Feds launch contest to tout wood skyscrapers as ‘global warming’ mitigation tool


By: - Climate DepotMarch 18, 2014 4:59 PM with 5 comments

Excerpts Reprinted from E&E

USDA launches contest to tout wood skyscrapers as climate mitigation tool

Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter

Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Excerpts: The Agriculture Department announced the launch today of a prize competition for high-rise wood architecture and a training program to support the use of wood in buildings.

Constructing buildings out of wood promotes sustainable forestry and climate change mitigation, USDA said in a statement.

“Wood may be one of the world’s oldest building materials, but it is now also one of the most advanced,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

The department will invest up to $1 million and has received an additional $1 million from the Binational Softwood Lumber Council for the prize competition, which will be announced later this year. It will be open to developers, institutions, organizations and design teams that can demonstrate that wood is architecturally and commercially viable in skyscrapers.

The Forest Service will operate the $1 million training program in partnership with the nonprofit group WoodWorks.

USDA said the programs are both part of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan and a new initiative to promote products made in rural America. The secretary announced the new programs at a meeting hosted today by the White House Rural Council.

Concerns about fire safety, structural weakness, cost and design restrictions have limited the use of wood in tall buildings.

But wood skyscrapers are becoming a more popular concept worldwide as concerns about climate change grow. According to USDA, three- to five-story buildings made of wood can have the same greenhouse gas emissions impact as taking 550 cars off the road for a year.

USDA’s Forest Products Laboratory in Wisconsin has previously pumped more than $2 million into researching emerging wood technologies.

The U.S. wood industry applauded the new announcement.

“Wood building products provide numerous environmental benefits, not the least of which is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and storing atmospheric carbon for decades,” American Wood Council President and CEO Robert Glowinski said in a statement. “Wood products manufacturing also requires much less energy and results in less air and water pollution than many alternative building materials.”