The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) and Boston Society for Architecture (BSA) today launched the Mass Timber Accelerator for local building industry professionals to broaden awareness, identify new opportunities, and accelerate the use of mass timber in Boston and the New England region. The Accelerator will provide technical support and award up to ten $25,000 grants for active development projects in the early phases of project planning.

Mass timber is a structural wood product that is transforming building practices in an environmentally friendly way. It is comprised of multiple solid wood panels nailed or glued together, which provide exceptional strength and stability. It’s a proven, low-carbon structural solution with the ability to build up to 18 stories.

The program supports the City of Boston’s Climate Action Plan Update, an initiative created to meet Boston’s Carbon Neutral 2050 goals. The expansion of mass timber construction practices is a critical step to reaching zero net carbon building and zoning standards.

“Once again, the City of Boston is proud to be a leader in the fight against climate change by implementing this initiative into our building practices,” said Mayor Kim Janey. “We hope projects will take advantage of this funding to bring us closer to Boston’s Carbon neutral 2050 goals.”

“Throughout the last decade, Boston has taken great strides to become a national leader in environmentally friendly and low carbon building practices,” said BPDA Director Brian Golden. “Today, together with our local partners in architecture, engineering, labor and development, we are advancing mass timber construction, a new innovative practice that will help the building industry reduce its carbon footprint and become more sustainable.”

“In Boston, we know the value of innovative ideas and emerging practices to reduce our city’s carbon footprint,” said Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space. “The Mass Timber Accelerator is just one example of how Bostonians are embedding the goals of carbon reduction and resilience in our development processes.”

The launch includes the Think Wood Mobile Tour, a traveling visual exhibit showcasing the environmental and economic benefits of wood products and their current and future use in both commercial, multifamily, and residential construction. The exhibit features a variety of interactive elements including building models ranging from single family homes to tall wood structures, kiosks and LED screens telling the wood story from forest to market. The exhibit will be on display from September 28–30.

“The Boston Society for Architecture is incredibly excited to partner with the City of Boston on the Mass Timber Accelerator,” said Greg Minott AIA, BSA president, and co-founder and managing principal of DREAM Collaborative. “The building industry is an essential leader in moving Boston to net zero, and mass timber is vital to this effort. We know first-hand through work with our members that driving innovation and demanding change to business as usual is what will position our region as a leader in the net zero economy and as a group of people dedicated to making real change.”

“We are thrilled to support this forward-thinking program because it serves as a springboard to reimagining the possibilities of wood in the built environment,” said Ryan Flom, chief marketing officer of the Softwood Lumber Board. “Mass timber enables developers and designers a market differentiating aesthetic and biophilic benefits that can boost a project’s overall value while delivering a low-carbon structural building solution that will support the City of Boston in reaching its sustainability goals. We can’t wait to see what the Boston building industry will deliver!”

The BPDA will award technical assistance and grants with funding and support from USDA Forest Service, WoodWorks, Think Wood, Softwood Lumber Board, and the ClimateWorks Foundation.

Boston’s Mass Timber Accelerator Program is open to development teams with active building projects in the City of Boston. Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis with a goal of selecting new practitioners with Boston projects representing a wide range of building uses, affordability, and heights, and based on the potential for successful integration of low carbon mass timber building materials and practices into the project. Additional details can be found here. Applications are due November 19, 2021.

The BPDA has also launched the Zero Net Carbon Building Zoning Initiative to assess and identify strategies to strengthen green building zoning requirements to a zero net carbon standard for new construction, to meet the City of Boston’s goal for Boston to be carbon neutral by 2050. Boston’s buildings account for approximately 71% of local community carbon emissions, and represent the greatest opportunity for emissions reductions. The Mass Timber Accelerator Program is a critical step in reducing embodied carbon, the GHG emissions from building materials, by focusing on low carbon building structure systems. Wood is naturally more sustainable and low carbon and is regionally plentiful. Wood structures also sequester carbon, effectively helping to offset emissions from material production. Recognizing the significant carbon emissions due to building construction and materials, 23 percent of annual global emissions, the expansion of mass timber construction practices as a critical next step in reducing GHG emissions.

About the Boston Planning & Development Agency

As the City of Boston’s urban planning and economic development agency, the BPDA works in partnership with the community to plan Boston’s future while respecting its past. The agency’s passionate and knowledgeable staff guides physical, social, and economic change in Boston’s neighborhoods and its downtown to shape a more prosperous, resilient, and vibrant city for all. The BPDA also prepares residents for new opportunities through employment training, human services and job creation.