Earlier this year, the Timber Innovation Act (S. 2892/H.R. 5628) was introduced authorizing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to place ‘mass timber’ as the material of choice for all tall building structures exceeding 85 feet or above. The bill advocates the acceleration of research and development, education, marketing, technical assistance, and training and promotion of engineered, cross-laminated wood otherwise known as mass timber. This bill will give the timber industry a market share advantage above all others in tall building structures. We believe The Timber Innovation Act unfairly authorizes the USDA to:
- Provide federal funding to place CLT’s as the materials of choice in the tall building market
- Fund a Tall Wood Building Prize Competition at the USDA
- Fund grants to state, local and private sectors for education, R&D, promotion and marketing;
- Fund technical assistance programs to architects and building designers for mass timber applications in tall building structures 85 feet and above.
Congress shouldn’t pick winners and losers at the taxpayer’s expense. They should be promoting fair competition in the marketplace, which will drive innovation while reducing consumer costs for all material selection in the built environment. The wood industry already benefits from the federal Softwood Lumber Check Off program, which would make authorizing these new programs duplicative.
“I oppose H.R. 5628, the Timber Innovation Act (TIA), which could undermine the safety and soundness of the built environment – including tall wood buildings – and also provide an unfair advantage to one building material over all others.
Specifically, the legislation directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a research and development program “advancing” the use of wood in tall buildings more than 85 ft an above. It also creates a grant program for state and local communities to promote the use of wood materials in construction of these buildings over other materials and establishes a competition for tall wood building design. Furthermore, this legislation creates an imbalance in the marketplace by allowing the federal government to choose winners and losers.
I also have serious concerns about the safety of extensive wood use in tall building construction. Model building codes, including the International Building Code (IBC), classify mass timber as a combustible construction material with longstanding limitations on building height and area to mitigate the inherent risk to firefighters, first responders and building occupants. Recent code proposals sponsored by the wood industry seeking to amend these limitations have been considered and rejected. The code development process provides the appropriate consensus mechanism for interested parties and building science experts to evaluate changes in the interest of public safety. I encourage the federal government to allow the code development process to continue to evaluate the risk associated with timber construction in a comprehensive manner without the appearance of a preference for any one construction material, as suggested by the TIA legislation.
Again, I believe it is inappropriate for the federal government to pick winners and losers for building materials in the construction industry – especially at U.S. taxpayers’ expense. The wood industry already benefits from a federal checkoff program, which is entirely appropriate. Putting the federal government in the position of promoting one industry at the expense of others would be inappropriate and counterproductive for job growth. The federal government should instead be promoting fair competition in the marketplace. It is critically important to allow the engineers, architects, general contractors, material suppliers and other interested and affected parties to determine the best practices for designing and constructing buildings based on sound science and engineering standards.
As Congress considers this, or similar legislation, I ask you to consider my thoughts and concerns and oppose this legislation.”