Softwood Lumber Board and USDA Forest Service launch mass timber competition in US

Photo: Maicol Santos/Unsplash

The Softwood Lumber Board (SLB) and USDA Forest Service (USDA), has announced the Mass Timber Competition: Building to Net-Zero Carbon to showcase mass timber’s innovative applications in architectural design and highlight its significant role in reducing the carbon footprint of the built environment. The competition will serve to strengthen the mass timber sector and support increased employment in advanced wood products design, engineering, construction and manufacturing sectors.

The mass timber competition is open to for-profit building sector organisations registered in the US including architects, engineers, developers and building owners; not-for-profit organisations incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation or society formed in the US such as colleges, universities, and associations; US local governments; and Native American Tribal governments and organisations. WoodWorks, a non-profit staffed with architects, structural engineers, and construction experts, will manage the competition.

“The USDA is pleased to partner with the Softwood Lumber Board on a second mass timber building competition to expand wood construction as a natural climate solution,” said Randy Moore, chief of US Forest Service. “We see tremendous opportunity in the link between mass timber construction, sustainable forest management, and the health and resiliency of US forests, especially as we look to mitigate the impacts of climate change like increased wildfires in the western United States.”

The competition will award US$2 million to multiple project teams to design and construct mass timber buildings in the US that are repeatable and scalable. Project grants are anticipated to be up to $500,000 each. The program will also share lessons learned and research findings, including carbon footprint lifecycle assessment (LCA) results, to help support future mass timber projects. Eligible building types include commercial, institutional, industrial, educational, mixed-use, and affordable multifamily housing developments. Beginning in 2021, the International Code Council International Building Code allowed the construction of mass timber buildings up to 18 stories in height.

“With 17,000 commercial and multifamily buildings built annually in the US, there is significant potential to improve the carbon footprint of the built environmental using mass timber building systems,” said Cees de Jager, president and CEO of SLB. “Wood construction’s embodied and embedded carbon benefits offer the building sector a viable and credible path to net-zero carbon.”

Timber sourced for the project must demonstrate sustainable forest management that contributes to forest and watershed health. Several approaches are used to ensure sustainable supply of wood products, including federal, state, and local regulations, third-party certifications, best management practices, and an emerging ASTM standard.

This is the second mass timber competition hosted and funded by the USDA and the SLB. Applicants can submit proposals beginning early 2022 and winners will be announced in late spring or early summer.

To learn more about the Mass Timber Competition: Building to Net-Zero Carbon, visit