Mass timber construction is on the rise, with advocates saying it could revolutionize the building industry and be part of a climate change solution. But some are questioning whether the logging and manufacturing required to produce the new material outweigh any benefits.
Mjösa Tower, the world’s tallest wooden building, under construction in Brumunddal, Norway. ANTI HAMAR
The eight-story Carbon 12 building in Portland, Oregon is the tallest commercial structure in the United States to be built from something called mass timber.
If the many fervent boosters of this new construction material are right, however, it is only one of the first mass timber buildings among many, the beginning of a construction revolution. “The design community in Portland is enthralled with the material,” said Emily Dawson, an architect at Kaiser + Path, the locally-based firm that designed Carbon 12.
The move to mass timber is even farther along in Europe. That’s because mass timber – large structural panels, posts, and beams glued under pressure or nailed together in layers, with the wood’s grain stacked perpendicular for extra strength – is not only prized as an innovative building material, superior to concrete and steel in many ways, it is also hoped it will come into its own as a significant part of a climate change solution.
The possible prodigious climate benefits are what has many people taking mass timber seriously.
“We want to debunk the myth that mass timber is in any way, shape, or form related to some kind of environmental benefit,” said John Talberth, president of the Center for Sustainable Economy, which is based near Portland. “That’s simply not true.”
Yet proponents say mass timber does have real promise as a way to sequester massive amounts of CO2, if a fully sustainable life cycle comes together. “We are working with a large interdisciplinary team of climate scientists, carbon cycle researchers, metallurgists, and foresters to really understand the potential climate impacts of mass timber at scale,” said Ruff. MORE
The 44-MW Nanticoke Solar Farm in Ontario. ONTARIO POWER GENERATION
What was once the largest coal-fired power plant in North America has been converted to a 44-megawatt solar farm with 192,431 photovoltaic panels spread across 260 acres, the electric utility Ontario Power Generation announced. The facility, situated on the shores of Lake Erie in Ontario, will generate enough electricity to power more than 7,200 homes.
The project is located on the grounds of retired Nanticoke Generating Station, which operated for more than 40 years before closing down in 2013. The idea to use part of the coal facility’s property for a new solar farm was spearheaded and paid for by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation, and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Its opening last week coincided with the one-year anniversary of the demolition of Nanticoke’s smokestacks, which once stood 650 feet tall, Mining.com reported.
Stacey Laforme, Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, called the Nanticoke Solar Project “an important economic development” in the region and for tribal nations. MORE
America’s public lands can help solve the climate crisis instead of contributing to it
The Green New Deal resolution—the grandest gesture Congress has made toward climate action in decades, even if it is largely symbolic—is astonishing in its boldness. It calls for no less than weaning the country off fossil fuels within ten years, while ensuring a “just transition” for coal, oil, and gas workers into clean-energy jobs. Critics on both sides of the aisle have derided the resolution, which maintains that everyone should have “clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food and access to nature,” as naive, overly ambitious, and vague. But some energy-policy experts see another, little-discussed shortcoming: while about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions come from federal lands, the resolution barely mentions them; the closest it comes is in a trio of short declarations, one that calls for “ensuring that public lands, waters and oceans are protected,” another that calls for “restoring and protecting threatened, endangered and fragile ecosystems through locally appropriate and science-based projects that enhance biodiversity and support climate resiliency,” and a third that advocates “restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage” to pull more carbon out of the air.
If the goals of the Green New Deal are to be met, public lands will need to play a central role while the resolution’s concepts are turned into detailed, actionable blueprints, energy-policy experts say.
“The Green New Deal should be about replacing fossil-fuel energy with clean energy, and the public lands are an essential tool for doing both,” says David Hayes, who served as deputy secretary of the Interior Department during the Obama administration and is now a law professor at New York University. “One-third of the land mass in the U.S., and all of the offshore [land], is in federal hands. So the federal government is uniquely situated to lead.”
Federal lands hold tremendous untapped potential for unleashing a renewables boom and sucking down the carbon dioxide that’s warming the globe, Huntley and other energy-policy experts say. While federal lands hold significant oil, gas, and coal reserves, they also have some of the nation’s best solar and wind resources. MORE
WATCH: In a move to phase out gas-powered vehicles, B.C. has introduced legislation that would require all new cars and trucks sold in the province to be zero emission by 2040. Richard Zussman reports.
