-laminated timber construction materials. Currently, the CLT manufacturing facility nearest to New England is in Montreal, Canada.

A New England CLT mill could use locally grown spruce, fir and hemlock timber from nearby forests to manufacture materials for use in multi-story residential and commercial buildings. Such a facility could serve to increase demand in the Northeast for buildings using CLT wood products. It could also create jobs in CLT manufacturing and construction sectors, as well as provide needed revenue for forest landowners.

A photo of the 130-foot tall Framework building in Portland, Oregon
The 130-foot tall Framework building in Portland, Oregon will be one of the tallest timber buildings in the United States when complete. Designed by LEVER Architecture, Framework was one of two competition winners of the US Tall Wood Building Prize, cosponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At an April 5 public event in the University of Massachusetts Amherst CLT Design Building highlighting the results of the analysis, Constance Carpenter, the Forest Service Durham, New Hampshire, field representative, discussed the Forest Service’s grant administration role.

“This technology poses a real economic opportunity to increase demand for wood manufactured products in construction and to create jobs in the Northeast,” said Carpenter.

Nationally, 114 proposals were received for the Forest Service's Wood Innovations grant program this year. Of those, 16 grants were received in the New England/New York region alone. These robust numbers highlight the expanding interest and use of wood as a renewable energy source and as an innovative building material.