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April 25, 2018

Maine Wood Conference looks toward new era of development

Courtesy / Maine & Co.
Courtesy / Maine & Co.
Casey Malmquist, general manager of SmartLam, which produces cross laminated timber, like that in the photo, is one of the speakers at the May 9 Maine Wood and Sustainability Conference.

PORTLAND — Organizers of the Maine Wood and Sustainability conference see it as more than just a meeting of industry professionals, but a watershed.

"We're seeing it as an opportunity to connect the natural resources and forest products industry to the design community," said Naomi Beal, executive director of Passivhaus Maine, one of the organizations hosting the conference.

Beal said much of the design community, based in Portland, has been looking at sustainable and energy efficient construction for years. Timber production firms in other parts of the state are also focusing more environment and sustainability.

The conference, Wednesday, May 9, at Hannaford Hall, University of Southern Maine, is a day-long discussion between architects, engineers, builders and developers designed to strengthen the supply chain between wood producers and those who use it, the organizers said.

Not will there be focus on the growing Passive House construction and cross laminated timber production industries, but also on new uses for one of Maine's oldest industries.

Lee Burnett, project manager for Local Wood WORKS, said that the new industries mesh well with the desire to maintain Maine's forest products industry, and source locally and sustainably.

"If we want to keep Maine's woods as woods, and not have it all developed into spreading subdivisions, we have to make [the timber industry] more competitive, to have someone grow trees and get something back for it," he said Tuesday.

The keynote speaker at the conference is Tom Chung of Leers Weinzapfel. The Boston firm designed the Design Building at the University of Massachusetts, the largest building in the eastern U.S. to use cross laminated timber construction.

Also on the list is Casey Malmquist, general manager of SmartLam, which is locating a CLT manufacturing plant in Maine.

SmartLam joins LignaCLT Maine LLC, which is building a production plant in Millinocket, another topic on the conference agenda.

Local, sustainable wood

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Bayside Anchor, a 45-unit Portland apartment complex, is wood-framed and Passive House-certified.

At the same time, business is picking up for Passive House construction. Besides companies G-O Logic in Belfast and Ecocor in Searsmont, Portland-area construction companies Wright-Ryan and Warren Construction are are on the forefront of PH construction.

Passive House has strict standards for construction, insulation and ventilation, which make buildings energy efficient without reliance on fossil fuels.

There have been several recent Passive House projects in the state, the largest of which is the 38,760-square-foot, 45-unit Bayside Anchor apartment complex on East Oxford Street in Portland, which has no central heating system. Built by Wright-Ryan and designed by Kaplan Thompson Architects, both of Portland, it is also wood-framed.

Burnett said using Maine wood is a natural for the the growing sustainable and energy-efficient construction movements.

He added that not only is it beautiful, great to build with and aesthetically pleasing to people, but it's an easy way to bring sustainability into local construction.

"Local wood by its nature is sustainable," he said.

The conference topics center around mass timber and other engineered timbers; design and construction, including pre-fab and airtight construction, and forestry.

Burnett and Beal said the focus will be Maine's potential for being on the forefront of carbon light/neutral, as well as sustainable, construction, while also stressing the market for Maine's sustainably managed forests and next generation forest products.

Recent trends show that Maine is poised take advantage of the opportunities, they said.

"It's been churning," she said. "I'm hoping at this point it's an unstoppable force."

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