e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry
e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry
view of earth from research balloon

Mass Timber ConstructionESF Discovery Challenge

Building SustainablyCore team: Paul Crovella, René Germain, Chris Nowak, Tim Volk, Bob Malmsheimer, Tristan Brown, Bill Smith, Susan Anagnost, Aidan Ackerman and Elizabeth Vidon

This initiative aims to implement a complete system that removes barriers, lowers costs, and reduces risk for mass timber construction.

The Beginning

Our goal is to implement a complete system that removes barriers, lowers costs, and reduces risk for mass timber construction. Team members will work in four areas to implement these actions. The "Forest resource characterization and availability" team members will conduct a forest products supply chain analysis to determine the sustainable flow of timber species available for establishing a mass timber manufacturing facility in New York State. The "Material properties, performance, and fabrication" team members will acquire a press to fabricate and test panels of all species studied by the forest resource members. The "System evaluation" team members will use data from ESF panel manufacture to produce unique Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Technoeconomic Analyses (TEA) of studied species. The "Market acceptance, demonstration, and outreach" will use panels fabricated from ESF Forest Properties timber in a demonstration structure at the new athletic field in Tully. Using this experience, they will remove barriers to allow for the Onondaga Lake Science Center to be built as a showpiece of mass timber. This will be followed by outreach seminars and a social media site that will serve to share our mass timber information and policy options for communities to accelerate adoption.


Funding in each of the four areas is available to advance our work. The "Forest resource" group will be able to access the USDA Wood Innovation Grants ($8,000,000 per year) to implement the state forest plan, which emphasizes mass timber development. The "Materials" group will be able to access funding in the five year Farm Bill passed this week. This bill specifically requires federal support for mass timber, and lists research requirements, including material improvement and LCA. The "Systems" group will be able to access $5,000,000 set aside in the 2019 DOE budget for "novel earlier-stage research, development, and demonstration of technologies to advance energy efficient, high-rise Cross-Laminated Timber building systems." The "Market" group will be able to access NYSERDA Commercial New Construction Program funding and the SUNY Concierge for projects. Current SUNY Performance Improvement Fund funding ($300,000) will allow the college to hire a full time position for two years that will provide LEED training for students, and can also provide energy analysis of mass timber buildings. A $10,000 grant from the CoE is currently studying the worldwide impact of mass timber construction. The mass timber effort will enroll interested students in Renewable Materials Science, Construction Management, and Sustainable Energy Management. We also plan the creation of a minor within FNRM for growth into a new major.


This project reaches outside of ESF to not only share results, but to implement, demonstrate, and educate the decision makers to the vast potential of mass timber. This project brings ESF Forest Properties to a centerstage role in transforming the built environment in cities like New York. The social media site moves ESF into a new domain of environmental communication, activism, and policy. The digital fabrication lab becomes a hub of exploration for innovation in developing new, cross-disciplinary applications in materials science, manufacturing, and design.