Boulder’s battle against emerald ash borer tree loss fueling local woodworking economy

By Sam Lounsberry, Boulder Daily Camera
Even as Boulder County foresters press on in their fight against the invasive emerald ash borer harming the local tree population, officials acknowledge it is a losing battle.

But it is one lovers of ash trees don’t have to walk away from empty-handed, even as sickened trees are in line for removal or have already been sawed to stave off the infestation.

Woodworkers like Evan Kinsley, who started the Boulder-based business Sustainable Arbor Works several years ago, have turned to ash trees to supply their furniture and art crafting practices as a way to maintain the local benefit provided by the species slated for a countywide death at the hands of the insect. Emerald ash borer has already dramatically altered the composition of forests across the middle and eastern regions of the country.

“It’s a privilege to be able to work with a local hardwood like ash,” Kinsely said.

When he first learned of the 2013 detection of emerald ash borer in Boulder — it has since spread to Longmont, Lafayette, Lyons and Superior, but until last month, when it was first detected in Broomfield, Boulder County remained the only area in the Mountain West with a confirmed presence — Kinsley and his now-business partner Aaron Taddiken looked at each other and said, “We have to do something.”

The solution was to build a wood kiln to speed up the drying process for felled trees, and now Kinsely focuses on harvesting trees removed from the urban landscape, a large proportion of which are ash due to the pesky beetle’s invasion, and reusing them for wholesale lumber slabs and designing and building custom furniture.

“It used to be most of this time, that a lot of woodworkers got their wood from big wood suppliers. That would come from all over the country, all over the world,” Kinsley said. “It’s not a new thing to use local lumber. But it was a new idea for smaller woodworkers, smaller lumber mills to start working with tree (removal) companies.”

Supporting Kinsley’s living is not the life cycle he prefers for the trees, but he feels he is making the best out of a bad situation…

While the city and Boulder County continue treating public ash trees to keep them alive as long as possible using pesticide applications, tree adoption programs and biological weapons, enforcement against declining ash trees on private property continues to ramp up.

In 2018, Read said the city sent 182 letters to private property owners asking them to address declining ash trees posing safety hazard; in 2017 the number was 118, in 2016 it was 82. This year he expects to send a significantly larger number of such letters. The growing number of letters aligns with the advance of the beetle infestation. Tree owners who receive such a letter will have to show the city a good-faith effort is being made to remove trees considered dangerous.

But work to preserve ash trees still free of the emerald ash borer goes on, even as replanting species that won’t be affected by the invasive bug remains the focus of foresters for the future of Boulder’s canopy. The city’s Tree-Imagine campaign launched this spring is pushing city residents to collectively plant 25,000 new trees by 2025.

The county this summer introduced a swarm of a non-stinging, parasitic member of the wasp family on the Mayhoffer open space property in Superior, and also has enlisted 159 participants in its adopt-a-tree program for ashes slated for removal from public places. Program participants can choose to commit to pay for treatment to keep the trees alive.

“A lot of these ash trees are old and they’ve been with the community a long time,” Kinsley said. “Trying to protect them in every way is a valiant effort.”

Source: Boulder’s battle against emerald ash borer tree loss fueling local woodworking economy – Denver Post, 2019-09-08

‘Chip and Ship’ Project Aims to Speed up Forest Restoration in Northern Arizona

By Ryan Heinsius
Jeff Halbrook, a research associate with ERI, takes me on a tour of what’s fondly known as the chip-and-ship pilot project at Camp Navajo near Bellemont.

“It’s all little stuff, down to like a three-inch knop or so,” he says.

A huge mechanical claw scoops up several ponderosa pine logs and feeds them into an industrial chipper. Thousands of wood chunks are blasted into a large shipping container.

“It goes anywhere from one to four to three, up to seven small ones can just kind throw in that little jaws there,” he says.

The logs were recently cut from the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff. A crew of six has been working for days to pack the containers as tightly as possible with the shredded chips.

