November 26, 2019

Monthly Update: November 2019


Program Updates

Think Wood Mobile Tour Launches with Event and Media Splash

In celebration of National Forest Products Week, Think Wood formally launched the Think Wood Mobile Tour on October 22 with a high-profile event at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. The event featured remarks by Rep. Bruce Westerman ​(R-Ark.), chair of the Working Forests Caucus, and award-winning architect Susan Jones, who is a longtime champion of wood innovation and sustainability. The Think Wood Mobile Tour is a one-of-a-kind exhibit that showcases the environmental and economic benefits of wood products and their expanding potential for commercial, multifamily, and residential construction. The tour features interactive building models, information on wood’s capacity to withstand fire, compelling video content, and design inspiration to tell wood’s story from the forest to the market.

The event garnered significant industry and press coverage, yielding pieces in PRISM magazine, ProSales, and TreeFrog. John Matel, president of the Virginia Tree Farm Foundation, also attended and posted about the event on his personal blog.

Following its appearance at the National Building Museum, the Think Wood Mobile Tour traveled to Chicago for the Council on Tall Building and Urban Habitats (CTBUH) 10th World Congress. The exhibit was a big hit at CTBUH, drawing many visitors who were interested in learning more about building with mass timber. Attendees welcomed and enjoyed the opportunity to experience mass timber products firsthand and were impressed by the valuable information shared on the video screen. Following Chicago, the exhibit traveled to the Remodeling Show & DeckExpo in Louisville, Ky., where remodelers saw new deck building techniques at the booth and were able to explore the possibilities for mass timber in the home remodeling space at the exhibit.

The Think Wood Mobile Tour will continue to travel across the country in 2020 to bring its message to audiences nationwide. Stops are currently scheduled at the International Builder Show in Las Vegas Jan. 21–23; the Mass Timber Conference in Portland, Ore., March 24–26; and the WoodWorks Wood Design Symposium in Houston, among others.

Keep up to date with the tour’s movement here, or request a tour stop at your industry or education event here. We hope to see you at a tour stop soon!


Unsung Heroes of Fire Prevention Hailed

This year’s National Fire Prevention Week took place in October under the banner of “Not All Heroes Wear Capes.” In the spirit of the theme, the American Wood Council marked the week by honoring unsung heroes in fire safety and promoting fire-safe practices in a social media campaign. Using the hashtag #FirePreventionWeek, the campaign posted graphics and quotes from experts on fire safety on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, garnering over 12,000 appearances. The AWC also promoted a Facebook post about construction fire safety related to hot work, which has appeared nearly 3,300 times and spurred downloads of the AWC’s construction site hot work one-pager, downloadable here.


Industry News

Would Wood Do?

Finnish forest industry company UPM recently released a new infographic, titled Would Wood Do?, to draw attention to mass timber’s growing role as the world’s most sustainable building material. The infographic cites mass timber’s carbon footprint, seismic durability, ease of use, and performance benefits with regard to fire safety and sound as leading comparative advantages, and presents a roster of the world’s tallest mass timber buildings, currently led by the 280-foot, 18-story Mjøstårnet tower in Norway.

View the infographic here.


Wood is the Ultimate Renewable in Australia

Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) is launching a new brand, The Ultimate Renewable™, and associated advertising campaign to promote the sustainability and environmental advantages of Australia’s forest and wood products industry. The new brand’s ultimate goal is to reframe forestry in the eyes of the public.

The brand’s positive messaging found ready partners with the National Geographic Society and PlanetArk, an Australian nonprofit organization focused on environmental sustainability. Together these partners produced a 30-second animated clip to highlight wood’s renewability, sustainability, and important role as a next-generation construction material.

Watch the video here.


ArchDaily Offers Tutorial Promoting Tall Wood

ArchDaily recently published the article “Timber Tutorial: How to Build Taller With Wood,” in which it takes a closer look at emerging timber technologies and the advantages of building taller with wood. The tutorial notes that the reasons to build taller with wood—including environmental benefits, speed of construction, performance, and market cachet—are increasingly accepted by the global architectural community, which is prompting many architects to skip questioning why and instead ask how they should best build with wood.

The piece runs through a checklist and related food for thought on important considerations when building tall with wood, including structural systems, load paths, code requirements, fire protection, and acoustic, seismic, and thermal standards. The piece refers architects and builders seeking more information to Think Wood’s Continuing Education Unit, Design and Construction of Taller Wood Buildings, and WoodWorks’ Mass Timber Design Cost Optimization Checklist.

ArchDaily is among the most visited architecture websites worldwide, with over 500,000 daily readers and 160 million page views per month, thus providing an excellent and targeted platform for tall wood messaging.

Read the tutorial here.


