Mass timber requires sustainably managed forests

At the International Mass Timber Conference last month in Portland, Jason McLennan of McLennan Design, the architect who designed the Bullitt Center in Seattle and the creator of the stringent green building certification the Living Building Challenge, gave a keynote address. In his speech, he stated that he believes we are at a tipping point where wood construction will take over the commercial building industry much the way the automobile replaced the horse and buggy in the early 20th century. But there is a catch. Jason says that for this to happen, architects need to know that forest management practices are sustainable. For general information on mass timber construction in Oregon, review recent and future blogs by Director of Forest Products Timm Locke. For a discussion of whether Oregon forests are being sustainably managed, read on.

So what is sustainable forest management, and why does it matter? The earliest definition of sustainable forest management was based on sustained yield. One widely accepted definition of sustained yield is that harvest should not exceed growth in the long term. The following figure from Oregon Forest Facts 2017-18 shows growth, harvest and mortality for the various ownership classes of Oregon forestland. When harvest plus mortality is less than total growth, we have sustained yield.

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