Lumber is an integral part of your business and how America builds its housing. The Softwood Lumber Board’s (SLB’s) mission is to make it much more than that. Our unique programs are showing what is possible when building with wood across residential, commercial, mid-rise, appearance, and even tall building segments. In doing so, we are supporting and expanding the healthy, vibrant markets you need to grow sales. So far since 2012, our investments have resulted in 2.59 billion board feet of new demand—reflecting a fivefold increase through 2016.
Our impact means more than increased sales. A recent report by Forest Economic Advisors, commissioned by the SLB, shows that softwood lumber is not only vital to the industry itself, but also a key economic driver for households across rural America. The average wage for someone working in the softwood lumber industry in America is $54,500 per year, which is $11,000 more than the average rural salary. These earnings mean greater financial freedom and purchasing power, expanding the industry’s overall economic impact.
How do we do it? With support from the softwood lumber industry, the SLB is focused on programs that grow market opportunities for producers, manufacturers, dealers, and distributors like you. We look at single family housing and outdoor applications like decking, where wood has traditionally been dominant, and also target new or underrepresented market segments like low- and mid-rise non-residential, multifamily, and taller wood buildings using mass timber products. Penetrating these new market segments will significantly increase demand for lumber and create new opportunities for your business.
However, no amount of market development will be effective without understanding regulatory barriers, which is why the SLB is the largest investor in the American Wood Council (AWC). The SLB’s investment in AWC supports efforts in existing markets, supports a regulatory environment that puts wood on an equal footing with other materials, and ensures that wood is a part of the building code. For developers, designers, builders, and other end-users considering wood, the SLB’s reThink Wood program provides valuable information and resources they need to understand the benefits of wood and make informed decisions when specifying. Our WoodWorks program goes one step further and provides direct, high-quality person-to-person technical support to help architects, designers, and engineers overcome barriers to using wood in their projects.
We also recognize that some of our established markets, particularly for wood used on, in, and around the home, are competing with other materials. In response, we are out front and playing offense to promote the comparative benefits of wood. Our Wood, Naturally program targets the Do-It-Yourself and Do-It-For-Me markets with messaging and resources that counter the myths in the market and promote the value proposition of softwood lumber products compared to competitors.
The SLB also supports a vast array of research to give the industry the evidence it needs to affect standards and open new markets. The SLB recently supported researchers at Colorado School of Mines to perform seismic tests on a two-story structure made of cross laminated timber. Their results are a step toward enabling mass timber buildings that can withstand large earthquakes with minimal damage. With Arup, D.R. Johnson, and MyTiCon, the SLB completed three full-scale fire tests for glulam beam to column connectors. All connectors achieved at least a one-hour fire resistance rating, allowing them to be used in buildings up to 85-feet in height while satisfying International Building Code requirement.
Following almost a decade of economic slowdown, the SLB’s investments and results come at a time that is ripe for dealers and distributors to post major expansions in revenue. The AIA’s June 2017 Architecture Billings Index—a leading economic indicator of new commercial construction activity— recorded increasing demand for design services for the fifth consecutive month. Meanwhile housing data firm Metrostudy predicts the number of housing starts nationally will rise 7.3 percent this year to total 1.26 million homes. Their Residential Remodeling Index has posted annual gains above 4 percent since the second quarter of 2015. Meanwhile, deck projects, a key driver of lumber demand, are projected to grow 4.6 percent to 3.45 million projects in 2017, plus another 2.8 percent in 2018. Throw in the SLB’s traction in opening new markets in mid-rise, multifamily, non-residential, and tall wood, and the opportunities for your business only grow.