June 25, 2020

Monthly Update: June 2020


Program Updates

AWC-ICC Publish Practical Guide to Codes for Taller Wood Buildings

The American Wood Council (AWC) and the International Code Council (ICC) have joined forces to support the building safety community in increasing their knowledge and understanding of new regulations contained in the 2021 International Building Code (IBC), in advance of anticipated increases in demand for taller mass timber buildings nationwide. The AWC and ICC have jointly published Mass Timber Buildings in the IBC®, which is now available on ICC’s website and will soon be available for purchase through its publication store.

The new publication is designed for use in instructor-led programs on mass timber and tall mass timber design and construction, as well as for use by building officials during permitting. Each chapter includes a summary of a specific code change, replicates exact IBC language, discusses the significance of the change, and identifies IBC chapters where mass timber construction is applicable.

Updated Environmental Declarations for Seven Wood Products Now Available

The AWC has released updated environmental product declarations (EPDs) for seven wood products commonly used in North American building construction—softwood lumber, plywood, oriented-strand board, laminated veneer lumber, I-joists, glued laminated timber, and redwood decking.

These cradle-to-gate, industrywide EPDs were developed using third-party, verified life cycle assessment reports prepared by CORRIM, Athena SMI, and USDA Forest Products Lab; they replace 2013 editions. The EPD for redwood decking is presented solely by the AWC; the remaining six are jointly presented by the AWC and the Canadian Wood Council. UL Environmental served as the verifier and ensured rigorous compliance with applicable standards.

The new EPDs are available for download on SPOT® by searching “American Wood Council,” or on AWC’s website.


SLB-Funded Programs Continue to Successfully Leverage Virtual Education Tactics

The AWC, Think Wood, and WoodWorks continue to leverage distance learning tactics to engage with key target audiences. The AWC partnered with the Virginia Fire Prevention Association and Virginia Fire Marshal Academy (VFMA) to offer free distance-learning opportunities to state fire inspectors throughout the summer. The 10-part webinar series, which launched in May, features AWC’s Manager of Fire Service Relations, Ray O’Brocki, and includes sessions on Demobilization of Construction Sites Using the CodesConstruction Fire SafetyTall Mass Timber Building CodesPreplanning and Fire SuppressionConsiderations for Large Buildings Under Construction; and I-Joists and Firefighter Safety.

Think Wood partnered with WoodWorks for a panel hosted by Multi-Housing News in May, discussing the role of mass timber and light-frame construction as a hybrid solution in multifamily housing. All presentations were supported by case studies, which were of high interest to the developer attendees, and generated a lively Q&A session at the end of the webinar. The webinar was well attended and created nearly 700 new contacts for the Think Wood database. It can be viewed for the next 12 months on the Multi-Housing News website.


New White Paper Spotlights Why Developers Should Love Wood

Think Wood released a new white paper that spotlights how wood helps developers and builders achieve cost savings, faster production, and a competitive edge. The paper makes a strong business case for wood construction, discussing the low cost, ease of assembly, and low-carbon benefits of light-frame and mass timber, along with the quality control and speed of onsite assembly of prefab. The paper is available for download and will generate database contacts for Think Wood.


Shelter-in-Place: Dramatic Uptick in Home Improvement

Think Wood shifted focus to include more residential repair and remodel project content during May and June in response to significant lumber sales for outdoor living projects from both a contractor and DIY prospective. Many big box retailers are reporting spikes in sales for wood products including southern yellow pine and cedar in the months since ‘stay-at-home’ orders were put in place.

As part of USA Today’s Rebuilding America series that chronicles the reopening of the Kentucky and American economies following COVID-19 closures, the Louisville Courier-Journal explored the tremendous recent growth experienced by Louisville-area DIY and home service industries as homeowners mobilized to tackle home-improvement projects, including new decks, patio upgrades, and basement finishing. Read the story here.

The Think Wood campaign highlighted an AWC-authored blog on safe deck construction, which received high engagement at 701 likes and 25 shares to date. Another post in May featuring three steps to a safer deck generated the highest engagement for the campaign with 5,400 likes, 312 shares, and 32 comments. This is 6,200% higher than average likes for Think Wood social media posts in 2019 – showcasing how interested the current market is in outdoor living projects.

