Expanding Export Markets for U.S. Softwood Products
Helping industry organizations establish and grow sales around the world
Leading the charge in market education overseas, Brian Court of Seattle-based Miller Hull has given seminars in Guadalajara and Beijing on Green Building during August and October, using the award-winning design for the Bullitt Center as a case study. In addition to a waterless composting toilet system, rainwater harvesting system, and rooftop solar panels that yield an annual net zero energy use, the six-story office building features warm softwood interiors made up of glu-lam Doug Fir columns and beams.
Court mixes materials for the most effective structure and exposes the lumber frame not only to save on materials and time, but also for the texture and richness that wood visually provides within the space. The natural finish is an expressive element of the building's design, and resonates with tenants: surveys from employees working in the Bullitt Center report that the number one most-loved aspect of the building is the exposed wood, a critical component that brings life to the workplace during the Pacific Northwest's long, gray winters. "There is a movement where spaces are more flexible, fluid, less prescribed--timber is an element of that," explains Court, "it resonates with people on a primal, emotional level."
Chinese regulations for wooden structures are dictated by the GB50005, which lists the recognized wood products permitted for construction. Currently, the Chinese Timber Code Committee staff is working on an updated version of this code after ten years since the last edition, incorporating grades and species from the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Kevin Cheung has made a submission to the Committee to incorporate the reliability-compliant design values for North American NGR dimension lumber, MSR lumber, and Structural Timbers. By including these values in Chinese standards, we create opportunities for increasing the use of North American lumber products in China--a country that is already the largest softwood trading partner of the U.S. (not including Canada), with a housing start exceeding 10 million a year and a new commitment to increasing wood construction in official buildings.
The government is planning to streamline the import/export process with a new International Trade Data System, launching on November 1, 2015. The system aims to save time and paper with an electronic database that will afford agencies access to shipment data and allow them to submit documentation to easily comply with Customs and Border Protection. Since that crucial information is currently only in hardcopy, ITDS will expedite communication between CBP and agencies, and better ensure security of cargo. There are plenty of educational webinars and workshops to learn more.
At the start of 2016, the Korean Research Forestry Institute will begin using a new standard in lumber grading, affecting acceptable trade with Korea. Their Notification on Sawn Lumber has only three grades and requires all labels and grade marks to be in Korean (labels with both Korean and English are acceptable). The regulations are complex, and time is limited to negotiate with officials. While Korea's existing lumber standard recognizes U.S. grades via equivalence with all North American softwood, KRFI has yet to agree to publicly recognize our American Lumber Standard Committee, though they are working toward recognizing the Canadian Lumber Standard Accreditation Board. As we work with Korea government, we encourage you to reach out to your own importers in Korea to see what impact this will have on their trade with the U.S. Please share any difficulties your encounter with SEC so we may inform the U.S. Trade Representative.
We will have more information as we investigate the new standard, and update our members as we post on the topic. Notification information courtesy of Kevin Chueng.