Wood products companies in the US are under pressure from the economy, environmental regulation and competing materials, says Robert Glowinski, AWC executive director.
The AWC believes that no single company can achieve the changes necessary to ensure a level playing field and survival: Now, more than ever, strength is to be found in numbers.
“The new coalition will ensure that wood products manufacturers have a broadly supported, unified and powerful voice so we can secure a strong future for the industry in the face of an onslaught of upcoming challenges,says Mr Glowinski.
The AWC provides an organizational structure for wood products companies and associations to work together on building codes and standards, green building policy issues and a focused set of environmental regulations. This gives the industry the resources, clout and credibility to achieve policies that can secure it a strong future.
The AWC is seeking to expand the force and effectiveness of its advocacy efforts by ensuring they reflect the full range and diversity of America’s wood products industry because such a broad base of support not only enhances advocacy before Congress and key policy-making bodies, but also helps ensure that all those who benefit from these efforts are supporting them.
To achieve a robust marketplace for wood products, encourage sensible environmental regulation and advocate that wood is the best choice in green building, the AWC has focused on three distinct areas where the industry’s collective efforts have secured significant achievements and continue to set high goals for future progress:
• AWC ensures the continued acceptance of wood products in markets regulated by building codes/standards and maximizes opportunities for wood’s use in residential and commercial construction by speaking up for all wood products before building code-writing bodies in the US
• With a new wave of regulations under development by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which could cost wood products companies more than US$2bn in new regulatory costs, AWC advocates commonsense environmental policies
• With the green building market estimated to reach as much as US$140bn by 2013, securing a strong place for wood in the myriad green building codes and rating systems is essential to future growth.
Building codes/standards
The AWC’s engineers and experts work exclusively to maintain and expand market opportunities for wood through building codes and standards, in the face of stiff competition from materials such as concrete and steel. No single company can represent the broad industry before building code authorities, nor maintain the technical expertise required to engage full-time with the leading construction code-writing bodies, but the AWC can and does.
Over the past year, the AWC has:
• Defeated efforts by steel interests to grab market share by creating lower energy-efficiency requirements for steel studs than for wood studs
• Protected wood panels’ dominant place in the residential sheathing market against efforts to impose unsubstantiated energy requirements that would have favoured foam sheathing
• Promoted the use of I-joists and trusses in residential construction by defeating proposals that would have imposed additional, unsubstantiated requirements on engineered wood products compared to competing materials.
For the AWC to continue to advocate for the industry, it needs broad industry participation and the resources that come with it. In 2010, specific challenges include:
Building codes: ICC code cycle for the new 2012 code is under way and includes over 2,000 proposed code changes
Earthquake codes: Requiring light-gauge steel to meet the same high seismic performance levels as wood frame construction
Energy efficiency: Recapturing markets lost to energy-performance requirements biased towards competing materials and increasing regulation resulting from new energy legislation
Fire safety: Educating the fire community on the safety and performance of all wood products and responding to the current fire service focus on engineered wood products
Structural specifications: Opposing substitution of wood structural panels with foam sheathing and preventing technically unjustified changes to the IRC’s bracing code.
Environmental regulation
Over the past decade, through its affiliation with the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), the wood products industry has been very effective in shaping regulatory policies.
By closely engaging with key agency staff, possessing a thorough knowledge of the rule-making process, and by constructively and openly sharing information about manufacturing processes, the industry has developed significant credibility with agency policy makers.
This has led to: Successfully shaping EPA’s survey of how proposed Wood MACT (maximum achievable control technology) changes would impact the industry; favourable reception at the EPA of recommended work practices for proposed new kiln regulations; retention of start-up, shutdown and malfunction exemptions from the Wood MACT; providing industry input to Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and other government entities that engage in rule making pertaining to workplace safety; coordinating industry input to private organisations, such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which help establish consensus standards that influence workplace safety procedures.
The threatened US$2bn cost of new EPA regulations for wood products companies are in response to a recent court decision overturning the 2004 Wood MACT and are expected to also include:
• A reassessment of the 2004 MACT for dryers and presses that could further tighten existing limits
• Residual Risk Review: EPA must determine by 2012 if public health risks remain, even after the 2004 MACT’s implementation
• Revisiting all start-up, shut-down and malfunction (SSM) exemptions: This review is being considered in light of a recent court decision that calls into question all SSM provisions which currently provide significant operating flexibility
• Setting a first-ever New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) for the industry: Though discussed in the late 1970s, an NSPS for wood products has never been pursued by EPA, which would set limits for a suite of additional air pollutants.
EPA is looking to the industry for leadership in developing a unified industry strategy for these environmental issues. That unity will be essential to our success and to help prevent environmental opponents from exploiting differences within the industry to weaken our advocacy and see the most stringent possible regulations imposed.
Green building
More attention than ever before is being paid to how buildings impact the environment, including the choice of materials used in construction and how those materials help conserve energy during operation.
Wood is the perfect green building material because it is renewable, stores carbon which reduces greenhouse gases and is energy-efficient. But winning acceptance for wood is a challenge, as competing materials, and certain environmental groups, seek to control the US green building market.
Also, some green building rating systems, such as the US Green Building Council’s well-known LEED rating system, contain scientifically indefensible biases against wood and many US-sourced wood products. LEED is aggressively seeking a government-sanctioned monopoly on rating systems, which would seriously harm the use of US wood products.
The industry has fought hard over the past decade to set the record straight on wood and has made impressive progress: It has helped bring the wood-friendly Green Globes rating system to the US, offering the first competition to LEED; secured Green Globes inclusion in the federal schools and stimulus bills; prevented LEED-only legislation in 40 states; and won adoption in 19 states of the Green Globes rating system.
It has also influenced green criteria being included in the ASHRAE green building minimum requirements standard and gained a position on the International Code Council’s oversight committee for its new green building model code – the only wood interest on a committee that will write the first national green building code, which can be enforced like a mandatory building code.
Finally, it has served on the Green Globes and National Green Building Standard Committees, ensuring that wood products are rewarded for their environmental characteristics and for their positive contributions.