Department of Agriculture chief announces $3M in Tall Wood Building grants

In partnership with the Softwood Lumber Board and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has named  U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition winning teams: 130-134 Holdings LLC, for the proposed 475 West 18th residential condominium building in New York City, incorporating extensive use of wood structural elements throughout 10 levels; and, The Framework Project LLC, proposing a 12-story namesake building in Portland, Ore., constructed primarily of cross-laminated timber, and comprising of five levels of affordable housing, ground floor retail, five levels of office space, and roof top amenity space.


“The U.S. wood products industry is vitally important as it employs more than 547,000 people in manufacturing and forestry, with another 2.4 million jobs supported by U.S. private-forest owners,” Secretary Vilsack observed at a mid-September press briefing in New York. “By embracing the benefits of wood as a sustainable building material, these demonstration projects have the ability to help change the face of our communities, mitigate climate change and support jobs in rural America. I look forward to seeing how these two buildings help lead the way in furthering the industry.”

130-134 Holdings and Framework Project teams have been granted $1.5 million each to embark on exploratory phases, including research & development needed to use engineered wood products—primarily mass timber and composite wood technologies—in buildings 80 feet or higher. Competition participants were required to obtain support to proceed from respective building authorities.

By combining aggressive load reduction with energy-efficient systems, the 475 West 18th project team anticipates reducing overall energy consumption by at least 50 percent relative to current energy codes. “We hope to pave the way for a new method of urban construction that is ecologically conscious and supportive of rural economies,” notes Erica Spiritos of Spiritos Properties.

Competition stakeholders credit next-generation lumber and mass timber products as enabling “longer wood spans, taller walls and higher buildings.” “Mass timber wood products are flexible, strong and fire resistant, and can be used as a safe and sustainable alternative to concrete, masonry and steel,” they suggest. “Using wood helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon and simultaneously offsetting emissions from conventional building materials.”

If next-generation wood products can penetrate 5–15 percent of the nonresidential North American building market, timber interests see consumption of roughly 0.8–2.4 billion board feet of lumber. In employment terms, 35 jobs are created for each million board feet processed.

“Tall wood building systems have been embraced by developers and architects around the world for many years,” contends Softwood Lumber Board Chair Marc Brinkmeyer.

“Moving forward with these projects is a step in the right direction for the U.S. building industry in having the ability to take full advantage of the inherent benefits of wood from both an environmental and economic standpoint.” —