Mass Timber Conference 2017

On March 28th & 29th in Portland Oregon, the second annual Mass Timber Conference took place.  Hosting approximately 800 attendees, speakers, and exhibitors to discuss everything to do with mass timber.  The well-attended conference was organized by the Forest Business Network.

Andrew Waugh shares his view of the “Timber Age”

Each day had a morning general session with keynote speakers that included renowned London-based architect Andrew Waugh.  His firm, Waugh Thistleton, has completed many of the largest timber structures including the world’s largest Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) building, Dalston Lane.

Chuck Leavell sharing Americas Forests

The second day was highlighted by a member of The Rolling Stones, Chuck Leavell, giving his praises to forest management and CLT.  He was showing his latest video, which is the first in a series called America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell.  Chuck owns his own managed family forest in Georgia and shares his passion for actively managed forests.

There were other excellent keynote addresses from Steve Marshall, USFS State and Private Forestry Assistant Director, Jason McLennan, Founder of the Living Building Challenge, and Bill Parsons, WoodWorks National Director for Architectural & Engineering Solutions.   Each of them bringing important and unique perspectives to the world of wood.  One of the common themes that permeated the Oregon Convention Center was the palpable energy around mass timber from an eco-friendly angle.

This wasn’t your typical wood products show.  There were organizations there that we focused on sustainability and like Andrew Waugh says, “Timber allows us to grow our buildings from the energy of the sun.”  Jason McLennan created a new strategy for building where wood can be the centerpiece, allowing buildings to produce energy and water.  They did just that with the Bullitt Center in Seattle. Creating a building that is built using mass timber and other eco-friendly products for a commercial office space that creates more power and clean water than it takes in.

It doesn’t take long to see that it’s no longer the days of the Timber Wars.  Times are changing.  Conversations are happening to create new solutions.  Shared interests between all parties are driving product innovation and forest practices everyone can be proud of.  And the products are pretty amazing in their own right.

Sessions on many topics offered many learning opportunities.

There were educational sessions both days.  Following the general session keynote talks, there were 4 tracks that attendees could sit in on.  These session topics were Environment, Development, Design & Engineering, and Manufacturing.

Even though this industry is still pretty small, there were many great presenters with lots of information.  Much of it was centered on the US and Canada, but there were many European companies and attendees.  There was almost too much information to choose from.  Many companies that were represented were seen sending people to multiple tracks so they could get the most possible information.

Smartlam, DR Johnson, and Freres Lumber displays

On the show floor, there were many great displays.  SmartLam had an impressive display as you walked onto the showroom that featured a wooden spiral staircase.  DR Johnson also had an excellent show that featured many of the CLT projects and products that they have produced, but one of their most impressive pieces wasn’t on the floor.  DR Johnson supplied the podium for the general session, and it set the tone for the entire event.  USNR had a CLT centered booth showing their logo CNC’d into a large CLT panel.  They supplied the press for DR Johnson.

Freres Lumber showed off their new product called Mass Plywood Panels (MPP).  It’s essentially cross laminated plywood that will compete with and compliment CLT in the mass timber marketplace.  Canadian CLT leaders Structurlam, Structure Craft, and Nordic Structures showed how their products with penetrating the market in impressive fashion.

The global scale of these products was evidenced by European producers Hasslacher, Binderholz, and KLH.  There may only be a handful of producers in North America, but there are approximately 50 facilities in Europe in a market that is consistently growing.

Hasslacher’s Sachsenburg, Austria Headquarters. Photo Courtesy of Hasslacher

European equipment suppliers like Minda, Kallesoe, and Stiles showed what they provide to the European market.  There were major adhesive suppliers like Hexion and Henkel with great looking booths.  Many others had displays of products and models.

WoodWorks booth had some great looking scale models of buildings like the soon to start “Framework” project located in Portland’s Pearl District.  A 12-story structure made of CLT and Glulam.  Many see this and the 8-story Carbon 12 building as the pre-curser to a significant shift to timber in mid-rise structures.

Albina Yard Office Building. Home to LEVER Architecture. Constructed of CLT and Glulam

Thomas Robinson and his firm, LEVER Architecture built a 4-story CLT and Glulam office building not far from the Convention Center.  They hosted an exhibition to demonstrate the many opportunities using timber.  The exhibition showed how the wood system goes together as well as showing how well it performs in a fire.  They showed a video and a beam after 2 hours of intense fire.  The beam was charred but still remained structurally sound.


The Mass Timber Conference also proved to be the right time and place to launch our new venture, Vaagen Timbers.  The evening of the 29th of March, my team and I hosted a small event where we announced our intention to start a state-of-the-art mass timber manufacturing company.  In 2018 we will begin producing CLT and Glulam beams for the marketplace.

We are still working on many aspects of the business, so details remain limited.  We have a landing page at where you can sign up for future updates.  We were excited to be part of such a great event and look forward to more involvement in future events as this market grows.

3 thoughts on “Mass Timber Conference 2017”

  1. Russ,
    Congratulations on your new venture. Thank you for such a glowing and thorough report on the International Mass Timber Conference.
    Vaagen Timbers is a great addition to the marketplace and to an already reputable name.

  2. Nice report out. It was great to see you and meet your team, they seem to be a really top notch group.

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