By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin
Published: October 09. 2012 4:00AM PST
SUNRIVER — Gov. John Kitzhaber is ordering the agency in charge of state office buildings to find a pair of construction projects to highlight the possibilities of building with wood.
“In this my hope is to add value to wood products here in the state," he said.
Kitzhaber announced the executive order Monday morning at the annual meeting of the Oregon Forest Industries Council, a trade association of forestland owners and timber product companies, in Sunriver. About 150 people were in the room.
The order calls for the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, which oversees the construction and maintenance of state buildings, to find at least two construction projects that can be improved by featuring wood products.
It also tasks the department with considering wood in all new construction and renovations, said Scott Nelson, jobs and economy policy adviser for the governor.
“Wood hasn’t been used as much as it could be in the U.S. in nonresidential construction," he said by phone Monday. “This is a way to pilot that concept."
Increased interest in wood for commercial building would bring welcome demand for wood products, said Ralph Saperstein, public policy specialist for Boise Cascade. The Boise-based company operates mills in Southern and Northeastern Oregon.
“What better way to show off the wood products we have in Oregon than to have our state build buildings out of wood," said Saperstein, who was at the meeting in Sunriver.
While concrete and steel have traditionally been used for big buildings — mid-rises of four to six stories and high-rises of seven stories and up — new products make it possible to make those out of wood, said Bryan Schuyler, western regional director for Woodworks for Non-Residential Construction, a California-based organization.
“We can build those buildings out of wood," said Schuyler, who was at the Sunriver meeting.
Kitzhaber also ordered the Oregon Business Development Department to devise a strategy to speed up development and selling of new wood products and put together a plan to increase the market for Oregon wood products.
Nelson said there are potential markets for Oregon wood products all over the world.
“Asia could be a big market for our finished products," he said.
Since the federal listing of the spotted owl as a threatened species in 1990, the state’s timber industry has all but disappeared as the amount of harvest on federally managed land dropped drastically. But Kitzhaber said Monday he thinks there is a chance for a revival. To accomplish this, he said, the industry should focus on projects aimed at thinning forests and lowering the risk and effects of wildfire. And it should work in collaboratives — groups composed of local, state and federal leaders, as well as environmental groups — to avoid lawsuits.
“We have a remarkable opportunity to turn things around," he said.