Design Values Under Review in West N.A.

Although the recent commotion about lumber design values has been centered on Southern Pine, traders and industry associations are also keeping their eyes on other lumber species. The October 20 meeting of the American Lumber Standard Committee was dominated by proposed changes to SYP design values, and the discussion was tabled until a January 5 meeting. With much less fanfare, the ALSC approved a sampling and testing plan for Fir&Larch and Hem-Fir presented by five western agencies.

“ASTM 1990 (which determines allowable properties for major commercial species in North America) had a section that species would be monitored if there was a cause for concern, and we haven’t seen that in the West, but it’s a good thing to check where the design values are at,” a western agency representative said. “We’ve had a number of meetings with the fi ve agencies and discussed it very carefully. We did come to a consensus, and we’ve been working very cooperatively.”

Testing will not be completed before the next ALSC meeting, but other opportunities to submit results come in late April, mid-July, and late October 2012. Revisions to Southern Pine were fi rst out of the gate in part because of reported failures in truss applications. Timber supplies have evolved in other species, but to varying degrees, and with no unusual issues reported. During the past 20 years, western timber has been more heavily harvested from private lands, with more second growth fiber. British Columbia is noted in particular for its beetle-killed timber.

“With the beetle kill a lot of people are throwing darts at us,” a Canadian agency source said. In a study specifically in Pine beetle areas in 2005-06, “it showed no issues with design values. We also have data from the continuous monitoring program, and even in those studies we see nothing changed. We feel we’ve done our due diligence.”

Canadian agencies in 2012 will expand their monitoring beyond mostly 2x4 into other widths, and they also will expand beyond mostly S-P-F to include Fir&Larch and Hem-Fir. “All of this is probably good for the industry,” a Canadian agency representative said. “You want to know, if you’re building a house, that it’s safe.”

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