GRANT WINNER | HOUSING CONSTRUCTION

Forterra

Washington State

Forterra’s Forest to Home innovation brings together a coalition of Native communities and communities of color, land trusts, architects, engineers and more to re-engineer the affordable housing supply chain. Through modular cross-laminated timber, Forterra seeks to radically lower the cost of construction, create rural jobs and address the impacts of climate change. Propelled by community engagement and guided by best practices in sustainability, the coalition is seeking to source 100% of its fiber from responsibly harvested forests.

A pre-built room being lifted with a crane inside a warehouse

Forterra is an unconventional land trust working across Washington State’s communities and landscapes. Forterra drives land stewardship, management and planning, innovative programs and policies, farming and forestry approaches, community ownership, and development solutions.

Forest to Home partners: Abu Bakhr Islamic Center, Fab-5, Zaugg AG Rohrbach and Aspect Structural Engineers.

A living room and dinner room with white and wood walls and a colorful painting on the wall
With support from the Breakthrough Challenge, Forterra built ModPro, the first all cross-laminated timber modular prototype in the United States at a local facility in Everett, Wash.

THE CHALLENGE

Construction innovation in affordable housing has been slow since the 1970s. Fossil fuels are burned to manufacture concrete and steel for buildings that few can afford. The system is reliant on imports and contributes to emissions and cost escalation.

Through modular cross-laminated timber, Forterra imagines a future forest-to-home continuum where sustainably managed forests absorb our carbon and are harvested responsibly for the production of long-lasting, durable modules. Modular cross-laminated timber can be more cost certain and more scalable than many other technologies available today.

Forterra’s challenge is to convert an older supply chain into a newer one, demonstrating that innovation is in everybody’s best interest. 

SOLUTION: FOREST TO HOME

Forest to Home transforms the home delivery supply chain, bringing together Native communities and communities of color, forest conservationists, and engineers to replace conventional construction technologies.

At the core of the innovation is cross-laminated timber, a responsibly harvested engineered wood product that is lightweight, strong and beautiful. Forterra's Breakthrough Challenge grant was used specifically to create ModPro, the first all cross-laminated timber modular prototype in the United States. The modular design can be stacked up to 12 stories, with construction costs 35% below market construction costs. 

“There would be no prototype without the Breakthrough Challenge. Having a physical space to bring folks has allowed us to say to community members: ‘You can expect high quality. That is your right.' " 
― Hillary Wilson, Forterra

Forest to Home’s two pilot cross-laminated developments will serve communities of color and focus on a community-driven design and ownership process.

  • In Tacoma, Washington, Forterra is helping position the historically Black community of Hilltop to combat gentrification through the creation of 250 cooperatively owned affordable homes in a mixed-use, mixed-income development. Hilltop leaders identified a development site for the future cross-laminated timber building at a vacated Rite Aid property, which Forterra purchased.
     
  • In Tukwila, Washington, Forterra is working with leaders from Puget Sound’s Somali community to develop a 15,000-square-foot souq, or marketplace, and approximately 100 new cooperatively owned homes constructed from modular cross-laminated timber. The co-op ownership structure reflects the values and needs of the community.

The cross-laminated timber panels and modules will be built and assembled at a new 94-acre wood innovation center to be constructed in Darrington, Wash.

A group of people touring a mountain side and looking off in the distance.
In Washington State, Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin shows Breakthrough Challenge winners the site of the new wood innovation center where the modular cross-laminated homes will be built, providing an economic boost to this rural region.

IMPACT

Through modular design and use of cross-laminated timber, Forterra is committed to carrying out a long-term strategy of sourcing sustainably managed and harvested timber to minimize environmental impact and lower the cost of housing.

An open-innovation model will make the prototype designs and manufacturing methods freely available to affordable housing builders and developers across the country.