Another possible win for mass timber

Another possible win for mass timber
SB 5467 would add mass timber manufacturers to a special business and occupation (B&O) rate created for the timber industry. Photo: freepik.com

Now that the Washington State Building Code Council and International Code Council (ICC) have incorporated advances in cross-laminated timber (CLT) technology, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers are proposing to add the mass timber to a special business and occupation (B&O) tax rate for timber manufacturers.

Introduced by Sen. Marko Liias (D-21), SB 5467 would reduce the B&O tax for CLT manufacturers from the regular rate of .484 percent to .2904 percent, which was created for timber producers a decade ago. Its companion bill is HB 1443, introduced by Deputy Majority Whip Mike Chapman (D-24). That bill cleared the House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources on Feb. 13 after a public hearing, and it has been referred to Finance.

Last year, Liias sponsored ESSB 5450, which directed WSBCC to adopt rules for CLT use for building residential and commercial buildings. The council approved the new code rules in November, while the ICC made its revisions the next month.

“Why are they so exiting? We have already found last year that these technologies are safe and ready to be applied,” Liias told colleagues at a Feb. 19 public hearing of the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee.

The benefits of CLT are numerous. Not only does the technology create uses for small-diameter trees that otherwise provide little commercial value, but it could turn costly pre-commercial thinning projects conducted by foresters and state and federal agencies into profitable harvests.

Increased demand for CLT in certain parts of the state can also help revitalized Washington’s skeleton mill infrastructure, a situation that the state’s Wildland Fire Advisory Committee says hinders restoration efforts.

Aside from increasing forest health and potentially reducing wildfire severity, CLT also has additional environmental benefits of carbon sequestration.

In support of the bill was Forterra Government Affairs Director Matt Ojala , who called it “a smart step forward. We think this is a simple fix for the legislature to make.” The nonprofit has spearheaded the effort to bring CLT into mainstream use through various building projects demonstrating its potential.

“We believe that Washington state is well positioned to be a national leader on mass timber,” Ojala said.

Vaagen Brothers in eastern Washington has formed Vaagen Timbers to manufacture CLT and plans to open in several months. Ojala said new facilities could also open up eventually in western Washington, as well.

At the federal level, the Timber Innovation Act of 2017 would have the Department of Agriculture research the use of CLT for construction but was never assigned to a committee.

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