The B.C. government will require all new vehicles sold in the province to be zero-emission by 2040. The plan will be phased in over time, with new legislation mandating that 10 per cent of new light-duty vehicle sales be zero-emission by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.
“British Columbians are eager to make the switch to zero-emission vehicles, but price and availability can be barriers,” Minister of Energy Michelle Mungall said.
“To reduce those barriers, we are providing rebates as part of CleanBC, and now we are bringing in legislation that will improve availability.” MORE
WATCH: Trudeau defends asylum and refugee system, says Canada seeing higher numbers due to global instability
A group of civil-society and legal organizations is asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to withdraw changes to asylum laws included in a Liberal budget bill tabled this week, calling them harsh and unnecessary.
Amnesty International, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the Canadian and B.C. civil-liberties associations and the Canadian Council for Refugees have written a joint letter to Trudeau saying the proposed legal changes would strip crucial and hard-won human-rights protections from vulnerable refugees.
“These cases involve incredibly high stakes for the claimants, including questions of persecution and torture, of being able to live life freely in accordance with one’s identity and culture with protection for fundamental human rights and even questions of life and death,” states the letter.
“That is why Canada has long ensured that refugee claims are determined in a fair hearing before an independent tribunal.”
The changes would prevent asylum-seekers from making refugee claims in Canada if they have made similar claims in certain other countries, namely the United States — a move Border Security Minister Bill Blair says is aimed at preventing “asylum-shopping.”
“The bottom line is this is the old boys’ club protecting the old boys’ club.”
Former federal cabinet minister Rona Ambrose introduced a bill requiring sexual-assault training for judges that passed unanimously in the House of Commons nearly two years ago. ADRIAN WYLD/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Former federal cabinet minister Rona Ambrose is criticizing the Senate for holding up her private member’s bill requiring sexual-assault law education for judges, nearly two years after it passed the House of Commons.
The former MP said she learned late last week that her appearance before the Senate committee on legal and constitutional affairs, which is studying the bill, was pushed back a fifth time. She was expecting to appear before committee on Wednesday and has not been given a new date.
“Once again, they have shown that sexual-assault survivors are not a priority,” she said. “I suspect they will go straight into other government business and use that as yet another delay tactic. … The bottom line is this is the old boys’ club protecting the old boys’ club.”
Ms. Ambrose’s Bill C-337, the Judicial Accountability Through Sexual Assault Law Training Act, would restrict eligibility for federal judicial appointments to those who have completed education in sexual-assault law and social context.
It would also require the Canadian Judicial Council to report on seminars in matters related to sexual-assault law and it amends the Criminal Code to require that reasons provided by a judge in sexual-assault decisions be entered in the record of the proceedings or be in writing. MORE
Aerial photographs of land next to Cowichan Lake, taken by Sierra Club BC senior forest and climate campaigner Jens Wieting in July 2018. Photo courtesy Sierra Club of BC
VANCOUVER ISLAND, B.C. – A pair of environmental groups are claiming that old growth trees on Vancouver Island could be on the chopping block.
According to a release, environmental organizations Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) and Sierra Club BC say they have discovered that the provincial government agency is proposing cutblocks across the last intact old-growth rainforest areas on the island.
The groups claim that a 1,300-hectare area, equivalent to the size of more than three Stanley Parks, is intended to be auctioned for industrial clearcutting in 2019.
The information is based off a review of BC Timber Sales’ (BCTS) sales schedule.
“Vancouver Island’s ancient rainforests have helped sustain Indigenous cultures, a vast array of plants and animals and a stable climate since the last ice age. The province shouldn’t risk eliminating rare species and plant communities across these blocks,” said Sunshine Coast resident Ross Muirhead, a forest campaigner with ELF who monitors BCTS’ logging developments.
“Destroying the last great old-growth stands is a huge mistake that will be looked back upon by future generations as a huge travesty. Remaining intact forests are needed to create linkages within highly fragmented landscapes and to avoid tipping points when it comes to climate change and species extinction.” MORE