American Steel Industry Urges Congress to Reject Anti-Competitive Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act

In a joint letter to Congress, the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), and Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA) outline their firm opposition to the proposed Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act (S4149)--and urge members of Congress to reject the anti-competitive bill.

The bill, which was introduced by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and James Risch (R-Idaho) on April 17, would give favorable treatment to the mass timber industry in the awarding of federal and military construction projects – at the expense of other building material competitors, including steel. The letter from steel industry leaders raised substantive concerns about the potential ramifications of this legislation on fair competition, taxpayer value, and sustainability practices within the construction sector.

“While we support the exploration and development of innovative building materials, this bill, and similar efforts create an unfair contracting preference and would ultimately hinder rather than promote responsible construction practices,” the letter says.

The letter is addressed to U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford (AR-1) and Frank Mrvan (IN-1), Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus, respectively, and outlines several critical issues with S4149.

  • Mandated Contracting Preferences: The proposed mandate for contracting preferences favoring wood products would disrupt the competitive bidding process and undermine taxpayer value by neglecting cost-effectiveness and project suitability considerations.
  • Supply Chain Concerns: The potential strain from a surge in demand for wood products, such as increased material costs, has broader implications on the construction industry and project budgets.
  • Neglecting True Sustainability: Mass timber’s sustainability claims are misleading and overstated. Factors such as energy efficiency, durability, and responsible sourcing should be considered in promoting sustainable building practices.
  • Safety Considerations: There is a need for thorough testing and code development to address concerns associated with mass timber construction.

“The construction industry is constantly evolving, and mass timber should be encouraged to adopt more sustainable practices,” states the letter. “The private sector is already actively exploring and developing these materials. A government mandate that favors one industry over another, funded by taxpayers, is ill-advised.”