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June 2, 2016

King supports incentives for alternative forest product R&D

Courtesy /  U.S. Naval War College, Flickr
Courtesy / U.S. Naval War College, Flickr
U.S. Sen. Angus King announced his support for the Timber Innovation Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation that looks to accelerate the research and development of wood as a building product for structures over 85 feet high.

U.S. Sen. Angus King on Wednesday put his support behind the Timber Innovation Act, bipartisan legislation that supports the acceleration of research and development of wood use in the construction of buildings over 85 feet high or roughly seven or more stories.

Although wood products have been used for hundreds of years in construction, the majority of wood buildings don't exceed three to four stories in height. But with recent developments in wood product engineering, alongside other new technologies, it is now possible to expand the use of wood into larger construction projects.

"Maine sits on a goldmine of fiber, and all we need to do is work together to figure out new and innovative ways to put it to good use," King said in a statement about the legislation. "This legislation will help do that by sparking research and development efforts for wood construction that will support Maine's forest products industry, drive rural economies and benefit the environment by reducing carbon emissions — a win for everyone involved."

What legislation would do

The legislation, which was introduced in May by U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and co-sponsored by a half dozen other senators, including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, aims to incentivize the development of wood products as a viable construction material for tall construction projects in the United States by:

  • Authorizing the Tall Wood Building Prize Competition through the U.S. Department of Agriculture annually for the next five years.

  • Creating federal grants to support state, local, university and private sector education, outreach and research and development, including education and assistance for architects and builders, that aims accelerate the use of wood in tall buildings.

  • Authorizing technical assistance for the USDA, in cooperation with state foresters and state extension directors (or equivalent state officials), to implement a program of education and technical assistance for mass timber applications.

The Maine Forest Products Council and the School of Forest Resources at the University of Maine have already thrown their support behind the legislation, a major boon for development, research and construction to happen within the state.

"The use of Maine-sourced timber and engineered wood composites could be increased in important and developing construction applications such as mass timber non-residential structures," Stephen Shaler, director of the University Of Maine School of Forest Resources, said in a prepared statement. "This bill could help accelerate and expand Maine commercial manufacturing opportunities and associated engineering and architectural services. UMaine's expertise and R&D facilities are actively engaged and working with Maine industry in these sectors."

King to remark on biobased manufacturing

King will also be speaking at the Biobased Maine 2016 Plants to Products Forum on Friday in Portland, where local, national and global business leaders will be discussing the development of a roadmap of Maine assets and infrastructure available to support biobased manufacturing in rural communities in the state that are experiencing firsthand the changes in the pulp and paper industry of Maine.

According to Biobased Maine, the demand for biobased products has grown in recent years as consumers and businesses look to replace products made from non-renewable sources with more sustainable products.

In addition to having a smaller carbon footprint than products made from fossil fuels, many biobased products are compostable and biodegradable, which means at the end of their useful life they will break down readily, returning nutriments to the soil.

"Maine has abundant biomass, hard workers, world-class research and development capabilities and industrial infrastructure," Charlotte Mace, Biobased Maine's executive director, said in a statement. "Now is an exciting time to position our state as a leader in making biobased products and supplying the world with them."

Read more

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