11/02/2023

Mass Timber Offers Solutions for Forest Fires, Housing Crisis

Mass timber starts with some of the smallest trees in our local forests, which are bonded together to create massive wood panels that go together like LEGO.
Mercer Mass Timber Factory

by Josh Lyle, KREM2

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — Deep in an industrial area of Spokane Valley, you might be surprised to find a modern two-story house, complete with a rooftop deck. Seemingly dropped from the sky, into a neighborhood of warehouses and factories, this house could be a key to help reduce wildfire risk and address a growing housing crisis.

To best explain how this house got here, and the promise it holds, we need to start with the forest. It’s here, that the Washington State Department of Natural Resources is doing work to reduce wildfire hazards as part of its Forest Health Strategic Plan. This includes thinning and prescribed burns to help clean the forest floor.

Bigger trees can be sold to lumber mills, but until recently, the cost of removing smaller pieces of wood, about 8-12 inches in diameter, was expensive, limiting the amount of forest clean-up work the state could do.

“We never had somebody who could buy that smaller diameter, and therefore we couldn’t sell it,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz explained. “And when you can’t sell it, it either rots on the forest floor or gets burned, and creates an environmental challenge for us.”

Enter mass timber. Mercer Mass Timber in Spokane Valley is one of two mass timber facilities in Washington. Their existence offers the state a new revenue source for that smaller-diameter wood as it seeks to clean up forests and prevent wildfires.

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The construction industry has been historically slow to embrace change. While other sectors welcome emerging innovation with open arms, construction continues to cling to its ‘tried-and-true’ methods.
The U.S. is turning to mass timber to create affordable living spaces for city communities. Find out what makes it the perfect candidate for construction.

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