Is a career in the lumber industry really a long-term thing?
Even the Vikings would be impressed by the future of wood.
Ships were an important part of the Viking Age (793–1066 AD) not only as a means of transportation but also for the prestige that each ship conferred on her owner and skipper. The shipwrights used a type of timber that is rarely seen today – the grown timber. A grown timber is simply one that has grown to the right shape as the grain runs in the direction that is needed, making the timber incredibly strong, flexible, and of the lowest weight.
Fast-forward to today and we’re still evolving the wood products industry to create stronger, flexible, and lower-weight solutions. One example is the evolution of “mass timber,” which uses a mixture of laminates and compression to make buildings with wood the next generation of sustainable construction. Take, for example, the 18-story Mjösa Tower in Brumunddal, Norway, which is the tallest wood building in the world. Or the Carbon 12 building in Portland, Oregon, which is the tallest building in the United States made with mass timber.
But it’s more than just how tall they are that’s important. Mass timber has the potential to replace concrete and steel, which are both energy-intensive and require strip mining to extract their raw materials. Mass timber also has the ability to store CO2 indefinitely because trees are by their very nature “stored carbon” as they remove the “C” from atmospheric CO2 to build their roots, trunks, and branches while releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. Mass timber also allows buildings to be constructed in cold weather (concrete must be poured and cured at very specific temperatures) and it’s actually quieter to build wood buildings than either steel or concrete buildings. Plus, they’re aesthetically beautiful with a biophilic effect giving occupants a heightened connection to nature.
As climate change results in industries placing more and more value on the ability to store carbon in the soil, trees provide the ability to store massive amounts of carbon. And using regenerative forestry management techniques means the supply of wood can continue for thousands of years. The Vikings would be impressed.