The Oregon Mass Timber Coalition, The Oregon iSector and it’s Housing Innovation Partnership, and members from the above organizations have joined together in planning for a Mass Timber Housing Center for Innovation Excellence.
MASS TIMBER HOUSING CENTER FOR INNOVATION EXCELLENCE PLANNING PARTNERSHIP
Off-site construction has played a role in the overall housing industry for decades, mostly in the form of manufactured housing, but the larger sector – inclusive of modular and panelized construction – is starting to show signs of growth as builders and developers seek faster and more climate-friendly ways to bring lower-cost rental and ownership products to the market. Mass timber plays a large role in this type of construction as it can take on many forms and can be deployed in various environments throughout our state. Together, off-site construction and mass timber present great opportunities for innovation and the streamlining of housing construction in Oregon.
The Oregon Mass Timber Coalition (OMTC) was recently awarded a 41.4 million dollar grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to develop and expand Oregon’s emerging mass timber industry. This grant will support university research on mass timber, fund Willamette National Forest restoration projects, support efforts to modernize building codes enabling recovery efforts to use mass timber products in Oregon communities impacted by wildfires, jump-start public-private-civic partnerships to spur employment in the creation and use of mass timber in housing, and aide the Port of Portland in their development of T2, a Mass Timber Innovation Hub.
In the upcoming months these partners will work to create a business plan for a Mass Timber Housing Innovation Center of Excellence; exploring regional factory capacity and identifying best practices for mass timber modular housing; examining employment and business opportunities across the entire supply chain from fiber sourcing to on-site assembly; evaluating which rural communities could be candidates for mass timber and modular housing factories; researching how workforce and entrepreneurship opportunities can be targeted to under-served Oregonians; quantifying the public benefits of using mass timber including estimated cost savings, health, and environmental benefits; facilitating strong connections between education and businesses along the supply chain by nurturing and expanding relationships to regularly bring academia and business together, and much more as they uncover what the future holds for mass timber housing in Oregon.
The challenges facing Oregon are daunting.
- A severe housing shortage creates instability, poor health outcomes, and educational setbacks, all of which disproportionately impact people of color.
- Lack of housing also impedes economic growth and contributes to long commutes, especially in rural communities.
- Climate change is degrading the health of forests and waterways, heightening the risks of catastrophic wildfire.
- Generational poverty is most pervasive in rural communities that never recovered from the decline of the timber industry some four decades ago.
- The demise of timber jobs is a major contributor to the ideological and political rift between urban and rural communities – a rift that has led residents in numerous counties to vote to secede from the state.
Oregon has a rare opportunity to create an integrated solution to these challenges. But we need to capitalize on this inflection point, imagine new solutions unconstrained by existing frameworks for building housing, and put our forests to work in new, sustainable ways. Specifically, Oregon has the chance to significantly expand the production of mass timber and deploy the product in modular housing construction.
The proposed Mass Timber Housing Innovation Center of Excellence (the CIE) will catalyze growth in both the mass timber and modular housing sectors. Growth in these sectors will generate good-paying jobs throughout Oregon while restoring forest health and improving access to housing. In the process, educational attainment, wages, wealth, and health outcomes will rise, as will economic opportunity for residents and communities that have suffered from decades of disinvestment.
Mass Timber is an emerging and transformative category of advanced wood products. Compared to concrete and steel, mass timber is quicker to build, uses far less energy, stores carbon, and connects occupants to nature. By sourcing fiber from forest restoration, mass timber can reduce the risk of wildfires and help address climate change.
Modular housing can speed construction of high-quality homes and do so at less overall cost. This sector has potential to make a sizable dent in Oregon’s housing shortage if factory operators and developers have access to expertise, talent, and capital to launch products and factories with advanced manufacturing capability.
A diagram on the Ecosystem of Mass Timber Housing, see more in our Ecosystem Assessment.
Triullium Advisors, 2023