WoodWorks Reaches 400 Specifiers With Six-Hour Virtual Symposium

Ascent, a proposed 25-story mass timber apartment building, was featured at the June 3 Symposium. Photo Credit: Korb + Associates Architects.

As an organization that always works remotely, WoodWorks was well positioned to shift its education to virtual platforms at the start of the pandemic. As the June 3 Wood Design Symposium made clear, WoodWorks events during COVID-19 continue to meet the program’s very high standards.

Attendance hovered at about 400 specifiers throughout the day, peaking during the keynote address by Richard Branch, chief economist at Dodge Data and Analytics. Sessions were divided into four main topic areas: multifamily project delivery, applied mass timber design, podium design, and U.S. mass timber projects. To educate and inspire attendees, the program featured case studies of seven of the most innovative mass timber buildings in the country.

Highlighting the expertise of WoodWorks regional directors to encourage project leads is key to all of WoodWorks’ education. Staff served as moderators of the panel discussions and hosted regional “office hours” Q&As, which attracted 10 to 20 people per room. As Branch noted in his presentation, the building industry, like all sectors of the economy, has taken a significant hit from the pandemic, but buildings are still going up and signs point to recovery. Through its education program, WoodWorks is working to ensure that as many of those buildings as possible are built in wood.

WoodWorks Launches Interactive Map to Track Mass Timber Projects

WoodWorks has launched a new online tool to help the building industry and mass timber enthusiasts track the growth of mass timber buildings in the United States. The tool features an interactive map with which users can search and zoom in to identify projects and access project-specific information when available.

While the Pacific Northwest continues to lead the way in mass timber adoption, the map shows exciting nationwide growth. The map will also serve as an important resource for design, building, and code professionals to identify nearby mass timber demonstration projects.

Access and explore the map here.


Tracking the Effects of COVID-19

The SLB is closely tracking the impact of COVID-19 on the softwood lumber and building and construction industries, and it will work to bring timely information and evidence-based resources to the industry as the economic impacts of the pandemic unfold.

Current, Real-Time Resources:

Building Industry Leaders COVID-19 Crisis Summit:

In late April, Building Industry Partners and Webb Analytics convened more than 100 thought leaders from the U.S. building industry in an online forum to discuss the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and what lies ahead. Over the course of three days and through nine unique sessions, the summit enabled participants to exchange best practices for keeping construction workforces safe; explored how to navigate economic uncertainty using scenario planning and by tracking and adjusting to key indicators; and identified common challenges and opportunities across sales, human resources, operations, and financial management business units and with regard to capital structure.

Read more about the summit and access its presentations here.

Home Improvement Industry:
The Farnsworth Group and Home Improvement Research Institute are regularly surveying 1,000 DIYers and hundreds of contractors and publishing weekly results:

Residential Market:
Metrostudy is presenting weekly COVID-19 Outlook webinars to provide real-time updates on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the economy and the residential construction industry. Access current and on-demand editions here.

The Future of Workspace Design:
Blaine Brownell, FAIA, interim head of the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota, recently speculated on potential and permanent shifts in workplace design as a result of COVID-19. Writing in Architect Magazine, Brownell notes that, in light of widespread work-from-home orders, many designers and researchers are reconsidering trends such as open offices, team-based workspaces, co-working, occupant loads, and real estate efficiency.

Brownell joins other experts in predicting immediate—and potentially permanent—physical and scheduling shifts aimed at lowering the human density of offices on any given day. While this may spell trouble for commercial real estate and co-working spaces, Brownell thinks that ultimately architects and designers will be called on to create solutions that both promote physical health and foster workplace community. Read more here.

Moving Design Forward for Multifamily Homes Post-Pandemic:
Designers from Hickok Cole recently laid out how they are re-envisioning multifamily design as a result of COVID-19 and the resultant, likely permanent, shift to telework. Design solutions include exploring how rooftops, terraces, and courtyards of multifamily buildings can evolve to accommodate urban farms and community gardens; increasing dual-purpose rooms and flexible furniture that double as office space; creating more variety in fitness center design, including indoor/outdoor features; ensuring optimal internet connectivity; and integrating the latest environmental safety and quality technologies to, for example, optimize air quality.

Read their thoughts and access an accompanying webinar and presentation here.

