Every now and then, you come across a design that’s so simple and seemingly obvious, it’s a wonder you don’t see it more often – and in this case, it’s extremely budget-friendly, too. Studio Razavi Architecture created a series of room dividers for a large warehouse-style office in Paris that’s minimalist, inexpensive, multi-functional and puts the natural beauty of pine on display.
Vertically-installed pine lumber is attached to either opaque galvanized metal or transparent corrugated plastic backings, depending on the level of privacy desired for each individual office and meeting space. These interior walls stop short of the ceiling, which keeps the space from feeling cramped and closed-off.
The designers chose to use pine because of all the character in its natural markings, specifically looking for lumber that features lots of knots. The result feels clean and polished despite the simplicity of the materials used, with all that vertical wood recalling the trunks of young trees in a forest.
Continuing the tradition that began over a century ago, the Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association presents modern-day editions of the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs, a publication promoting the use of white pine as a building material. While many of the older issues focus on Colonial architecture in the Northeast, others put the spotlight on the material itself, and the people who make it available to the world. In Volume XXX, Issue II, published in 2011, we get to meet the families that run several mills, including Robbins Lumber Company and Pleasant River Lumber.
NeLMA visited with these families and spoke to them about their passion for forestry, their sustainability practices, and how they manage transition to keep up with the changing times. Jim Robbins, for example, is a steward of the land his family owns, ensuring that both the forests and his business remain healthy. They’ve got 30,000 acres under their direct management, with 130 years of family experience. Says Jim, “You give the best soils, the best seed stock, the best management techniques and hopefully we will come out with the best pine product in the end.”
The Brochu Brothers are the fourth generation to run Pleasant River Lumber, a 100% family-owned Maine business producing over 100 million board feet of spruce dimensional lumber and Eastern White Pine annually. While the brothers initially went their own way after college, choosing not to enter the family business, they ultimately returned, bringing fresh ideas with them.
Read the whole story in this issue of the White Pine Monographs.
The forest industry remains a crucial element in Maine’s economy despite the recently announced closure of Madison Paper Industries, which will result in the loss of 215 jobs. According to the Maine Forest Products council, the forestry industry pours about $5 billion into the state’s economy each year, and sawmills are bustling day in an day out as the demand for timber continues its upswing.
Though foreign competition, wood prices and startup capital have thrown a wrench in the industry’s recovery from the 2008 economic recession, the outlook is good. At Kennebec Lumber, which produces about 60 percent of its lumber and hardwood flooring from local trees, business has grown 10 to 15 percent over the last eight years.
“Our sawmills are fairly healthy,” says Patrick Starch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council. “They’ve invested millions during tough economic times, so they’re all looking for housing starts to improve. The housing market has gradually been improving, but we’re ready for an upsurge, and that’s going to e reflected in people feeling better about the economy.”
Biomass facilities and pellet plants in Maine have struggled to compete with low gas and oil prices over the last mild winter, but again, the long-term outlook is good. Biomass accounts for 60 percent of Maine’s renewable energy portfolio, and without healthy markets for it, low-grade wood and sawmill residue would clog the state’s forests or landfills.
Read more details at CentralMaine.com.
Photo: Paul VanDerWerf / Flickr Creative Commons
The lumber industry is bouncing back from the 2008 recession at a slow and steady pace that has experts hopeful of a full recovery within the next couple years. Many mill owners and lumber retailers are reporting increasing sales, feeling cautiously optimistic about the potential for regaining the business that was lost when the economy crashed. It’ll probably take a while to get back to the historical highs the industry reached in 2004-2006, but in the meantime, growth seems particularly notable in the DIY sector.
According to fresh figures from the Institute for Supply Management, makers of wood products are among the top performers in a swath of industries that expanded in February 2016, suggesting that manufacturers are gaining economic traction across the board.
Low lumber prices mean tight margins for producers right now, but they’re leading to a spike in interest in wood-centric construction projects. While the price of lumber has risen over the last two years, it’s still phenomenally low, encouraging many consumers to choose wood instead of steel or concrete when building their own projects. Slow housing recovery is projected to cap domestic lumber markets this year, predicts Forest2Market, a wood supply chain management firm, but it’s only a matter of time before lower unemployment levels lead to a boost in demand for housing.
Meanwhile, officials around the world are adjusting building codes to allow for taller wood buildings, opening the door to a whole new era of wood construction. Experts are calling it ‘the dawning of the timber age,’ predicting that wood will overtake steal and concrete in new construction, especially in urban centers where wooden high-rises are seen as the sustainable, renewable, aesthetically superior wave of the future.
Top image via Wikimedia Commons
Most modern bus stops are made of glass and steel, but one Spanish design collective has proven that pine lumber can actually be a fresher, more visually dynamic way to go – especially when you’re thinking outside the box creatively. Fourteen feet tall, this bus stop in Baltimore features three large sculptures that form the word BUS.
Taking this unusual approach not only provides a practical place for commuters to wait, it also creates a new landmark and work of public art for the city. Planks of pine are screwed onto a steel base structure designed to hold extra weight.
Passengers can sit, stand or lie down within the letters, depending on which one they choose. Each letter accommodates 2-4 people. The pine was left uncoated so it’ll take on a weathered look over time with exposure to the elements.
NELMA will partner with two organizations in April to offer lumber and timber grading overview information in multiple-day workshops. Coming up first will be the Dimension Softwood Lumber Inspection program set for April 2 & 3 at the Northcentral Technical College’s Antigo, Wisconsin campus. This 2-day course will draw individuals from the lumber industry throughout the Great Lakes region and include both classwork and hands-on instructions provided by a trio of NELMA Inspectors; Don Pendergast, Murdock McLeod, and Jason Ostrem.
The following week, NELMA will team up with the Timber Framing Engineering Council on April 7-9 in Washington, Massachusetts to provide 3 days of instruction and hands-on grading of full-size structural timbers at their Timber Grading Training Course. NELMA’s Matt Pomeroy and Don Pendergast will provide the grading expertise during this workshop.
“Both of these events provide NELMA with the opportunity to convey the importance of lumber and timber grading to an extended audience, while solidifying the Association’s role as the expert authority on grading”, stated Jeff Easterling, NELMA President. “We look forward to working with additional lumber and timber related industry groups in the future to further extend our grading educational outreach.”