“So, they’re finished with that one and then they’ll back around here and start filling this first container, and then it’s kind of like a little dance out there,” Halbrook says.

“It goes anywhere from one to four to three, up to seven small ones can just kind throw in that little jaws there,” he says.

The logs were recently cut from the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff. A crew of six has been working for days to pack the containers as tightly as possible with the shredded chips.

“So, they’re finished with that one and then they’ll back around here and start filling this first container, and then it’s kind of like a little dance out there,” Halbrook says.

“As these markets develop and these techniques are refined, we’re able to do more acres, and we’re way behind the eight ball on our ability to manage acres,” says Rich Van Demark, a forester with the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.

“As soon as we can build to that capacity with all the pieces that it takes, that’ll get us to that level of management that we need to match up to our forest needs … But at least it’s going in the right direction,” he says.

4FRI managers eventually want to treat 50,000 acres a year, which would produce a million-and-a-half tons of biomass annually. The chip-and-ship program could export a third of that by sending hundreds of shipping containers to Asia for at least the next decade.

Source: ‘Chip and Ship’ Project Aims to Speed up Forest Restoration in Northern Arizona – KANU Arizona Public Radio, 2019-08-26

Our View: New forest products put Maine on right track

Three years ago, Madison Paper Industries locked the doors of its mill, putting more than 200 people out of work. It was the latest in a long string of mill closures that made Maine’s economic future look dark.

But next year the Madison mill building is scheduled to reopen — not to make paper but a new product that has never been manufactured in the United States.

This month GO Lab Inc., a Belfast-based company, finalized a deal that will allow it to manufacture insulation products out of wood fiber. GO Lab President Josh Henry projects that the company will be hiring about 125 people, giving new life to an old mill town.

The revival of manufacturing is not just good news for Madison or Somerset County. It’s a sign that the next generation of forest products is coming off the drawing board and into production. That’s good news for the whole Maine economy — and since the sustainable forest collects greenhouse gases and stores them, it’s good news for the global climate as well.

Not long before GO Lab acquired the mill building, another company, Advanced Infrastructure Technologies of Brewer, announced that it would be making wood-fiber composite bridge supports that will take the place of concrete in the construction of the new Grist Mill bridge in Hampden. This new construction material is just as strong as steel or concrete, but it’s much lighter and takes less time to install. That’s why they call it “The 72-Hour Bridge,” and the company says that reduced construction time will make wood-fiber composite the lowest-cost option in many projects.

Source: Our View: New forest products put Maine on right track – CentralMaine.com, 2019-08-22

Why Assumptions About Wood Biomass Could Be Going Up in Smoke

By Charolette Duck
Harvesting trees for energy and commercial use goes against most people’s idea of sustainability. Although lumber practices happening across Austria suggest that this isn’t always the case.

WHEN IT COMES to finding new ways to create energy, there’s an assumption that the solution must come from something new. In Austria, however, experts are showing that this is not necessarily the case. Particularly when it comes to something as elementary as burning wood – which is as old as the proverbial hills.

Wood has been used as a heat source for thousands of years, and a power source for more than a century, but the relationship between deforestation and global warming has caused it to be overlooked as a potential alternative source of energy. However, new forestry production and management techniques trialled in Austria suggest that trees might actually have a key role to play in helping to sustainably satisfy our demand for energy – the key is being smart about how we do it.

With forests covering almost half the country – 47 per cent in fact – you don’t have to go far to find a tree in Austria. So, it’s unsurprising that the nation would look to harness this natural resource for its energy needs. But, sustainable forestry is more complicated than just cutting down one tree and replacing it with another. Some clever thinking is required.

