Port Angeles port OKs funds for CRTC-WSU demonstration project

PORT ANGELES — The Port of Port Angeles will spend $230,000 in seed money on a demonstration panel and other components of construction-grade, cross-laminated timber to possibly be used for housing.

This is Phase 1 of a joint project between the Composite Recycling Technology Center and Washington State University.

The hope is that the timber can be marketed to fulfill housing needs for such buyers as the military.

The project could blossom into $5 million to $7 million in new production facilities in Port Angeles and more than 50 new jobs, said David Walter, CEO of the CRTC, in a proposal. The proposal was the product of a year of work among the CRTC, WSU and the port, said Karen Goshen, port executive director.

“This is an amazing opportunity for us,” said board President Connie Beauvais.

Port commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved the no-bid personal services contract with the CRTC, a port tenant and the lead for the project.

Under Phase 1 of what the CRTC calls the Advanced Building Material Initiative, the not-for-profit CRTC will join forces with WSU’s Composite Materials and Engineering Center.

“The end game is a new manufacturing facility here on the Peninsula,” Chris Hartman, port director of engineering, told the commissioners.

The CRTC and WSU will produce a demonstration panel and other components that combine thermally modified coastal western hemlock from trees provided by McClanahan’s Lumber Mill in Forks with the CRTC’s recycled carbon fiber, Walter said.

The panel will be showcased March 19-21 at the 2019 International Mass Timber Conference in Portland, Ore., possibly developing interest for Phase 2.

Production facilities

Walter said in a Jan. 16 proposal for the agreement that a stand-alone thermal modification facility and a small-dimension cross-laminated-timber-panel production facility would be needed to put the panels into mass production.

The CRTC would need to add 23 people over five years to support the initiative, Walter said, adding that opportunities exist to fulfill military housing needs.

A “mini” CLT panel facility would need 30 workers over five years, and a thermal modification facility would need about 8 million to 12 million board feet of hemlock a year in five years and about 22 workers.

The total impact equals 75 people, plus indirect impact, Walter said.

“Investment necessary in fully operational facilities in in the range of $5 million to $7 million inclusive of facilities and equipment,” Walter said.

He said possible funding partners would include the Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As part of Phase 1, the CRTC and WSU have said they will finalize the required certification from WSU through the American Plywood Association by July 31.

Potential buyers

Phase 2, as yet unfunded, would result in the construction of a 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom house to showcase to potential buyers.

“The CRTC will seek out potential developers, technology and systems providers, as well as buyers, who would be willing to invest in the model home,” Walter said.

The port will not provide additional funding for the initiative, “not at this point,” Goschen said Wednesday.

“All we are doing is, in Phase 1, trying to get through the finishing and developing and testing by WSU,” she said.

“Certification is critical not only for the panels, but for connections for the panels.

“They are going to work with individual partners to get funding for Phase 2.

“We will be taking what we learn from this and we will be contacting manufacturers who are potentially interested in opportunities on the Olympic Peninsula.

“We needed something more concrete to market that opportunity, and this gives us that.”

Walter was unavailable for interviews Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.

He said in the CRTC’s funding application that materials supply partners will include U.K.-based ELG Carbon Fibre, a carbon-fiber recycling giant that is partnering on a separate recycling initiative with Boeing.

Boeing announced in December that its aerospace-grade composite materials would be recycled for other companies to make electronic accessories and automotive equipment.

The CRTC and WSU will calculate energy costs, the quantities required for materials, and other factors during Phase 1 that will be applied to developing the Phase 2 demonstration home.

“Military housing needs, incorporating both the durability and the fast erection requirement, is a particular opportunity, as is disaster shelters wherein the panelized homes can be warehoused in containers ready for deployment and rapid assembly post-incident without concern of deterioration during storage as one would see with traditional building materials,” Walter said.

“[Phase 1] will position the team well for responding to the Army housing opportunity, with real data as well as identification of any issues early on.

“The outcome will be used to predict the volume and values of timber to be used in such a housing approach, and thus be useful in solicitation of entrepreneurs to set up the larger-scale processing facilities here in Port Angeles.”

Phase 2 might utilize timber from the Makah Tribe, Walter said, adding that discussions are underway with the tribe for that timber.

WSU’s Composite Materials and Engineering Center has developed the application for combining thermally modified hemlock with recycled carbon fiber.

Cross-laminated timber consists of layers of kiln-dried lumber stacked in alternating directions and bonded with structural adhesives to create rectangular panels (tinyurl.com/PDN-CLT).

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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