The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded the Port of Portland and its fellow members of the Oregon Mass Timber Coalition (OMTC) $41.4 million to develop and expand Oregon’s emerging mass timber industry.
The award, which was announced Sept. 2, and addresses three significant issues across Oregon: a worsening housing crisis; increasing threats of wildfires; and the need to create good-paying jobs in communities recovering from the pandemic.
Specifically, the grant supports university research involving the use of mass timber in housing; spur development of a factory by the Port of Portland to produce mass timber housing; fund forest restoration projects in the Willamette National Forest; jumpstart public-private partnerships to grow employment in the creation and use of mass timber in housing; and support efforts to modernize building codes in Oregon communities impacted by recent wildfires to enable recovery efforts using mass timber products in housing.
The EDA’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge is a signature initiative of the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan program. It aims to boost economic recovery from the pandemic and rebuild American communities, including those grappling with decades of disinvestment.
The Oregon Mass Timber Coalition is a partnership between the Port of Portland, Business Oregon, Oregon Department of Forestry, the Department of Land Conservation and Development and the TallWood Design Institute, which is a collaboration between the University of Oregon and Oregon State University.
The OMTC is one of 21 coalitions selected from a nationwide pool of 529 applicants to receive funding through the EDA’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge.
“This is a transformational moment for Oregon,” Port of Portland Executive Director Curtis Robinhold said. “The project will create rural and urban jobs with products grown and manufactured right here in Oregon. The innovations will enable production of high-quality building products from low-quality wood. This will increase housing, provide jobs and promote forest health. That means more homes at lower costs, new workforce opportunities and more climate-resilient communities.”
The $41.4 million federal investment is expected to jump start development of mass timber housing products. The Port of Portland has said that it plans to use the funding for site improvements that will lead to constructing a factory at the port’s Terminal 2 in Northwest Portland to build mass timber housing.
The Build Back Better funding supports a comprehensive strategy for expanding Oregon’s mass timber housing market, including:
- Terminal 2 Mass Timber Innovation Hub: Federal investment will offset the costs of site development for a mass timber modular home factory, the University of Oregon’s acoustics research lab and a fabrication facility at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 2. Planning for site improvements at T2 will begin immediately, with construction of the lab and site work expected to begin in 2024.
- Mass timber research and innovation: The award will accelerate the mass timber research and development efforts by constructing an acoustic testing laboratory at University of Oregon and a fire testing facility at Oregon State University. In addition, the award advances applied research at UO and OSU by testing mass timber housing prototypes for structural, seismic, durability and energy performance.
- Smart forestry initiative: OSU will receive funding for research and development to modernize forest restoration practices, including improved forest inventory mapping, enhanced forest worker health and safety, and efficiency within wood supply chain activities. OSU also will develop workforce training curriculum to help promote employment in the forest and wood products industry.
- Model development codes: The Department of Land Conservation and Development will modernize development codes to support the use of mass timber in newly built modular workforce housing in 10 communities, prioritizing those impacted by the 2020 wildfires.