“A forest owner has to determine the total volume of growth in their forest per year, every ten years,” says Christian Rakos of the European Pellet Council. “If 1000 cubic metres of wood are added every year by growth of the trees, this is the volume you can cut each year.” Formulas such as this have helped shaped laws that govern the progressive forestry industry in Austria. The math might be a little tricky, but in Austria, any deviation from this formula is taken very seriously indeed– so much so that there are special authorities who ensure that forestry laws are respected. What’s more, these forest police must approve any cutting that’s larger than half a hectare, and check regularly to ensure that harvested areas are replanted immediately, or will naturally regenerate within five years.

Similarly, endangered species are also carefully monitored, and forestry near their habitats severely restricted. If the worst should happen and a forest is wiped out unexpectedly by natural disaster, say from a storm, disease or pests, then the number of harvestable trees the following year will be reduced accordingly.

They might be strict, but these tactics are certainly working. After all, forty percent of Austria’s annual forest growth remains untouched each year, with the net result being that forests are actually increasing in size.

Source: Why Assumptions About Wood Biomass Could Be Going Up in Smoke – National Geographic Partner Content, 2019-08-20

Report: EU demand for wood pellets continues to grow

By Erin Voegele
A recent report filed with the USDA FAS’s GAIN predicts the EU market for wood pellets will likely grow this year but cautions future expansions could be limited by sustainability requirements introduced by individual member states.

According to the report, nearly half of the EU’s renewable energy is currently generated from the combustion of solid biomass, not including municipal solid waste. This includes wood chips and pellets. The EU consumes approximately 75 percent of the world’s wood pellets and accounts for about 50 percent of global production. In 2017, 40 percent of EU pellet consumption went to residential heating, with 33 percent to commercial power, 14 percent to commercial heating and 12 percent to combined-heat-and-power (CHP).

The EU consumed an estimated 27.35 million metric tons of wood pellets last year, up from 24.15 million tons in 2017. Wood pellet consumption is expected to increase to 30 million metric tons this year.

The EU is expected to produce 18.1 million metric tons of wood pellets this year, up from 18.85 million metric tons in 2018 and 15.3 million metric tons in 2017. Imports are expected to increase to 12.2 million metric tons in 2019, up from 10.355 million metric tons in 2018 and 8.692 million metric tons in 2017. EU exports of wood pellets are expected to remain at the 2018 level of 170,000 tons this year, down from 195,000 metric tons in 2017.

According to the report, the EU had 656 pellet plants in place in 2017 with a combined capacity of 22.75 million metric tons. Capacity increased to an estimated 24 million metric tons last year, and is expected to reach 25 million metric tons in 2019. Capacity use is expected to reach 72 percent this year, up from 70 percent in 2018 and 67 percent in 2017.

In 2018, the U.K. was the top EU consumer of wood pellets, with 8 million metric tons, followed by Italy with 3.75 million metric tons, Denmark with 3.5 million metric tons, Germany with 2.19 million metric tons and Sweden with 1.785 million metric tons. France, Belgium, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland were also among the top 11 EU consumers of wood pellets last year.

The U.K. imported 7.829 million metric tons of wood pellets last year, with 4.88 million tons of that volume imported form the U.S. Denmark imported 3.813 million tons of pellets last year, including 623 tons from the U.S. Italy imported 2.242 tons of wood pellets in 2018, including 88,000 tons from the U.S, while Belgium imported 1.137 tons, including 538,000 tons from the U.S.

Germany was the top EU producer of wood pellets in 2018, with 2.415 million metric tons, followed by Sweden with 1.845 million metric tons and Latvia with 1.575 million metric tons. France, Austria, Estonia, Poland, Spain and Portugal were also among the top nine EU pellet producers last year.

The U.S. was the top supplier of wood pellets to the EU last year, with 6.139 million tons, followed by Canada with 1.762 million tons and Russia with 1.365 million tons.

According to the report, a key factor in being able to capture the demand in the EU market and benefit from its growth potential is the sustainability of supply. “European traders and end-users of industrial wood pellets are calling for clear, consistent, harmonized and long-term government regulations,” said the authors in the report. “In the absence of EU-wide binding criteria for solid biomass, several EU member states, including Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands, developed their own rules in response to the growing use of wood pellets.”

