President & CEO, Sierra Pacific Industries.
The Softwood Lumber Board (SLB) is the industry’s initiative to protect and grow market share for softwood lumber products in North America. Participating in the SLB is one of the most important things we as industry professionals can do to protect our markets, create new opportunities for our business and ensure the overall health of our industry today and in the future.
One of the most exciting areas for growth that the SLB has cultivated over the last five years is in mass timber and tall wood buildings. Starting with its groundbreaking research with Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) in 2013, which focused on developing a 42-story prototype timber building, and more recently via partnerships with Oregon State University, Forest Products Laboratory, and others, the SLB has been at the forefront in generating new data and learning that proves mass timber’s performance capabilities during fire, blasts, and seismic events and the overall viability of tall wood buildings.
Importantly, the SLB does not let its data lie unused. Instead, by supporting its program partner, the American Wood Council (AWC), the SLB is translating its research findings into greater acceptance for softwood lumber through changes to building codes and standards. Through its work with the International Code Council (ICC) Tall Wood Building Ad Hoc Committee, the AWC, with support and funding from the SLB, currently has us on track to have mass timber buildings up to 18 stories be a part of the ICC International Building Code by 2021. The Ad Hoc Committee submitted over a dozen proposed changes in early 2018 that would collectively allow for the construction of multifamily and commercial wood buildings up to 270-feet tall. Decisions on all of these proposals will be made in the fall of 2018, and every favorable decision will mean that more wood can and will be used in building construction in North America. This is a feat that was hardly imaginable a few short years ago before the SLB arrived on the scene to unite industry companies across regions to create new opportunities for our products.
While the AWC presses for more code changes, the SLB’s other programs Think Wood, Wood, Naturally and WoodWorks are busy delivering returns on current investments. Collectively these programs were responsible for converting over 1,050 buildings from steel or concrete to wood within the last year alone. For five consecutive years, the SLB has delivered year-on-year growth in return on investment. I firmly believe that the SLB has the combination of strategy, programs, and metrics to ensure that it continues to deliver growth and positive returns on investment for many years to come. By demonstrating that wood is a superior building material, the SLB is helping to ensure that there is as much opportunity in the forest products industry in North America as there has ever been.