By Sterling McGinn

Newberry’s new Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) customer service center will benefit not only the department, but the whole community—as a training and community area is part of the building’s plan.

The structure will also showcase one of Michigan’s top industries—forestry and timber products–and will use an innovative wood product to help the carbon footprint.

Newberry’s multi-million-dollar customer service center will be the first to use Michigan-sourced red pine in cross-laminated timber panels for the complete structure.

“This will be a beautiful showcase building of the Michigan forest products industry,” said Natural Resource Deputy Shannon Lott.

Mass timber construction, a relatively new and revolutionary concept, uses wooden cross-laminated or glue-laminated durable panels as an alternative to metal and concrete building components.

“The wood will be sent to the State of Washington where the panels will be created and those will be shipped back here when they are ready to erect the panels,” Lott said.

“Mass timber materials result in fewer carbon emissions to source, make, and transport,” said Sandra Lupien, director of mass timber at Michigan State University. “As does all wood, mass timber products store carbon, holding it in place in the building, keeping it out of the atmosphere for 50, 100, to 200 years. With the Newberry customer service center, the DNR is demonstrating mass timber leadership by going first.”

After several years in the making, the building, which will be in the front portion of the Newberry Field Offices on South M-123, had an official groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, August 10. Crews began clearing the land and prepping the site in September.

The current Newberry customer service center is housed in a leased building near the corner of M-123 and M-28, and is the only remaining leased customer service center in Michigan.

Lott said the DNR had a vision to end the carbon conversation for the MI Healthy Climate plan with Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration. “Mass timber is talked about in the MI Healthy Climate Plan,” she said.

The new building will also give the community the opportunity to hold CPR and fire training. “We also wanted a facility where we could house folks when we have really large fires, like the Duck Lake fire,” said Lott. “We had a very small office, so having several states and Canadian provinces come in to help us with wildfires was difficult.”

Once the structure is finished, the DNR will install information kiosks detailing mass timber construction and the forest industry.

The building was designed by the Detroit firm of Lord Aeck Sargent. The structure is being constructed by Walbridge.

The new building is expected to be completed in October of 2024.