SLB Partnerships Make The Industry Stronger

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Through a diverse array of partnerships with both public agencies and private organizations, the Softwood Lumber Board and its funded programs have proven that the industry is stronger and produces greater results when we work collaboratively.

The SLB has a focused mandate—to increase demand and expand markets for Softwood lumber products—but the reality is that achieving that goal of increasing demand means relying on partners with different mandates but coordinated interests. Often, the SLB acts as a nucleus for a much broader effort, making significant investments in the growth of the wood products sector and, in turn, attracting like-minded investors, working together toward the common goal of a thriving and sustainable forest products sector.

In some cases, the SLB supports organizations that have vision and capability but can achieve more with additional funding. In others, the SLB acts as the execution arm for funders who seek to activate change. Here’s a look at how the SLB leads a united effort, utilizing partnerships to achieve the industry’s common goals.

Activating lumber markets with investment from public-private partnerships

The SLB’s work with the USDA Forest Service shows how public-private partnerships allow for effective investment of talent and resources toward shared goals. The organizations first signed a memorandum of understanding in 2015, then a second MOU in 2021 expanded the partnership that seeks to grow demand for wood products as natural climate solutions.

The SLB and USDA Forest Service jointly fund WoodWorks, an organization that works directly with design and construction teams to support projects and lead them to specify wood and grow market share in non-residential and multi-family buildings, with the SLB funding half of the organization’s annual budget and the USDA Forest Service providing an additional 25%. The USDA Forest Service has also provided major grants to the American Wood Council, which supports codes and standards favorable to wood products.

The USDA Forest Service’s mandate is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of U.S. forests, and driving growth in demand for lumber through increased use in multifamily and non-residential buildings helps achieve those goals. The USDA Forest Service provides funding—$775,000 over the last two years—for the SLB’s Think Wood communication and education campaign, supporting the program’s work to build interest and intent to specify wood in those sectors.

The SLB and the USDA Forest Service are also working together to expand the market for mass timber to drive further demand for lumber. The USDA Forest Service co-funds the SLB’s Mass Timber Competition: Building to Net-Zero Carbon, which aims to accelerate the use of mass timber by supporting innovative building

projects, enabling the research and lessons learned during those projects to be shared and encouraging the wider use and adoption of mass timber in future projects. Over the two iterations of the competition, the Softwood lumber industry invested $2 million for the prize funding, leveraging an additional $2 million from the USDA Forest Service.

Targeted investments in Boston, New York City, and Atlanta have leveraged local partners’ funding and expertise alongside the SLB and USDA Forest Service to identify and fund promising mass timber projects in those cities and work to overcome obstacles to their construction. These “accelerators” combine work to streamline barriers in the code with technical assistance from WoodWorks, creating fertile ground for additional mass timber growth in those metro regions.

Leading and investing in growth initiatives

The SLB also partners with private organizations with coordinated interests to achieve common goals. As with its USDA Forest Service partnerships, the SLB often provides leadership and execution for these efforts. For example, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, which aims to keep rural communities healthy by promoting sustainable working forests, is investing $384,000 over three years to support SLB Education’s faculty workshops to help develop architecture and engineering school faculty proficient in wood construction, enabling two additional workshops in 2023. Five workshops are planned for 2024.

In other cases, the SLB provides support and funding to programs with high impact. The Working Forests Initiative (WFI) works to improve the reputation of the forestry industry and working forests in the U.S., helping to advance a common understanding of the benefits of working forests and sustainable wood products and the critical role forests play as a natural climate solution. The SLB is a minority funder on behalf of the industry, but SLB investors are also supporting the WFI’s work directly.

British Columbia’s Forestry Innovation Investment (FII), which supports the Canadian province’s lumber industry, is an investor in WoodWorks, and the SLB and FII have collaborated on several research projects, most recently on a mass timber industrial building report to identify the opportunity for wood structural systems in buildings such as warehouses and distribution centers.

The SLB has even found common ground with the steel industry. Through the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) and constructsteel, the SLB helped launch the Steel-Timber Hybrid Buildings Conference in 2022. CTBUH is producing a technical guide on the potential of steel-timber hybrid buildings featuring detailed case studies, set to be published in Q3 2024. The SLB has also co-funded work with the Charles Pankow Foundation on a study of steel-timber hybrid floor designs. In both cases, supporting repeatable mass timber-steel hybrid buildings provides the lumber industry with an opportunity on project types where lumber previously wouldn’t have been considered.

The continued support of the SLB’s investors is vital in maintaining this successful network of partners working toward stronger markets for lumber and wood products — because without that support, the industry stands to lose the gains it’s made.

Visit www.softwoodlumberboard.org for the latest updates from the SLB’s investments and to check out the annual report detailing the impact of that work.

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

The premier online information source for the forest products industry since 1927.

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By Miller Wood Trade Publications

The premier online information source for the forest products industry since 1927.

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