A Mass Timber Hub, aiming to become a global leader in mass timber design and manufacturing, has been supported by the US Government’s Regional Innovation and Technology Hubs program.
Announced overnight, the Biden Administration will support the Pacific Northwest Mass Timber Tech Hub in its bid “to use advanced material science to develop low-carbon housing solutions.”
An initiative of the TallWood Design Insitute, it follows a US $41 million commitment from the Biden Administration last year to expand the use of mass timber in housing as part of the Oregon Mass Timber Coalition.
That saw the Port of Portland explore turning Terminal 2 at the PDX Airport under construction into a manufacturing hub for mass timber construction.
“We will be able to put more supply of manufactured housing — up to 2,000 houses per year — into the market,” said Keith Leavitt, the Chief Trade and Equitable Development Officer for the Port of Portland.
A private operator could run the factory, selling mass timber pre-fabricated homes at a price that low and middle-income customers can afford.
President Biden said, “The ‘Tech Hubs’ will catalyse investment in technologies critical to economic growth, national security, and job creation, and will help communities across the country become centres of innovation critical to American competitiveness.”
In total, 31 Tech Hubs were funded and “focus on developing and growing innovative industries in regions across the country, including semiconductors, clean energy, critical minerals, biotechnology, precision medicine, artificial intelligence, quantum computing.”
Administered by Oregan State University, the Mass Timber Hub will build on the region’s wood products research and development expertise, as well as “its abundance of experienced architectural, engineering and construction firms.”
“Ten years ago, mass timber construction was essentially just a concept in the US, but with its collaborators and partners, the TallWood Design Institute has led the way in turning concept into reality through interdisciplinary research, education and outreach,” according to Tom DeLuca, Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford dean of the Oregon State College of Forestry.
“The Mass Timber Tech Hub will build on this, advancing the College of Forestry’s goals of equitably promoting sustainability and innovation to drive economic growth and policy change while also meeting the natural resource demands of a growing population.”
“This Tech Hub designation recognises, validates and builds on the collaborative work that Oregon State University has done over the last three years with the University of Oregon and our other Mass Timber Coalition partners,” according to Iain Macdonald, the Director of the TallWood Design Insitute.
“We look forward to working with EDA and the private sector to achieve our joint vision: evolving the Pacific Northwest into a globally competitive industry ecosystem for mass timber design, manufacturing and construction.”
According to the White House, Tech Hubs “were selected to represent the full diversity of America, selected from more than 370 applications spanning 49 states and four territories.”
The Tech Hubs will bring the benefits and opportunities of scientific and technological innovation to communities across the country, with nearly three-quarters significantly benefitting small and rural areas and more than three-quarters directly supporting historically underserved communities.
“The Tech Hubs include workforce organisations such as labour unions, helping create good-paying, union jobs in the communities where workers live.”