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senate Bill S. 538

Should the USDA Prioritize Research Into the Use of Timber Products in Tall Buildings?

Argument in favor

The USDA should prioritize research and development of innovative timber products that can be used in the construction of tall buildings will be beneficial to communities that rely on the wood products industry. This grant program will lead to expanded use of wood — a renewable resource — in large construction projects.

Peter's Opinion
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04/29/2017
A higher demand on trees means more forests being planted, seems like a win-win and a great use of a truly renewable resource that will sequester carbon.
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Jesse's Opinion
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04/29/2017
Japan is already doing this and the technology exists to produce the quality of building materials needed to construct tall buildings.
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Michael's Opinion
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04/29/2017
Cross laminated timber technology is a good way to keep housing costs down in dense cities while keeping the environmental impact much lower than concrete structures.
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Argument opposed

Research and development into the use of innovative wood products should be conducted by the private sector, rather than subsidized by the federal government. If marketable, those products will come into use eventually, even if it may take longer without the assistance of the federal government.

Mary's Opinion
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04/29/2017
Let's look into recycled lumber and save our trees to help clean up our air
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Gillian's Opinion
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04/29/2017
Wood is definitely NOT a more environmentally efficient building material. Deforestation is a huge problem for our environment. I need to see the sources used in this bill.
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Craig's Opinion
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04/29/2017
Find ways to turn waste into high strength building materials. Now that's a project I can get behind.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
    IntroducedMarch 7th, 2017

What is Senate Bill S. 538?

This bill would establish a performance-driven research and development (R&D) program focused on using innovative wood products in building construction, particularly for the construction of tall wood buildings that are at least 85 feet tall. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) would be responsible for administering the program, and providing grants to support state, local, university, and private sector outreach activities and R&D aimed at accelerating the use of wood in tall buildings. As a building material, wood has a lower environmental impact, higher insulation rating, and better tensile strength than other materials such as steel.

The USDA would be authorized to, in cooperation with state foresters and officials, implement an education and technical assistance program for mass timber applications. It would also prioritize proposals that include the use or retrofitting (or both) of existing sawmill facilities located in counties where the unemployment rate exceeds the national rate by more than 1 percent in the previous calendar year.

The bill also authorizes a Tall Wood Building Prize Competition through the USDA each year for the next five years.

Impact

The wood products and construction industries; timber communities with high unemployment and sawmills that could be used for R&D projects; and the USDA.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 538

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced this bill to accelerate the research and development of wood products for use in the construction of tall buildings. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), who introduced this bill’s companion in the House, said the following:

“Advancing tall wood building construction through the Timber Innovation Act is a win for working families and our environment. Technological advancements in cross-laminated timber have made it easier for us to support healthy forests, wildlife habitats and rural economies dependent on forest products. Encouraging the use of green building materials instead of building materials dependent on fossil fuels reduces greenhouse gases creating a cleaner, healthier environment for future generations.”

This legislation has the bipartisan support of 15 cosponsors in the Senate, including seven Republicans, seven Democrats, and one Independent.


Of Note: In November 2016, the tallest mass timber building in the U.S. opened in Minneapolis, MN. The seven-story structure T3 building was built using nail-laminated timber (NLT), which better for the environment than reinforced concrete or steel.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Oregon State University via Flickr / Creative Commons)

AKA

Timber Innovation Act of 2017

Official Title

A bill to clarify research and development for wood products, and for other purposes.

