October 28, 2019

National gaze turns to Colville and growing CLT industry

By: Brian Mittge   Comments: 0
Forest management is a passion for Russ Vaagen, founder and CEO of Vaagen Timbers, which just shipped its first shipment of cross-laminated timber (CLT) from a newly built facility in Colville that opened this summer. One of only seven companies in the U.S. to manufacture cross-laminated timber, the company manufactures the building material in custom sections, up to four feet wide and sixty feet long, that are then assembled at construction sites. This “lego set” style of building can take weeks or months off construction timelines. Vaagen Timbers products are made from trees that are a “restoration wood,” the lumber coming from the by-products of restoring forests and making them sustainable. Managing forests with sustainable practices helps restore them to a healthy state and also improve wildfire prevention. The “restoration” lumber is then laminated together using a High Frequency Kallisoe press from Denmark that is the only one of its kind in the Americas. Vaagen Timbers’ three-, five-, and seven-ply CLT panels have already been sold as far away as Finland. The AWB Manufacturing Week bus tour visited Vaagen Timbers on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. (Photo: Brian Mittge/AWB)
National Public Radio featured Vaagen Timbers last week in a report on how the growing cross-laminated timber (CLT) industry is "bridging divides" between loggers and environmentalists, all while bringing good jobs to towns like Colville, enhancing the environment and creating new building material options. 

In a five-minute report, NPR reporter Kirk Siegler interviewed Russ Vaagen, founder of the new CLT firm Vaagen Timbers.

Vaagen gave NPR a tour of his brand new CLT mill, located across the street from the family's more traditional sawmill built in the 1950s. 

"The idea behind cross-laminated timber is that you mill and glue the smaller wood together and turn it into big beams and lumber boards without having to cut down a bigger tree. The eco-friendly wood is in high demand now in cities like Portland and Seattle," Siegler reports. 

Vaagen said that CLT is a way to reduce wildfire risk by thinning out fire-prone wood from overgrown forests, leaving mature timber in an ecologically conscious way. That cuts carbon emissions while creating jobs and new building materials. 

"We're creating better, healthier forests that we're leaving out there, leaving the biggest and best trees behind to be in a natural spacing that would've been here, you know, had we not fought the wildfires or logged the forests in the past," Vaagen said. 

AWB visited the same mill earlier this month on the third-annual Manufacturing Week tour. Vaagen gave a tour to local officials and media, showing how innovative industry is creating jobs, cleaning the environment and creating new ways to build high-rises -- all here in rural Washington state.