August 31, 2018

Monthly Update: August 2018


Program Updates

Turning Mass Timber Interest Into Projects

SLB’s support of the WoodWorks program is a key part of its effort to facilitate market acceptance of mass timber products such as nail laminated timber (NLT) and cross laminated timber (CLT)—and mass timber projects have become a more significant percentage of WoodWorks’ measured impact. Furthermore, mass timber represents an important and strategic segment for the lumber industry—it enables the industry to capture share in non-residential construction, and mass timber buildings use as much as three times more lumber than those using light frame construction.
In 2015, WoodWorks provided technical assistance on a handful of projects where the architect, engineer, or developer had an interest in using mass or heavy timber. That number has grown to 158 projects in 2017, and already to 127 in the first half of 2018. WoodWorks expects to convert nearly 100 mmbf of mass timber projects in 2018—about 20% of its total impact.
WoodWorks is a leading provider of mass timber education, through wood solutions fairs, wood design symposiums, lunch-and-learn workshops, and webinars. These events generate many project leads.
Mass timber is no longer a novel concept used elsewhere in the world. Curiosity is turning into expertise, and structures are being built. As of June 2018, more than 400 multifamily, commercial, or institutional projects are in design or have been constructed with mass or heavy timber across the United States, 195 of which are CLT or NLT.

Think Wood Expands Research Library

The Think Wood Research Library is a central resource for wood design and construction research. The recently upgraded database enables faster publishing and better search results for engineers, developers and architects seeking answers to technical questions regarding wood construction. Over half of the visitors in Q2 had visited the Library previously. Since its launch in March 2017, the library has grown to include over 1,250 pieces of high-quality research, a 154% increase since that time, including 288 in Q2 2018 alone. The most popular assets include research reports, books, academic journal publications, and conference papers and proceedings. The Library also helps the SLB identify research gaps and works to limit duplicative research efforts by tracking over 80 research projects that are currently in progress. Publications from the research underway will be added to the library as they become available.


Wood, Naturally Content Motivates Homeowners To Choose Wood

A recent survey by Wood, Naturally showed that homeowners’ purchase intent increased by 8.7% and purchase consideration increased by nearly 22% after viewing influencer-provided pro-wood campaign content that compared wood with composites, touted wood’s environmental benefits, and showcased wood decks. Of the media tested, video was the most effective in inspiring homeowners to choose wood.

One such video was produced by Sandra Powell, a.k.a. “Sawdust Girl,” on how to build a southern yellow pine deck; it included social posts about wood’s environmental benefits. Respondents noted how the video was “informative” and “inspiring” and responded to the environmental pin with comments, “The wood room in the post was very attractive,” and “That deck/porch was gorgeous! I want it immediately!” These results indicate that compelling content from influential contractor and design professionals resonates with homeowners.
Another example from Wood, Naturally design influencer Jen Woodhouse highlighted that a wood deck gets you a much greater bang for your buck than composite.

AWC Tool Helps Designers Calculate Fire Resistance

The American Wood Council (AWC) recently released an updated Technical Report 10 (TR10): Calculating the Fire Resistance of Wood Members and Assemblies, which provides the latest evidence-based design guidelines to support construction professionals designing mass timber and lightweight wood members, assemblies, and connections to meet and exceed fire-exposure code requirements. Increasing use of mass timber in the built environment requires sound design guidelines to ensure safe, efficient, and economic use of wood products. AWC fire research on mass timber conducted over the last year, with support from the Softwood Lumber Board, has highlighted the importance of the insulating effect provided by the outer char layer when wood burns, especially in larger wood elements such as used in mass timber.

Building codes will be considering approval of mass timber buildings up to 18 stories in height in late October, providing entry into a U.S. market conservatively estimated to be as high as 2 billion board feet of new annual wood demand.


Industry News

Google’s Sidewalk Labs LLC Eyes World’s Biggest Timber Project

Sidewalk Labs LLC, the urban innovation unit of Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent company), is considering using mass timber to construct a 3,000-unit, 3 million-square-foot, high-tech development in Toronto. Using technology, including mass timber, to help solve urban issues is a particular interest of Google co-founder Larry Page, who hopes the Toronto project will be a test case for potential similar projects.

With Construction Workers Scarce, Homebuilders Turn to Offsite Construction

The growing labor crunch from the booming economy combined with low construction industry worker productivity in the last 25 years has homebuilders turning to offsite construction. Also supporting this shift are developments in technology that mean today’s prefabricated housing bears little resemblance to the modular homes of old.


WoodWorks CEO Jennifer Cover Among Panelists Discussing Timber Innovation

The House and Senate Working Forests Caucuses hosted a discussion at the U.S. Capitol on July 18 with keynote speaker Sonny Perdue, secretary of agriculture, and a panel of experts on the “Role of Innovation and Applied Research in Expanding Forest Product Markets.”

WoodWorks CEO Jennifer Cover participated in the panel and discussed the opportunities for government, universities, and industry to work together to develop and expand wood markets. Cover highlighted WoodWorks’ role in providing education and one-on-one design assistance for projects interested in using wood products. “We’re filling a gap out there to provide choices for architects and engineers. It’s a tool in their kit, an opportunity to design with wood products, as well,” Cover said.

Custom Builder Launches Prefab Product Line

Bensonwood, a custom timber frame design-build firm in Walpole, N.H., has developed the Tektoniks brand of prefabricated building components, which will be available to the building community at large. The company hopes access to the company’s world-class off-site fabrication facilities will push others to rethink the near-stagnant building industry, which is “in dire need of change,” says Tedd Benson, the company’s CEO. “Tektoniks allows the building industry—architects, builders, construction managers, and even competitors—to use our building systems, timber fabrication, and millwork products directly.


Milwaukee Joins Mass Timber Building Movement

Real estate developer New Land Enterprises and Korb + Associates Architects are bringing mass timber to Milwaukee with their seven-story mass timber office building planned along the banks of the Milwaukee River. The growing number of mass timber buildings in the United States has created important precedence to help New Land and its team secure a required variance in the building code. When the project is completed, building tenants will enjoy an interior rich in exposed lumber and natural light, and the knowledge that they are in a building with far less environmental impact than conventionally built office buildings.


Insights on the Competition

Concrete Industry Launches Campaign to Prevent Tall Wood Buildings

With the International Code Council Ad Hoc Committee on Tall Wood Buildings meeting approaching in October, the concrete industry has launched a campaign and website to “Stop Tall Wood.” The campaign features a poll supported by the Portland Concrete Association that claims 74% of Americans do not support codes that would allow wood buildings up to 18 stories tall. Despite a wealth of research to the contrary, the website claims that tall wood buildings are untested, unproven, and unsound.

Industry Resources

FEA’s Housing Dashboard

This housing dashboard is provided compliments of Forest Economic Advisors (FEA).


Virginia Tech’s Monthly Housing Report

This monthly housing commentary report is a free service of Virginia Tech and is intended to help one gauge future business activity in the U.S. housing market.

June 2018 Reports

Part A: June Housing Commentary

Part B: June 2018 Economic Conditions