The wood products industry is not generally recognized as having a creative, innovative approach to product development and marketing. Yet dramatic changes in wood products have occurred over the past several decades. A recent tour of a new home under construction revealed those changes in great clarity.
Less than 5% of the wood in the house was traditional solid wood framing lumber. Instead there were finger jointed and oriented strand studs, both floor and roof trusses, laminated veneer lumber headers and carrying beams, pressure treated oriented strand posts, insulation board wall sheathing, and oriented strand board roof sheathing. This is not to mention the wood plastic composite decking and rail systems as well as the fiber-cement based siding and trim. This is dramatically different than the traditional stick built home of only 10-15 years ago.
There are several factors driving change and innovation in the wood products industry. The three most prevalent of these are:
• The changing resource from large long-rotational trees to smaller short-rotational species,
• The increasing use of “fiber” in a variety of end products from the siding above to the bio-fuels of the future, and
• The increasing influence of the green market on the design of construction projects.
Discussions of the impact of the changing resource base have been well documented in the literature for over twenty years, so this article will not attempt to rehash those points. In addition, a recent Dovetail Report “Biomass Energy – From Farms to Forests, an Emerging Opportunity for Rural America” discussed the role of wood fiber as a bio-fuel resource. Therefore, this article focuses on the impacts of the green movement on the design and construction industry and the opportunities offered to wood product manufacturers.