Industry News

New Resource on Fire Safety in Mass Timber Buildings

Green Builder Media and Hilti North America have published a new downloadable ebook, Strides in Fire Safety for Mass Wood Timber Buildings, to support the building industry, municipalities, and the public in understanding mass timber’s performance in fire. The ebook includes information on the growth of taller mass timber buildings; how building codes, including the 2021 IBC, are changing to accommodate mass timber; the results of Hilti’s independent fire testing and its efforts to secure third-party-rated firestop assemblies; and future trends. Learn more about the publication and download a free copy here.


Seattle Mass Timber Project Expands to 18 Stories

Pryde Development and Clark Barnes architects will add six additional stories to their planned Akari House mass timber development in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood. Akari House will now rise to 18 stories, making it the tallest cross laminated timber (CLT) project in Seattle. The additional stories will enable the building to expand from 108 to 135 apartment units. Construction is expected to begin late this year. Read more about the project here.


Washington State Students Design With Mass Timber

A group of Washington State University graduate architecture students used mass timber as their primary construction material to design a mixed-use development in the Spokane University District as part of their architecture studio design course. The students recently presented their final projects over Zoom to industry partners and faculty members.

The course instructor, Assistant Professor Omar Al-Hassawi, guided the students to mass timber because, he said, “these materials are going to be an important part of building a less carbon-intensive future, and we felt that it was important for our students to gain design skills using these locally harvested and manufactured construction materials.’’

As part of the course, the faculty received support from industry partners, including the Idaho Forest Products Commission and Katerra, and welcomed Thomas Robinson, founding principal with LEVER Architecture, as guest lecturer.

Read more here.


Architect Firm Urges University Labs to Consider Mass Timber

Portland, Oregon–based Hacker Architects recently made the case for universities to take a closer look at mass timber for research buildings. Drawing on its experience in developing mass timber hybrid buildings for the District Office project and the University of Washington Tacoma, Hacker asserts that mass timber’s light weight offers less vibration-dampening mass, making it a compatible choice for sensitive research equipment such as electron microscopes. Mass timber is also appealing thanks to its flexibility and cost-effectiveness, which can help labs better accommodate current and future collaborative and computational research needs.

Read more from Hacker Architects here.


Lumber E-Commerce Platform Launches

MaterialsXchange, a new e-commerce platform for lumber, went live in May with 10 active mills and wholesalers. The platform was created by a team comprising two former Chicago lumbermen and two financial tech services executives; it aims to make buying lumber online as easy as making an electronic stock trade. By using the latest in transaction technology, the platform also intends to increase efficiency and create greater price transparency.

Read more about the platform here.


FastMarkets RISI Explores Growth of Offshore Imports

In May, FastMarkets RISI hosted a webinar, “U.S. Lumber Markets: The European Import Boom & Other Trends,” featuring the market perspectives of Dustin Jalbert, senior economist in its wood products unit. The approximately 30-minute webinar launches with a review of COVID-related declines across construction markets and recent reasons for optimism before turning to explore the steep rise of offshore imports into the United States in recent years. Shipments of foreign lumber have been growing fastest in the U.S. South.

Access the webinar here.


Sweden Prototypes Wood Wind Tower to Improve Carbon Benefit

Swedish cleantech start-up Modvion has erected a 30-meter wooden wind power tower outside Gothenburg for research purposes. The tower, made of glulam, is the first wood tower ever built and will be followed by the first-ever commercial wooden wind turbines as early as 2022.

Modvion was motivated to develop a tower and turbines with wood as an alternative to the concrete and steel assemblies currently used in wind farms across Europe. Critics believe that the carbon benefits of current wind farms are likely offset by the production of the material they are constructed of.

Read more here.


Insights on the Competition

Steel Industry Touts Recyclability

The American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) placed media in the May issue of Architect Magazine contrasting the recyclability of wood versus steel. AISC’s ad promotes the percentage of steel that can be recycled once a building reaches the end of its life and contrasts this with wood, which it states must be consigned to a landfill or burned.

Read more here.


Industry Resources

FEA Housing Dashboard

These housing dashboards are 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.

March 2020 Reports (released in June 2020)
Part A: April Housing Commentary
Part B: April Economic Conditions