COF News & Events

Burned areas in Gorge face long recovery

"The forest recovers naturally," said John Bailey, a professor of fire management at Oregon State University. "If it was an area that we didn't go into, that burned severely, every tree is dead, sooner or later it will be a forest again."

OSU & D.R. Johnson work together to produce cross-laminated timber

Thanks to a partnership with the Oregon State University College of Forestry, D.R. Johnson Wood Innovations in Riddle, Oregon, recently became the first U.S. certified manufacturer of cross-laminated timber.

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a massive structural composite panel product usually consisting of three to nine layers of dimensional timber arranged perpendicular to each other, much like layers of veneer in plywood and can be used as prefabricated wall, floor and roofing elements in residential, public and commercial structures. It is extremely strong and flexible, making it resilient to seismic activity.

Lech Muszyński, assistant professor of wood science and engineering, first saw CLT in production during his 2009 sabbatical in Austria. He says those facilities were unlike anything he had ever seen.

“I decided to visit as many as I could because the diversity was astounding,” Muszyński says. “I learned that you don’t need to be a big operation to make a difference in the market.”

Once back at OSU, Muszyński began making the rounds to industry partners to gauge their interest in constructing CLT test panels. He had little success until a meeting of the college’s Board of Visitors. Valarie Johnson, president of D.R. Johnson Lumber was in the room.

“The college asked if any of the companies present might be able to make CLT panels because they wanted to do testing,” Johnson says. “Since we’ve produced Glulam since 1967 I thought, ‘How hard could it be?’” Johnson says those words are jokingly repeated to her often by her staff.

Despite challenges, D.R. Johnson formed a partnership with Muszyński’s team. In October 2014, Oregon BEST awarded a $150,000 commercialization grant to D.R. Johnson Lumber for a CLT plant.

“We continue to work together with Oregon State to pursue our CLT production line here as well as expanding the awareness of CLT to a larger audience. Not only in Oregon, but throughout the Pacific Northwest.”

Increased production of CLT would boost the timber industry, create jobs and create structures that could withstand the threat of seismic activity within the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

Muszyński says education of the industry and the public about advanced wood products like CLT is his greatest challenge.

“The lumber industry needs to adapt,” he explains. “There will be learning curves along the entire supply chain.”

Oregon State and D.R. Johnson believe the reward of using CLT will be worth the challenges especially in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. When a CLT panel sustains earthquake damage, it can be more easily repaired than steel or concrete. Muszyński’s team is moving forward to test CLT’s resistance to fire and other natural disasters.

In September 2016, the four-story Albina Yard building in Portland became the first building in the United States to be constructed of domestically produced — by D.R. Johnson — CLT.

“If the client is happy with this product, it would mean more commissions,” Muszyński says. “Just think what it could do for the rural Oregon economy. There’s no reason why this technology should not be used in Oregon and throughout the United States.”

Mac Forest improvements OK'd

Covering more than 11,000 acres in the hills north of Corvallis, McDonald-Dunn is used by the OSU College of Forestry as a living laboratory for research projects, an outdoor classroom for forestry students, a demonstration site for timberland owners and a source of revenue from commercial logging operations.

Tree farmers take a different path

Dave Hibbs and Sarah Karr, the Benton County tree farmers of the year, walk through their 87-acre property in southern Polk county. Hibbs is a retired College of Forestry professor, and says about their management style: “We’re hoping to see the benefits of taking some of my academic ideas and trying to make it work.”

Seabird research creates opportunities for ecosystem understanding

The Institute for Working Forest Landscapes in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University has funded a little more than one million dollars annually for a new study aimed at conserving marbled murrelet populations in Oregon, said James Rivers, a professor of animal ecology in the College of Forestry and lead researcher on the project.

How one town learned to live with venomous rattlesnakes

Predators like the timber rattlesnake are often the most hated and persecuted wildlife, says William Ripple, a distinguished ecology professor at Oregon State University. This is alarming to scientists, given new research that suggests predators are not only vital to healthy natural environments, but to humanity itself.

Tall wood buildings: Going up

Ari Sinha, Andre Barbosa and Chris Higgins are working on a project called “Framework” (Framework Project LLC), a 12-story, mixed-use structure in north Portland. It was created by a team from LEVER Architects and Project.

