What's happening in the forest sector?

The future is bright for wood and housing
10.25.2016

A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to be able to attend the Forest Economic Advisors’ Forest Products Forum 2016 at the World Forestry Center in Portland. It was a full day of presentations packed with useful and detailed information about forest-products markets, including wood and pulp and paper, in the U.S. and worldwide. If you get the chance to attend in person sometime, I’d recommend it.

Among the compelling bits of info I gathered was a prediction that U.S. housing starts are expected to grow steadily by about 100,000 units each year for the next five years. That bit of good news helps account for another prediction: that U.S demand for lumber will grow by 2 billion board feet over the same time period. But it was tempered a bit by a forecast for declining lumber exports in the same time period.

The most compelling presentations, for me anyway, were about the newest darling of the industry: cross-laminated timber (CLT). During the first presentation on this topic, Forest Economic Advisors’ Art Schmon pointed out that despite all the hype, CLT has yet to have a meaningful impact on the overall consumption of lumber in the U.S.

“Game-changer for the lumber industry?” he said, “Not so much—but it is a game-changer for the construction industry.”

That last statement got me to thinking. Any game-changer for the construction industry is sure to become a game-changer for the wood industry, even if it hasn’t quite gotten there yet. In fact, a single mass timber building in Portland that was completed last May consumed 632,000 board feet of dimension lumber and another 350,000 board feet of glulam. That’s close to a million board feet of lumber for a single building. A thousand more like that, which is not so far-fetched, and you already account for half the expected increase in lumber demand in the coming years.

But the really interesting presentation was the next one. Eric Dean from Legal & General Homes in England told us about a modular housing factory his company has built that will become the largest CLT manufacturer in the world. And CLT isn’t even the company’s end product. It’s affordable modular housing. Lumber goes in the front end of the plant, and modular homes – complete with lighting and plumbing fixtures already installed – come out the back end… to the tune of seven modular homes a day. Now that’s a game-changer. Check it out here.

The 2017 International Mass Timber Conference, which will be held March 28-30 here in Portland, has extended an invitation to Mr. Dean to come back and tell his story again. I hope he does.       

Who are Oregon's woodland owners?
10.17.2016

Part of OFRI’s agency mission – and my personal mission – is landowner education. In order to educate people, you need to know who they are and what they want to learn. The National Woodland Owner Survey (NWOS) is a tool that helps us in this task. The periodic nationwide survey of woodland owners was last conducted in Oregon in 2013, with results published this summer by the U.S. Forest Service.

The NWOS estimates there are about 44,000 woodland owners who own 10 or more acres of forestland in Oregon, for a total of 3.3 million acres. The ownership breakdown shows that about 75 percent of the ownerships are between 10 and 49 acres, but these only represent about 21 percent of the total acreage. About 2 percent of the ownerships are 500 or more acres, representing nearly 40 percent of the acreage.

The survey asked participants why they own woodland. The top reasons for family forest ownership in Oregon are beauty, privacy, nature, wildlife, water, recreation, investment, family and timber production.  

The top landowner concerns identified in Oregon are trespassing, wildfire, vandalism, forest pests and water quality.

The survey asked woodland owners what management activities they have done in the past five years and plan to do in the next five. Identified activities included reducing invasive plants and fire hazards, cutting trees for personal use, improving wildlife habitat, constructing roads and trails, harvesting timber and selling firewood.

Surveyed woodland owners said they have received advice on managing their forests from several sources in the last five years. Leading sources include state and local government, federal government, private consultants, other landowners and family members

Finally, woodland owners indicated how they would prefer to receive information about forestry and forest managment.  The following ways were included: written materials, conversations, forester visits, conferences/workshops and online.

OFRI is using this information to design our landowner education programs, and is sharing it with our partners.

For more information, visit the National Woodland Owner Survey website

Survey findings from Oregon are summarized in USDA Forest Service Research Bulletin NRS-99

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry

Mass timber certainly is rising
09.06.2016

I’m a wood advocate (duh).

