It’s time for a tall wood building revolution in New England, one that mitigates climate change, protects forests, bolsters rural economies, and addresses housing equity and affordability. New engineered wood products called mass timber make it possible to meet all these goals by safely constructing tall buildings with wood.
New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) has created the Forest-to-Cities Climate Challenge to increase support for mass timber, and to build commitments to sustainable wood construction in New England by asking members of the public as well as experts and organizations from related fields to sign our Climate Challenge Pledge. NEFF’s ultimate goal is to help solve the climate crisis and meet other societal goals by linking mass timber buildings in New England with local forests that sustainably generate the wood for them.
Wood is grown sustainably using the highest available standards for silviculture and climate impact, such as NEFF’s Exemplary Forestry standards, which help landowners grow more and better-quality wood while preserving forest health. This management approach enhances the role forests can play to mitigate climate change by increasing the amount of wood growing in the forest—and therefore the amount of carbon its trees can sequester—while still producing wood for mass timber. Exemplary Forestry complements existing third-party certification of forest management, providing an extra boost for climate stability.
Local wood is used to make mass timber products like cross-laminated timber (CLT) at facilities staffed by New Englanders. Mass timber provides a more sustainable alternative to steel and concrete, whose production processes churn out greenhouse gases. In contrast, mass timber is forged from sunlight and serves as a carbon store, and its production requires few greenhouse gas emissions. It is also strong enough to replace steel and concrete in buildings up to 18 stories in height according to the International Code Council, which determines safety standards for building codes in the United States and Canada. CLT panels, for example, are strong, lightweight and fire resistant, and they can be used as prefab sections that speed up construction time and require far fewer finish materials.
Mass timber products are naturally beautiful, and when left exposed, their warm colors are particularly striking in grey urban areas. Around the world, schools, apartment complexes and visitor venues are using exposed mass timber to create welcoming, aesthetically striking shared spaces. Mass timber can also help solve urban housing shortages by making buildings of 6-12 stories economically feasible. Traditional wood construction can only go to six stories, and steel and concrete are too expensive to use in buildings under 12 stories. By filling this gap in mid-rise construction, mass timber makes it possible to build more densely in urban areas near public transport centers, which in turn reduces transportation emissions and helps address housing affordability by increasing supply.
New England Forestry Foundation is organizing stakeholders across our region in the Forest-to-Cities Climate Challenge, a collective effort to break down barriers to mass timber construction and to raise awareness of its advantages. By connecting forest landowners, mills, construction professionals, architects, environmental and social advocates, and urban planners in efforts to support mass timber, the Forests-to-Cities Climate Challenge is generating momentum across the supply chain for this technology.
Currently, 100 organizations and individuals have signed the pledge. Learn who they are and why they chose to join the Forest-to-Cities Climate Challenge by visiting our Participants page.