[VIDEO] A Timber Chat with Erica Spiritos

Highlighting leaders in the timber industry as the International Mass Timber Conference kicks off, we sat down with Erica Spiritos, a mass timber expert and facilitator of the City of Seattleā€™s Mass Timber Initiative. Our Timber Chat was housed in Northlake Commons, the perfect backdrop to add the warmth of wood to the conversation. Brittany Porter, the project architect of Northlake Commons, steered the conversation with a Q&A on all things timber.

Building Transparency and Trust in Timber Sourcing

Kicking off the conversation, Brittany asked how we can create transparency around sourcing and understanding the communities that sourcing impacts. “Right now, there’s no formal mechanism that exists for targeting specific types of wood for a mass timber project,” Erica reveals.

This gap in the industry necessitates a foundation of trust and relationship-building with manufacturers, sawmill owners, and forest landowners, alongside third-party specialists who bridge the gap between landowners and the building community. “We’re doing that relationship building one conversation at a time,” Erica notes, hopeful for future infrastructure to facilitate transparency in wood sourcing.

The Complexity of Sustainable Wood Sourcing

Brittany was also curious about sustainable sourcing. Erica wishes more people understood the nuanced nature of forest management and its impact on sustainability. “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for forest management,” she states, highlighting the stark differences in practices needed on either side of the Cascades in Washington state. The approach varies from focusing on longer tree rotations to enhance carbon sequestration west of the Cascades, to emphasizing selective thinning and wildfire mitigation to the east.

“Sustainability is social too,” she asserts, suggesting the exploration of cooperative models of ownership, supporting underserved demographics, and promoting equity through our procurement decisions.

The Future of Mass Timber

Looking ahead, Erica envisions a formative stage for the mass timber industry, likening it to a teenager whose future is bright and undetermined. She foresees the growth of regional ecosystems of mass timber across the United States, from the Pacific Northwest to the emerging markets in the Southeast and beyond.

“I love the idea of creating robust, resilient economies and ecosystems around mass timber,” Erica exclaims, pointing to the potential for local sourcing to build our cities and the exciting research pushing the industry forward.

Inspiration Behind the Work

Wrapping up the Timber Chat, Brittany asked “what inspires you about the work that you do?” For Erica, the drive behind her work is the aspiration to contribute to a world that is more livable for all creatures, including humans.

“I feel inspired to leave this world better than how I came into it,” she reflects, finding purpose and fulfillment in her contributions toward a more sustainable and equitable future.


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