    A higher demand on trees means more forests being planted, seems like a win-win and a great use of a truly renewable resource that will sequester carbon.
    Like (32)
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    Let's look into recycled lumber and save our trees to help clean up our air
    Like (110)
    Follow
    Share
    Wood is definitely NOT a more environmentally efficient building material. Deforestation is a huge problem for our environment. I need to see the sources used in this bill.
    Like (89)
    Follow
    Share
    Find ways to turn waste into high strength building materials. Now that's a project I can get behind.
    Like (64)
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    I'm in agreement with Countable's reason for voting NAY: "Research and development into the use of innovative wood products should be conducted by the private sector, rather than subsidized by the federal government. If marketable, those products will come into use eventually, even if it may take longer without the assistance of the federal government." The federal government should not be subsidizing the timber industry and handing out grant money, like it grows on trees! PLEASE STOP THIS IRRESPONSIBLE BEHAVIOR AND SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP FOR YOUR SPENDING ADDICTION! Here are Sen. Stabenow's partners-in-crime: Cosponsors: Sen. Crapo, Mike [R-ID]* Sen. Klobuchar, Amy [D-MN]* Sen. Risch, James E. [R-ID]* Sen. Wyden, Ron [D-OR]* Sen. Wicker, Roger F. [R-MS]* Sen. Cantwell, Maria [D-WA]* Sen. Collins, Susan M. [R-ME]* Sen. Merkley, Jeff [D-OR]* Sen. Daines, Steve [R-MT]* Sen. King, Angus S., Jr. [I-ME]* Sen. Peters, Gary C. [D-MI]* Sen. Tester, Jon [D-MT]* Sen. Cochran, Thad [R-MS] Sen. Shelby, Richard C. [R-AL] Sen. Murray, Patty [D-WA]
    Like (45)
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    nope. my tax money isn't going toward more tree killing.
    Like (34)
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    Define "tall." Is this really a joke? I'm sure wood could be used for shorter buildings, but there is a reason tall building use steel and aluminum. Sen. Stabenow needs a consultation with structural engineers before showing her ignorance. Most normal community housing is composed with wood and steel. Building homes would be and has been a way to increase jobs, but this is a function of an economy that can support growing business activity. And it isn't going to happen with a 2% GDP. There has to be a demand for lumber to support jobs. I'm thinking the Senator is trying to think outside the wooden box or supporting her local sawmill in MI.
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    Not the government's job. This is not what government is for. Who cares if this is a good idea or not? That's the least relevant piece of this legislation. The first and most important question is whether or not this is an appropriate use for government, and the answer is an indisputable "NO".
    Like (16)
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    Japan is already doing this and the technology exists to produce the quality of building materials needed to construct tall buildings.
    Like (16)
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    Watch some TED talks. Wood (Redwoods) are potentially stronger than steel. We're looking into building literal skyscrapers out of wood like that. Of course we have to replant everything and control gas emissions. They're also not looking into destroying the actual redwoods
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    I don't believe timber should be used in the buildings that are that tall. It's a waste of federal funds to research it. Steel is just fine.
    Like (11)
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    Whenever I see bills like this that are focused on a specific industry, I am prompted to do a little research into why that industry might be seeking support from this particular legislator. My initial thought about this particular bill is: I wonder if this has anything to do with the recently issued regulations increasing tariffs on Canadian lumber. I will post a more complete response here when I understand it better. For now, my answer is NO!
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    Cross laminated timber technology is a good way to keep housing costs down in dense cities while keeping the environmental impact much lower than concrete structures.
    Like (8)
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    Are you people mad?
    Like (7)
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    People are starving. No.
    Like (6)
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    A bunch of politically incompetent legislators have no business getting involved in engineering and real estate development issues. I spent my career of 41 years in the construction and development of commercial real estate for housing, schools and retail sales. This industry is over regulated by the federal government already! Any project design and construction material selection is based on the following in order of priority! Engineering load analysis, financial feasibility, aesthetics!
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    So Trump wants to defund research into solar energy but is more than enthusiastic about investing public funds in order to develop and expand the use of wood nationwide? Sounds like all those fossil fuel "free-market"ers really only like tax payer funds when they provide increased market share and value for the industries that pay them. Broken government here, folks.
    Like (5)
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    Terrible idea. We need every single tree to offset the impending climate disaster courtesy of 45. Government should not fund this type of research. This would belong to the private sector but it's an awful idea.
    Like (5)
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    With this administration hellbent on dismantling all levels of environmental protection, this sounds like opening up our national forests to the timber industry!
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    There's other alternatives such as hemp!
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