--High Tech Wood
FTLComm - Tisdale - April 6, 2001
It used to be that when a contractor set to work to build a building he went to the lumber yard and purchases the lumber he needed for the job. That process has become considerably more complex with new materials now available. MacMillan Blodeel (now owned by Weyerhaeuser) developed particle board more than twenty five years ago using the excellent strength and durability of Aspen trees to create chip board that was an excellent sheeting material, stronger than plywood in some ways and adding considerable mass to a building.

Since then a number of new forms of wood products have come on the market. K3 particle board has become the standard material for furniture and flooring is made from composite saw dust particle pressed into a heavy and very hard sheeting material. The new competitor to particle board has been the development of furniture and finishing material made from straw. A huge plant just East of Winnipeg has been operating for about two years churning out an impressive product only to go broke with some production problems.

But gradually we have seen a whole range of products like these move into the construction and building industry that have very special applications and are cheaper and stronger than convention timber. In the picture above we see one of these new strata products using strips of Aspen to create strong, perfect dimensional lumber. These man made beams are considerably heavier than regular lumber and are also several times stronger.

"I" beams have been around for some time and used in house construction to create excellent floor joyce. The ones seen below are low cost high strength beams made from particle board with composite top and bottom caps. These beams can bear more weight than a convention timber beam yet are a fraction of the weight to handle and install.

While products like these are making their way into new houses and commercial buildings steel studding has become standard in business and industrial construction while Americans are using steel studding more and more in housing. It is puzzling to see these new products come into the market place and perhaps explains why American softwood lumber companies are feeling so much pressure and have turned their attention to Canadian suppliers blaming them for the low prices.

With the growth and use of composite materials (manufactured lumber) and replacements like steel studding it is no wonder this industry feels like it is under siege