The Portland Museum of Art had the opportunity to participate in the International Mass Timber Conference in Portland, Oregon. The museum was the only arts organization among 3,000 attendees from 20 countries, yet we were told time and again that The PMA Blueprint — our sustainable campus expansion and unification project in collaboration with LEVER Architecture — is the bellwether this emerging industry has been waiting for.

Mass timber is an exciting, new, and sustainable technology that uses large, prefabricated wooden elements to construct buildings. One of the key benefits of mass timber construction is its ability to sequester carbon, retaining it in the building rather than being released back into the atmosphere through decomposition or burning. When the wood used for mass timber construction is obtained from sustainably managed forests, the resulting materials have a much lower life-cycle carbon footprint than steel and concrete, delivering a 26.5% reduction in global warming potential, according to University of Washington researchers. That is incredibly significant, as the building sector produces an extraordinary 40% of global carbon emissions annually. The most common forms of mass timber include cross-laminated timber (CLT), Glue Laminated beams, Structural Round Timber (SRT), and laminated veneer lumber (LVL). No matter the type, all mass timber is incredibly strong, climate safe, and sustainable.

Maine almost had a CLT plant in 2018, but lost the bid to a site in the south that is now a profitable economic driver in Alabama. In our preplanning for our building, we’re discovering a shared desire and drive for a CLT plant in Maine by our policymakers at all levels, the University of Maine, Indigenous leaders, landowners, forestry advocates, businesses, and more. Mass timber in Maine just makes sense. We’re the most forested state in the country — with nearly 90% of the land covered in forests, the potential to revitalize and reimagine our state is real. This is a rare and unique opportunity to bring rural and urban communities, companies, and governments together through clean industries that make the world better and support Maine jobs.

The time is now to incentivize mass timber as a go-to building material to maximize long-lasting and positive outcomes for our economies and environment. Together, we can support a better future, one that leads sustainably while fostering the people, communities, and industries that could revitalize and reimagine our state and New England as a whole.

Mark Bessire

Judy and Leonard Lauder Director

Portland Museum of Art

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