Technical Updates

Friday, 20 April 2018
Mass Timber, Responsible Sourcing and Forest Carbon


April 20, 2018

Mass timber – which includes cross-laminated timber (CLT), glued-laminated timber (Glu-lams), and nail-laminated timber (NLT) – is capturing the imagination of architects and builders, with claims of carbon neutrality, forest restoration, and rural economic development. The technology allows for tall wood buildings, with the 18-story Brock Commons at the University of British Columbia currently standing as the tallest in the world.

However, as Denis Hayes of the Bullitt Foundation and Mark Edlen of Gerding Edlen point out in a recent op-ed in The Oregonian, “wood is only as good as the forest from which it came.”

To achieve the promise of mass timber, it is critical for the wood to be responsibly sourced.

For example, a recent study led by Beverly Law from Oregon State University found that harvest cycles should be lengthened to 80+ years to increase carbon storage on land substantially by the year 2100.

Recently, more than a thousand design and construction professionals gathered in Portland at the Mass Timber Conference. While much of the event focused on technical aspects of mass timber, several speakers, including Bill Browning of Terrapin Bright Green and Jim Desmond of The Nature Conservancy’s Oregon state office, reminded participants that conventional industrial forestry practices alone will not achieve the carbon benefits needed to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.

As enthusiasm for mass timber continues to grow, the Forest Stewardship Council looks forward to working with architects, construction managers, developers, city building code officials, mills and others to help ensure forests are responsibly managed, even as demand for wood grows in the construction of tomorrow’s skyscrapers.

Our recently launched Builders Guide is one tool to help projects find building products from responsibly managed forests.