U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, in partnership with the Softwood Lumber Board and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council, recently announced the winners of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. The two winning development teams were granted a combined $3 million in funding to support the development of tall wood demonstration projects in New York and Portland, Oregon.

At a press conference hosted in New York this morning, Secretary Vilsack congratulated the competition winners. “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,” said Vilsack. “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.”

Next-generation lumber and mass timber products are becoming the latest innovation in building. Innovative new technologies and building systems have enabled longer wood spans, taller walls, and higher buildings, and continue to expand the possibilities for wood use in construction. 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. Using wood helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon and simultaneously offsetting emissions from conventional building materials.

Wood can also help struggling rural forest communities. During the Recession, the drop in new construction and decline in home remodeling had a deep impact on wood manufacturing. However, if next-generation wood products can penetrate just five to fifteen percent of the non-residential North American market, it would mean roughly 0.8 – 2.4 billion board feet of lumber consumed annually. To put that in real-world context, roughly 35 jobs are created for each million board feet of wood processed.

The two winning proposals – Framework and 475 West 18th – were selected by a panel of distinguished jurors in the architecture and engineering fields who are familiar with innovative wood building systems. While each took a unique approach, both projects met the Competition’s criteria to showcase the safe application, practicality and sustainability of a minimum 80-foot structure that uses mass timber, composite wood technologies and innovative building techniques.

From the USDA: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2015/09/0259.xml