University of Oregon researchers will receive more than $16 million in federal funds as part of a major government grant to the Oregon Mass Timber Coalition as part of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded the coalition a total of $41.4 million, including $24.6 million to the TallWood Design Institute, a collaboration between OU and Oregon State University. to support Oregon’s hardwood industry. OSU will receive $8 million.
Of the OU funds, $14.6 million will go to the Oregon Acoustical Research Lab and $2 million is for Prototyping Solid Wood Affordable Housing, an application that uses pre-engineered solid wood panels using digital workflows. Both programs are part of the College of Design and contribute to the institute.
“The UO and OSU, through the TallWood Design Institute, have played a vital role in developing the modern hardwood industry in Oregon through our research and development,” said Judith Sheine. , professor of architecture at UO, director of design at the institute. “Combined with funding that will support Smart Forestry Research, a new fire test facility and modular hardwood housing trials at OSU, as well as the UO Acoustics Research Lab and housing prototypes affordable and renovations, we will continue to advance our R&D work in the future to provide benefits to Oregonians.
In addition to the UO and OSU, the Oregon Mass Timber Coalition includes the Port of Portland, Business Oregon, the Oregon Department of Conservation and Land Development, and the Oregon Department of Forestry .
“This grant will provide a tremendous boost to the TallWood Design Institute, which already relies on the expertise and collaboration of researchers at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University,” said Patrick Phillips, acting president of the UO. “It will also benefit the entire state of Oregon, driving innovation and helping to increase our housing supply in a sustainable way.”
Over time, the funds will contribute to job growth in construction, manufacturing and sustainable logging, while helping to develop energy- and earthquake-resistant hardwood for affordable housing.
“I think we’ve been extremely successful in reviving and advancing these mass lumber industries in Oregon, but there’s still a lot of work to do and huge opportunities,” Sheine said.
Affordable Housing Prototyping
Sheine’s research focuses on the use of mass timber in the construction of affordable housing that provides energy and seismic resilience while sequestering carbon through the use of wood products. The grant will fund prototypes to prove the viability of building small, affordable single-family homes as well as building and renovating multi-story and multi-family housing.
The Oregon Acoustical Research Laboratory will be a world-class, state-of-the-art facility designed for high-performance, high-throughput testing for soundproofing products and construction methods.
“Floor and ceiling acoustics have become a barrier to increasing adoption of mass timber structural systems in multi-storey, multi-family housing,” said Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, professor of architecture and director of the Institute for Health in the Built Environment. “We’re trying to help solid wood find its place in multi-storey, multi-family homes and reduce sound transmission between units. And you have to test it before you can build it.
The lab will be the first of its kind at a university in North America and among the most advanced in the world. It will be able to test low and high frequency sound transmission and will be designed for the needs of academic researchers and private sector testing.
“It will also open research and technology transfer opportunities in both the mass timber space and the acoustic space for the university and our students,” Van Den Wymelenberg said.
The lab, which was approved by the UO board of directors in 2019, would be housed at the Portland Port Terminal 2 site.
The Build Back Better funds are intended to strengthen and rejuvenate Oregon’s lumber industry, helping to create lumber manufacturing jobs in rural counties that have seen declining employment over the past last half century. They will also be used to initiate forest restoration projects to improve resilience, reduce wildfire risk and provide a sustainable supply for mass timber production.
—By Jim Murez, University Communications