Source: Report: EU demand for wood pellets continues to grow – Biomassmagazine.com, 2019-08-05

Sidewalk Labs is building a smart city entirely of mass timber. What could go wrong?

By Kira Barrett
North America is on the cusp of a mass timber revolution, and the Waterfront Toronto project is leading the way. But the material faces major obstacles.

Abuilding made primarily of wood conjures public fear of fire, but for a growing number of developers, it evokes opportunity. From constructing towering wooden condominiums, to timber college dormitories, to an entire neighborhood built from trees, experts in “mass timber” are creating buildings of the future.

Sidewalk Labs’ master plan for a futuristic smart city on the waterfront in Toronto includes an entire neighborhood made of wood, called Quayside, with 10 mixed-use building up to 35 stories.

The plan is audacious, considering that in the U.S., there are only 221 mass timber buildings in the works or fully built, according to the American Wood Council​’s Kenneth Bland.

In most U.S. cities, mass timber buildings, and specifically tall mass timber buildings, are a rarity, if they exist at all.

But architects, city officials and timber advocates across North America are pushing conventional building codes and public perception because of the drastic impact these structures can have on reducing CO2 through carbon sequestration, compared to traditional concrete and steel.

“I think it’s a big opportunity for a lot of cities out there … The impact on reducing carbon emissions on earth could be dramatic,” Karim Khalifa, director of buildings innovation at Sidewalk Labs, told Smart Cities Dive. “And that gets me excited.”

What is mass timber?

One of the biggest obstacles for city officials is understanding the material. They are more than buildings made of wood — they’re defined by their structure. Steel or concrete buildings with wood accents don’t count, according to Andrew Tsay Jacobs from architecture firm Perkins and Will.

Mass timber buildings use solid wood panels to frame a building’s walls, floors and roofs, creating structures that can reach at least 18 stories, as is the case with the tallest mass timber building in the world in Norway. But these buildings aren’t just pure wood. Mass timber construction utilizes engineered wood, or panels glued together, and there are several types: cross-laminated (CLT), glue-laminated and dowel-laminated timber, with CLT being the most common.

While shorter wood buildings have existed for centuries, CLT panel technology is relatively new. It was developed in Europe in the 1990s, the material was only added to the international building code in 2015. Even then, all-wood buildings were capped at six stories, though that will change to allow taller structures in 2021.

Source: Sidewalk Labs is building a smart city entirely of mass timber. What could go wrong? – Construction Dive, 2019-08-05

New Group Promotes “Climate-Smart” Wood

By Scott Gibson
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and four environmental advocacy groups in the Pacific Northwest have launched a promotional campaign for forest practices and wood products that help lower carbon emissions.

The Climate-Smart Wood Group says it wants to help builders, architects, and other buyers understand the difference between wood products on the market and make it easier to locate lumber that meets sustainable forestry standards.

In a statement laying out its goals, the group said that growing interest in mass-timber construction underscores the need to choose wood products carefully. Promoters often cite timber as a less carbon-intensive building product than concrete and steel, the group notes, but that’s not necessarily the case.

“All wood is not the same,” the statement says. “Forest management affects carbon storage, human communities, water, and habitat. Climate-smart forestry—which relies on actions such as selective harvesting, longer rotation lengths, and tight restrictions on hazardous chemicals—can store more carbon than commonly practiced forestry.”

Although not without its critics, the FSC manages an international certification program for lumber. In order to qualify and win the right to mark wood with the FSC stamp, forestry companies have to meet certain FSC tests that are designed to minimize damage to the environment and communities where the wood is harvested.

Other groups involved in the Climate-Smart program are Ecotrust, Sustainable Northwest, the Northwest Natural Resource Group, and the Washington Environmental Council. These organizations all are in the Pacific Northwest.

