News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Freres honored for ‘coolest thing’ in Oregon

Freres Engineered Wood has been in the Santiam Canyon for more than 100 years, starting with a small logging operation up a North Fork hill about a two-minute eagle flight from current company headquarters in Lyons. 

Now, it’s official: Freres is cool, too.

The company, according to a lengthy competition overseen by Oregon Business and Industry (OBI) produces the “coolest thing made in Oregon.”

Freres was honored for its mass plywood panels, which won in the final round of the competition, topping of a dental chair produced by A-dec of Newberg, which finished second. 

Here is a closer look at a staircase bannister at the Freres lounge for the Portland mass timber show that clearly shows the layered look of the mass plywood panels. James Day
Here is a closer look at a staircase bannister at the Freres lounge for the Portland mass timber show that clearly shows the layered look of the mass plywood panels.                                                James Day

The Freres product won in four rounds of voting after 150 entries were winnowed to a Sweet 16 tournament-style bracket.  

Mass plywood panels are a sustainable, veneer-based form of cross-laminated timber that can be used in the place of steel and concrete in many projects. Freres has been an industry leader in the development and use of MPP.

“I’m sure plywood wasn’t the first thing that came to mind for many when they thought about the coolest things made in Oregon, but mass ply and the entire story surrounding it are in fact very cool, and voters recognized that,” said OBI President and CEO Angela Wilhelms. 

“This year’s Coolest Thing winner is quintessentially Oregon — innovative, sustainable, strong and made by a company with deep roots, literally and metaphorically.”

Freres executives Tyler Freres (vice president of sales) and Kyle Freres (vice president of operations), accepted the award Oct. 25 during OBI’s annual Vision Oregon Event at the Portland Art Museum.

Company President Rob Freres issued a statement upon recieving the award:

“We are grateful to be recognized for our innovative mass ply panels as the winner of The Coolest Thing Made in Oregon competition,” he said. “Freres Engineered Wood has prioritized sustainability and innovation for more than 100 years, and we are very proud of the contributions mass ply has already made to the mass timber movement. 

“We hope awards and acknowledgements like this will help people recognize wood as the most sustainable building product available and illustrate how engineered wood products protect our beloved forests for future generations.”

Freres began developing mass ply in 2015 while seeking a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials. The veneer-based, engineered wood products are superior in terms of strength and thermal performance than concrete, steel and even other mass timber products such as cross-laminated timber. Additionally, mass ply not only generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than its competition, but engineered wood products actually retain carbon, representing a dramatically smaller carbon footprint.

Freres panels are being used on the new terminal under construction at Portland International Airport as well as a 19-story mixed-use building recently completed in Oakland, California, that is the tallest wooden building in the state. Freres officials believe a taller one is definitely doable, however for now, 19 stories is the maximum allowable under California code.

About the Firm

Who: Freres Engineered Wood (formerly Freres Lumber Co.)

Where: 5 plants in Lyons, 1 in Mill City

Employees: 400

Key products: Mass plywood panels, veneer, plywood, lumber, ag products (such as chips, sawdust)

Holdings: 17,000 acres of forest property, primarily planted in Douglas fir

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