Cesar Rodriguez, a Greenville architect, examines a piece of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) during Clemson's Building Sustainability with Wood workshop in Greenville.

Cesar Rodriguez, a Greenville architect, examines a piece of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) during Clemson’s Building Sustainability in South Carolina with Wood workshop held May 16 in Greenville.
Image Credit: Denise Attaway/Clemson University

GREENVILLE – Wood is diverse, plentiful and sustainable – three reasons why it is the preferred building material for many in South Carolina.

Clemson University, together with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, along with the S.C. Forestry Commission, S.C. Forestry Association, S.C. Biomass Council, Woodworks-Wood Products Council, the American Wood Council, the APA–The Engineered Wood Association, struck out across the state to tout the benefits of building with wood. “Building Sustainably in S.C. with Wood” workshops were held in Greenville, Columbia and Charleston.

“Wood is the material of the 21st Century,” said Pat Layton, director of the Wood Utilization + Design Institute at Clemson University. “We want everyone to know there is plenty of wood available and there are plenty of ways to use it in both commercial and residential construction.”

Economic impact on South Carolina

More than two-thirds of land – 12.9 million acres – in South Carolina is forested.

“Our forests are interesting and diverse,” said Gene Kodama, state forester.  “Materials generated from our forests provide food and shelter, as well as help provide water and oxygen.”

South Carolina forests also have economic benefits. According to Kodama, forestry has an $18.6 billion impact on the state’s economy, making forestry the No. 1 industry in the state in the following categories:

  • Manufacturing — 90,320 jobs with a payroll of $4.5 billion
  • Harvested crop — totaling $759 million
  • Exported commodity — No. 1 for the past eight years from the Port of Charleston at $1.5 billion

Opportunities for South Carolina forestry industry

Opportunities for wood have “opened up,” said Paul Coats of the American Wood Council. And South Carolina is positioned to reap the benefits that come from having such a diversified industry, coupled with the state’s adoption of the International Building Codes (IBC).

“South Carolina has been very progressive in its adoption of building codes,” Coats said. “South Carolina has continued to keep up with all changes in the codes and, therefore, has remained a leader in building practices.”

The psychological effect wood has on people, in addition to cost savings, is another reason it is the building material many choose.

Bruce Lindsey from WoodWorks-Wood Products Council said, “Wood has been found to have a calming effect on people. Studies show people’s stress is found to be lower in rooms constructed of wood. It is also less costly to use than other building materials. School districts are using wood to build new buildings and save money. They then use this savings to invest in energy-savings construction elements, which results in even more savings.”

Lindsey also talked about how the wood products industry has helped introduce Cross Laminated Timber-based structures to provide taller, more cost-effective structures. CLT is an engineered wood building system designed to complement light-frame and heavy timber framing options. Because of its high strength and dimensional stability, CLT can be used as alternative to concrete, masonry and steel in many building types.

Making a wood connection 

The South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism knows the importance of using wood to make people feel at ease. The department is using wood in the design of its welcome centers across the state. Elissa Bostain of Liollio Architecture in Greenville said the design includes front porches on each of the centers.

“Nothing says ‘Welcome’ like a front porch,” Bostain said. “In addition to front porches, the centers will have an open, more welcoming feel about them. A lot of wood is included in the new design. Wood is reliable, easily accessible, familiar and can be used in a progressive way. It responds to our heritage and the past, but it also is forward-looking.”

Other speakers during the workshop included Phil Gerald, who gave an update from the State Engineer’s Office; Tim Adams of the S.C. Forestry Commission, who described wood products manufactured in South Carolina; and Al Goetzl from Seneca Creek Associates, who talked about the building construction market and wood use.

Dan Len of the USDA Forest Service talked about the state’s forests and the USDA’s regional biomass program, which uses trees to produce energy. Len said healthy forests have helped maintain existing wood products markets

“Healthy forests need good management, which requires wise stewardship,” Len said. “Wise stewardship creates sustainability, which drives confidence in managing forest land. The benefits we get from healthy forests are economic, environmental, as well as social. Everybody wins when we have healthy forests.”

Cesar Rodriguez, an architect from Greenville, said the workshop was an excellent educational opportunity for him.

“(Events such as) this help me keep up with what is going on in the industry,” Rodriguez said. “Everything is so organized and the day is so well-planned, I learn more in one day than I could learn if I had to do this on my own.”