The group notes that in the pulp and paper industry, large companies have influenced forest management and supply chains through their purchasing policies. But the construction sector is not as organized, with many smaller players working independently. The Climate-Smart Wood Group is a way to bring these players together, its opening statement said.

Source: New Group Promotes “Climate-Smart” Wood – GreenBuildingAdvisor, 2019-06-27

Mimicking the ultrastructure of wood with 3-D printing for green products

by Chalmers University of Technology
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have succeeded in 3-D printing with a wood-based ink in a way that mimics the unique “ultrastructure” of wood. Their research could revolutionise the manufacturing of green products. Through emulating the natural cellular architecture of wood, they now present the ability to create green products derived from trees, with unique properties—everything from clothes, packaging, and furniture to healthcare and personal care products.

The way in which wood grows is controlled by its genetic code, which gives it unique properties in terms of porosity, toughness and torsional strength. But wood has limitations when it comes to processing. Unlike metals and plastics, it cannot be melted and easily reshaped, and instead must be sawn, planed or curved. Processes which do involve conversion, to make products such as paper, card and textiles, destroy the underlying ultrastructure, or architecture of the wood cells. But the new technology now presented allows wood to be, in effect, grown into exactly the shape desired for the final product, through the medium of 3-D printing.

By previously converting wood pulp into a nanocellulose gel, researchers at Chalmers had already succeeded in creating a type of ink that could be 3-D printed. Now, they present a major progression—successfully interpreting and digitising wood’s genetic code, so that it can instruct a 3-D printer.

It means that now, the arrangement of the cellulose nanofibrils can be precisely controlled during the printing process, to actually replicate the desirable ultrastructure of wood. Being able to manage the orientation and shape means that they can capture those useful properties of natural wood.

“This is a breakthrough in manufacturing technology. It allows us to move beyond the limits of nature, to create new sustainable, green products. It means that those products which today are already forest-based can now be 3-D printed, in a much shorter time. And the metals and plastics currently used in 3-D printing can be replaced with a renewable, sustainable alternative,” says Professor Paul Gatenholm, who has led this research within the Wallenberg Wood Science Centre at Chalmers University of Technology.

A further advance on previous research is the addition of hemicellulose, a natural component of plant cells, to the nanocellulose gel. The hemicellulose acts as a glue, giving the cellulose sufficient strength to be useful, in a similar manner to the natural process of lignification, through which cell walls are built.

Source: Mimicking the ultrastructure of wood with 3-D printing for green products – Phys.org, 2019-06-27

Engineered wood stays 12 degrees cooler, saves AC costs by up to 60 percent

By Robert Dalheim
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The research team behind “super wood” is at it again – this time engineering a wood that’s capable of staying 12 degrees cooler than regular wood.

Researchers at the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado hoped to find a passive way for buildings to dump heat sustainably. The solution is wood – it is already used as a building material, and is renewable and sustainable. Using tiny structures found in wood – cellulose nanofibers and the natural chambers that grow to pass water and nutrients up and down inside a living tree – the researchers engineered wood that radiates away heat.

The UMD team soaked basswood in a solution of hydrogen peroxide, which destroys the wood’s lignin. The team then used a hot press to compress the remaining cellulose and hemicellulose components together. To make it water repellent, they added a super hydrophobic compound that helps protect the wood.

Source: Engineered wood stays 12 degrees cooler, saves AC costs by up to 60 percent – Woodworking Network, 2019-06-14

BURNED: Are Trees the New Coal?

A documentary about the burning of wood at an industrial scale for energy, “BURNED: Are Trees the New Coal?” tells the little-known story of the accelerating destruction of our forests for fuel, and probes the policy loopholes, huge subsidies, and blatant greenwashing of the burgeoning biomass power industry.
By independent filmmakers Marlboro Films, LLC: Alan Dater, Lisa Merton, and Chris Hardee.

Source: BURNED: Are Trees the New Coal? – Link TV