To be clear, I’m not a wood advocate because I work in the forest sector. Instead, I work in the forest sector because I’m a wood advocate. For me, that distinction is important. Wood products are the most environmentally sound building materials to use in virtually every application where wood can be used. While earning a paycheck is nice, I choose to make my living promoting something I truly believe in. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it.

It’s great to see many others also appreciating the true value of building with wood. Recently, the world’s tallest wood tower (at least for now), was topped off – meaning, they installed the top floor. The 18-story Brock Commons dorm building on the campus of the University of British Columbia in Canada was erected in just 66 days, and construction is ahead of schedule. It’s something of a hybrid structure, with wooden glulam beams and columns and cross-laminated timber (CLT) surrounding a concrete core. The architects, Acton Ostry, posted a cool, day-by-day time-lapse video of the construction on their Twitter feed.

But what’s really cool about the building is its carbon benefit. According to Architekten Hermann Kaufmann, the Austrian firm that served as tall wood advisor on the project, Brock Commons’ total carbon benefit (the sum of the carbon stored in the wood products used in the building plus the carbon emissions avoided by not using more carbon-intensive materials to build it) is an estimated 2,563 tons of CO2, equivalent to taking 490 cars off the road for a year.

Meanwhile, the race is on for the tallest wood structure on U.S. soil. The most likely candidates are under development here in Portland. Carbon 12 , an eight-story residential project by PATH Architecture, has broken ground and has the early lead. There’s a good chance that building will hold the title for a short time before Framework, a 12-story mixed-use project with affordable housing by Lever Architecture and Project^, passes it up. Framework is set to break ground in November of this year, with a completion date projected for early 2018.

There is also a 10-story residential project by SHoP Architects, called 475 West 18th Street, planned for New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. Others will surely follow close behind.

Indeed, wood stands tall. 

Timm Locke

Director of Forest Products

Fifty years of breeding disease-resistant trees
08.29.2016

On Aug. 25, 2016, we celebrated an important anniversary. Yes, that day was the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service. But more importantly to me, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Dorena Genetic Resource Center.

The Dorena Center is located east of Cottage Grove, near the shores of Dorena Lake. Part of the Umpqua National Forest, it was established in 1966 to find strains of western white pine that were resistant to white pine blister rust, an invasive tree disease that kills pines. The center breeds disease-resistant trees and makes their seeds available to federal forest managers and private timber growers.

White pine blister rust is an introduced disease that has nearly wiped out five-needle pines, including eastern and western white pines, sugar pine and the iconic whitebark pine. Tree breeding at Dorena has had a huge impact in ensuring these pines continue to grow in Oregon’s forests.

The Aug. 25 event featured a number of talks from U.S. Forest Service leaders and their cooperators that highlighted the impact of the work at Dorena. I was fortunate to be among the nearly 100 folks in attendance on that hot August day. What impressed me most during the event were the young researchers and technicians who gave us tours of the various parts of the facility and shared their passion about the work they are doing.

While touring the center, I saw many examples of the important work being done there, including:

  • An unmanned aerial vehicle (aka drone) that is being used to take aerial infrared images of trees and look for a "disease signature" on them
  • Trials of eight species of five-needle pines that were being tested for resistance to white pine blister rust
  • Port-Orford-cedar trees being tested for resistance to root disease
  • Native understory plants being grown for restoration projects
  • An innovative fog chamber used to inoculate pine trees with spores from the leaves of gooseberry and currant bushes

The final impression that I walked away with that day is the Dorena Genetic Resource Center is not just vital for breeding timber trees that are disease-resistant. It is also important for finding resistant families of the iconic five-needle pines, such as whitebark pine, that play such an important role in our high-elevation western forests.

The event even included a talk on plantings of blister-rust-resistant whitebark pines at Crater Lake National Park, bringing together the two important anniversaries we are celebrating this year.

For more information about the Dorena Genetic Resource Center, visit their website.

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry

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