The project won the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition, a contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Softwood Lumber Board and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council. The team was awarded $1.5 million toward the project.

“The USDA grant will allow the project to engage the exploratory phase, including the research and development necessary to utilize Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and other engineered wood products in high-rise construction in the United States,” LEVER says. “This includes working with Portland and Oregon code authorities during the pre-permitting process to define and perform the necessary testing and peer review to demonstrate the feasibility of tall wood buildings.”

Testing is required because CLT is not currently part of the Oregon prescriptive building code, and that’s where Oregon State comes in with crushing tests that will prove the stiffness, strength and flexibility of CLT.

Sheer testing, conducted at the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, imitates seismic activity to illustrate CLT’s remarkable resistance to earthquakes.

“This testing can be very extensive and time consuming,” says Sinha, who will lead the tests. “But it’s worth it because we are able to collect this data and share it with others to be used in the future. Our students also get great hands-on experience helping with the tests.”

“Framework” contains retail space on the first floor followed by five levels of offices and five levels of workforce housing. More importantly, the building contains Oregon grown and produced CLT, an advanced wood product that represents the future of construction.

Art exhibit explores the connection between art and science

“The more you study science, the more you’re given explanations based on facts,” Mark Harmon says. “Sooner or later, you stop learning about the humanities and practicing art and writing. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less tolerant of crushing the humanity out of science.”

Harmon himself was inspired by poetry and prose from the Spring Creek Project’s writers in residence at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest.

The Spring Creek Project’s focus is bringing together the practical wisdom of the environmental sciences, the clarity of philosophical analysis and the creative, expressive power of the written word to find new ways to understand our relation to the natural world.

“The writers in residence who visit the forest are required to go to different sites and write about their observations,” Harmon explains. “Some of them were sent to my log decomposition sites, and people kept sending me the writing that came out of it.”

Harmon says some of the writing is funny, and some is profound.

“One piece in particular makes me almost cry each time I read it,” he says, “And I’m not a touchy-feely guy.”

Harmon, an expert on tree decomposition, says the biggest challenge of his work is explaining that dead trees actually exist.

“Even some scientists do not understand this issue,” Harmon says. “There wasn’t a lot of research being done on dead trees until about ten years ago.”

He decided to combat this problem by using art and the humanities to help make his point. In 2014 he teamed up with the Corvallis Arts Center to produce a show called “Rot: The Afterlife of Trees.”

Twenty-four Oregon artists were represented in the exhibition. The works included paintings, photography, sculptures and performance art as well as contemporary music. They dealt with the idea of life after death: that rotting trees often bring new life to forests.

Elementary school classes visited the exhibition and created their own murals in response. The murals were filled with hand-drawn images of foxes, birds, insects and other wildlife, and those were added to the show as well.

The exhibition ran from January to February at the Corvallis Arts Center and was moved to the World Forestry Center in Portland in the spring. Harmon says both shows were a success.

“If I write a paper that gets cited a few times, that’s a success,” he says. “But we had more than 2,000 people come to the art show in Corvallis alone. A lot of education these days is very indirect. Through art, you can pique someone’s interest about a topic, and when they go and research it themselves, they’re much more likely to retain the information than if they just had it dumped on them.”

“We’ve set up this world in which art and science are viewed as alternative and opposing forces,” he says. “But art is often assisted by technology and inspired by scientific breakthroughs. And scientists aren’t just cold, calculating machines. We’re often inspired by art and by intuition.

Streamflow deficits persist in young Douglas-fir forests

For a master’s degree in geography, Timothy D. Perry analyzed data at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest east of Eugene and in the Coyote Creek watershed in the South Umpqua Experimental Forest. In a report published in the journal Ecohydrology, he and Julia Jones, OSU professor of geography in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, noted that reduced flows in mountain watersheds could affect larger rivers.

Wild bees thrive after severe forest fires

“In low severity spots, if you weren’t looking for the markers of fire, you wouldn’t know that it had burned,” said Sara M. Galbraith, a post-doctoral researcher in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. “The canopy is completely closed, and the trees are usually older. There isn’t a lot of evidence of fire except for some blackened areas on some of the tree trunks."