An Ounce of Prevention

Thanks to Grant Kirker for writing this article spotlighting how homeowner’s can better maintain their wood decks. Kirker is a Research Forest Products Technologist at FPL in the Durability and Wood Protection Research unit.

The experimental test block setup used to examine the role of accumulated leaf litter on material performance and wood durability in aboveground exposure. The test block is surrounded by untreated pine and the channel between the block and frame is filled with leaf litter. The two black fittings on the top are able to take repeated moisture measurement using a pin-type moisture probe. USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory

Benjamin Franklin is credited with the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, which suggests that taking steps to avert a problem before it starts is far better than taking corrective steps after the problem arises. Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) Wood Durability and Protection researchers, in collaboration with research partners at Oregon State University, attempted to apply this concept to a situation close to home for many homeowners—the wooden deck.

The global wooden decking market in 2020 was valued at $15 billion USD, of which the North American markets made up about 35%, or $5.25 billion USD1. In a 2019 National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) survey2, 20.3% of all new houses included decks. Although this estimate is lower than historical averages, the global pandemic has led to an increasing interest in outdoor living spaces, which will likely cause this market to increase. Wood is an excellent building material for outdoor decking because of its  reasonable cost and low maintenance requirements; if properly installed and maintained, a wood deck can provide a long-lasting benefit to the homeowner.

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Forest Products Laboratory Says Good-Bye to Director Dr. Christopher Risbrudt

Dr. Christopher Risbrudt FPL Station Director, September 2001 to April 2011
USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory

Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) says good-bye to esteemed station director, Dr. Christopher Risbrudt, and dearly regarded community member.

From September 2001 to April 2011, Dr. Risbrudt served as FPL’s director. Passionate about his work and the future of the lab, he explained during a 2011 interview that the ten years he spent as FPL director were “among the most rewarding of my career, and while there is probably never a good time to retire, this feels like the right time because FPL seems well-positioned to move forward.”

Risbrudt’s leadership left FPL with a strong legacy. Under his direction, research at FPL focused on the sustainability of wood and wood products development and improving forest health. He also streamlined the laboratory’s work into five broad future-oriented areas: (biorefiningnanotechnologyadvanced structuresadvanced composites, and underutilized woody biomass) and encouraged collaborative research efforts and technology transfer activities.

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More to the Story – From Forgotten to the Doors of the Capitol of Democracy

FPL’s vintage lumber arrives in Washington D.C. and is unloaded by the skilled carpenters of the Architect of the Capitol. Photo credit: Architect of the Capitol

Robert Ross & Shayne Martin USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory

A year ago, the Forest Products Laboratory staff received a unique request.

That request came through a relationship built on cooperative research between the Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL). This connection resulted in an amazing story of a 3,000-lb stack of legacy mahogany and other vintage lumber of incalculable value being used in the restoration of many historical wood objects at the U.S. Capitol building.

While our country reflects on the attack of January 6, 2021, which resulted in the damage or destruction of many treasured historical artifacts, we also reflect on the story of the wood used to repair what was thought to be irreplaceable. That story shone as a bright light and sign of hope in an otherwise dark situation.

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Trees Are Climate Change, Carbon Storage Heroes

Mature trees like this Elm can sequester more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in a single year. Photo by USDA Forest Service

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, once wrote, “I longed to devise a setting in which the trees might really march to war.”

If climate change is a battle for Earth’s survival, then trees will be a vital army holding the line. When Tolkien imagined trees marching to war, he couldn’t have foreseen how relevant those words would one day be.

Trees are a bastion against climate change.

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Big Grant Funding Awarded to Tiniest, Mightiest Building Material of the Future

The Forest Products Laboratory is pleased to announce the littlest big news that could help change how we fabricate the world around us.

CN-enhanced concrete looks and acts like traditional concrete but is much stronger. Photo by Michael Goergen, U.S. Endowment.

USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in collaboration with P3Nano from the US Endowment for Forests and Communities(U.S. Endowment) announced ten awards this month for projects ranging from one to five years, totaling $2.4 million in grants to further nanocellulose research.

The partnership funds research to evaluate the safety of cellulosic nanomaterials (CNs), develop process improvements to reduce production cost, and provide new market opportunities for advanced applications. Everything from biodegradable snack packaging to concrete additives that significantly reduce CO2 emissions are possible with CN innovation.

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