The solution to the housing crisis in Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom (NEK) is to lower the cost of housing. The best way to lower the cost of housing is to eliminate the waste and inefficiency in the current building process. A process that hasn't changed for 200 years.
Mass Timber uses state of the art technology to flatten and bond smaller wood components together in layers. The results are structural panels, posts, and beams. The innovation of Mass Timber is using smaller, lower grade pieces of wood and turning them into larger, highly structural components.
These components unlock a new method of construction. Industrialized construction, which is more like manufacturing. By standardizing the main components of a house and prefabricating these components offsite in a manufacturing facility, teams can remove massive amounts of waste.
Lowering the cost!
Using this kit of parts, we are designing the next generation of housing, a product. Again, by prefabricating the major components, this housing can be "flat packed" and sent to site for quick assembly by a small team.
This standardization and prefabrication eliminates waste that is common in a bespoke construction process. Experts think this waste is between 15% - 50% of project costs. We think it comes in around 30% of project costs. Regardless, eliminating the waste will significantly reduce the cost of new housing.
By macro-optimizing housing at the design level, we can spec smart energy use into every house. All the homes will meet the insulation and energy requirements that lead to a healthy planet.
But our protection of the planet starts the moment we source the timber. Trees are a renewable natural resource that sequester carbon as they grow. The manufacturing process of transforming trees into panels doesn't require burning fossil fuels. In fact, any waste or unusable parts can be recycled or burned to create energy.
The forest industry is essential to Vermont's rural economy. That might be an understatement. The forest industry is synonymous with Vermont's rural economy, and they are facing the same trend. For decades, loggers, sawmills, and other forest businesses have been declining as owners age out, and the next generation doesn't see the opportunity to thrive.
This environment creates a vicious cycle of labor choosing to leave rural areas for better opportunities...resulting in a labor shortage...meaning businesses can't thrive...and labor leaves rural areas for better opportunities. Once started, it's hard to reverse this trend.
Mass Timber technology offers an opportunity to reverse these trends by creating a market for low-grade wood to build the next generation of housing. Not only does Mass Timber support the current forest economy, but it adds manufacturing and assembly jobs as well.
As with technology, we're going to leverage our strategic location. In the NEK we are located in the center of the northern wood basket. With interstates running north/south to connect to the population centers on the US east coast and Canada.
This location provides an opportunity to establish a network of regional mini-mills that can process the mass timber parts into housing kits. This regional strategy keeps the labor and material hyper-local and avoids the entrenched costs of a massive centralized facility.
There are many other advantages to this strategy. It's agile and can adjust to changing market conditions quickly. It creates jobs where they are needed, locally. And it fits the culture and ethos of the NEK.
As Mass Timber continues to grow in adoption, the NEK has an opportunity to become a regional hub. Not only can we create the parts we need for housing, but we can also incubate businesses and attract talent to support the ecosystem. We have an opportunity to build an economic flywheel.
Are you interested in housing or mass timber and want to get involved? We need help. If you can contribute, let's have a conversation. Shoot us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org