Housing Market Predictions for a New Decade

As he did a decade ago, residential housing sector expert George Casey has offered 12 predictions regarding the operating environment and potential opportunities and threats the homebuilding industry will face as it transitions into a new decade. Among those most relevant to the softwood lumber industry, Casey predicts that:

  • Excessive housing demand over supply will continue for much of the decade.
  • The societal bias toward homeownership will continue to erode, creating added tailwind for rental apartment and single-family-for-rent production.
  • On-site and off-site productivity improvements will take on increasing importance in an effort to reduce waste in time, materials, and labor. As part of this trend, prefabricated wall and floor panels and roof systems will become even more common.
  • More women will enter the homebuilding workforce at the builder and trade/factory level, particularly as moving more component and module creation into factories opens up a wider labor force for the industry.
  • Undersupply will create growing pressure for other housing solutions, including remodeling existing single-family homes into multiple dwelling units.
  • Nontraditional players, foreign companies, joint ventures, and others outside of the industry will increasingly offer solutions to housing market problems if the industry does not solve them fast enough.

Read all Casey’s predictions for the 2020s here.


Remodeling Market Expected to Grow, Slowly

According to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and John Burns Real Estate Consulting, the U.S. remodeling market will see tepid growth of less than one percent nationally in 2020, following a decade of above-average annual gains. The slowdown will be caused by shifts in the underlying demographics and behavior of U.S. households. Key among these are less mobility among homeowners, who are increasingly making choices that support them staying in their current homes longer, and declining prices for luxury homes, which is rooted in a change in consumer preferences away from large suburban homes and lots.

Burns Consulting expects prices to vary greatly by metro area in 2020. Home prices are expected to rise in the Orlando, Tampa, Austin, and Phoenix markets, but sharply decline in Chicago, New York, and several California areas. Metro areas with comparatively higher supply will fare better, whereas cities like Boston and Seattle will face affordability problems.

Read more about these predicted trends here.


Wisconsin Company on Cutting Edge With Tree Use

The Architect’s Newspaper recently featured Wisconsin-based design and construction company WholeTrees Structures, which designs and builds with intact tree trunks and unmilled timber that would otherwise be used for firewood or pulp. Founded in 2007, WholeTrees Structures also invests in research and development in order to generate new technologies and products as part of its business model. When combined, these business units allow WholeTrees Structures to cost-effectively grade, engineer, and manufacture small round timber into columns, trusses, beams, and joists with minimal environmental impact.

WholeTrees Structures’ impressive and aesthetically pleasing applications can be found in a wide range of projects, including a grocery store, schools, and institutional buildings. Read more about its work and see project examples here.


New EU Report Places Wood at Center of New Bioeconomy

CEI-Bois, the European Confederation of Woodworking Industries, recently published a new booklet, Wood – Building the Bioeconomy, to provide the building sector and general public with a comprehensive guide on the sustainability of wood.

The booklet asserts that Europe must create a circular bioeconomy that relies on renewable, low carbon–impact materials and products, such as wood, instead of fossil fuels and energy-intensive materials, like concrete, that are driving drastic climatic changes. The booklet includes a chapter dedicated to mass timber’s important role in decarbonizing the construction sector and supporting the EU to meet its directive that all new buildings feature nearly zero energy, carbon-efficient designs from 2021 onward.

Download the booklet here.


Biochemists Work to Unlock Wood’s Strength

A team of biochemists at Cambridge University have developed a new technique to understand the molecular architecture of wood—or more specifically, the cylindrical structures called macrofibrils in wood cells—to better determine wood’s density and strength.

According to study coauthor and Professor Paul Dupree, “Understanding how the components of wood come together to make super strong structures is important for new materials design…If we can increase the strength of wood, we may start seeing more major constructions moving away from steel and concrete to timber.”

Read more about the study and its results here.


New Hybrid CLT Residence Hall Opens at Rhode Island College

The Rhode Island School of Design recently celebrated the opening of North Hall, the college’s first newly constructed residential facility to open in 34 years. Designed by NADAAA and built in partnership with Odeh Engineers and Shawmut, North Hall is also the first cross laminated timber (CLT)-steel hybrid residence hall to be built in New England. The 40,790-square-foot structure, valued at $25 million, will house nearly 150 students on six floors and is helping the school to meet its goals of reducing energy use and limiting environmental impact.

WoodWorks provided expert technical assistance to the team at Odeh Engineers during the project’s design, which helped team members hone in on, and ultimately pursue, a progressive yet economical mass timber structural system.

Read more about the project here.


Insights on the Competition

NRMCA Extends Build With Strength Campaign for Five More Years

The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) has extended funding for the industry’s landmark campaign, Build With Strength (BWS), for an additional five years, viewing it as a “critical tool in promoting ready mixed concrete as the building material of choice and increasing market share amidst increasingly visible competition.” The campaign began three years ago in an effort to educate the design/build and code communities about concrete construction and increase concrete’s market share in the low- to mid-rise sector and in general. NRMCA and BWS estimate that the campaign has directly led to the placement of approximately 15 million cubic yards of concrete in buildings to date.

The extended BWS campaign will include four main strategic approaches: Communicate, Advocate, Promote, and Connect. NRMCA’s leadership and staff assured its members that their additional investment in the campaign will result in continued gains in market share.

In pushing for BWS’s renewal, staff members specifically cited the timber industry’s measurable success in creating more acceptance for wood in building codes and construction standards, and they challenged the premise that wood is more sustainable than concrete.

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.

September 2019 Reports (released in November 2019)
Part A: September Housing Commentary
Part B: September Economic Conditions