Putting Woody Biomass to Use: July Update from FPMU is out!

fpmuupdateThe latest Update from the Forest Products Laboratory’s Forest Products Marketing Unit (FPMU) is now available!

The July 2016 Update features a FPMU program delivery partner, Dusty Moller. Moller is a Biomass Utilization Specialist for University of Washington in Spokane. His many years in the wood industry have gained him much insight and passion in the area of woody biomass utilization, leading to his ability to advance wood utilization and marketing. This Update also includes a calendar of upcoming classes, events, and workshops.

If you would like to receive the FPMU Update via email, send a message to asarnecki@fs.fed.us to be added to the distribution list.

The Power of Partnerships: FPMU June Update Now Online

fpmuupdateThe latest Update from the Forest Products Laboratory’s Forest Products Marketing Unit (FPMU) is now available!

The June 2016 Update focuses on the power of partnerships. FPMU works closely with program delivery partners across the United States to support utilization and marketing of forest residues, small-diameter trees, and woody biomass—all generated through hazardous fuels reduction, forest management, and restoration. This Update includes a guest column from one such partner and also a calendar of upcoming classes, events, and workshops.

If you would like to receive the FPMU Update via email, send a message to asarnecki@fs.fed.us to be added to the distribution list.

Forest Products Marketing Unit Launches Monthly “UPDATE”

The Forest Products Marketing Unit (FPMU) at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) works collaboratively and strategically with Forest Service and external partners to advance high-value, high-volume markets for woody biomass.

Even small investments in woody biomass utilization can have substantial impacts. (www.bugwood.org)

The FPMU UPDATE looks to connect people across the forest-to-product market chain. (photo: www.bugwood.org)

To keep folks across the “forest-to-products” marketing chain informed and connected, the FPMU is sending a monthly UPDATE to those in industry, research, forest resource, forest management and other partners. The first UPDATE is now available on the FPL website.

Each monthly UPDATE will feature a current program, highlighting important connections between the forest to market supply chain.  Key information on upcoming events and recent news will be provided, as a means to strengthen wood utilization and marketing.

If you would like the FPMU UPDATE delivered right to your inbox, simply send an email with your request to Ann Sarnecki at asarnecki@fs.fed.us

To achieve forest restoration and foster resilient forests, support for existing markets and development of emerging markets is critical.  FPMU focuses on utilization and marketing opportunities for products and residues from forest timber harvest, land restoration activities, fuels reduction, natural disaster recovery and urban forestry.


As Axes Fall, Local Economy Rises: Cutting Costs While Cutting Trees

Taking care of urban forests may include the removal of diseased and damaged trees. Sometimes, the axe must fall, and professionals must be called in to remove trees due to storms, disease, or invasive insects. The removal costs can add up quickly — in some cases, to the tune of several millions of dollars. Through careful planning however, researchers, marketing teams, and industry professionals can find more affordable solutions — ones beneficial to the forests, the bottom line, and the local economy.


Trees harvested from Kenosha County, in southwest Wisconsin, will benefit several communities around the area.

Kenosha County, Wisconsin is ground zero for a large-scale urban wood utilization project where a mechanized cut-to-length (CTL) tree harvester is removing 5,400 trees that have succumbed to Emerald Ash Borer. These trees are located across the community, including in county parks and golf courses — but despite the scale of this operation, the cost to remove them is relatively low — just $13 a tree.

For the removal operation, Kenosha County enlisted the help of Don Peterson, Executive Director of Sustainable Resources Institute, and an important Forest Service program delivery partner. To keep costs down, Peterson sought out local businesses wherever possible — the winning bid for the harvesting, for example, went to a logger from nearby Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Use of the CTL harvester provides usable wood for a variety of local industries, too, and the actual tree removal is not the only part of the project to benefit local business. Several entities plan to reuse the removed wood locally. Recovered products (pulpwood, sawbolts and hardwood sawlogs) all went to local Wisconsin forest products companies. By ensuring the diseased trees have a future before the first cut is made, the forest to market supply chain is kept intact.

The Forest Service hopes to apply what they learned in Kenosha County to tree harvesting operations across the United States.

In addition, Kenosha County hosted a workshop for city arborists and others interested in urban wood utilization. The day-long event was partially funded by the US Forest Service’s Wood Education Resource Center (WERC) and the Forest Products Laboratory’s Forest Product Marketing Unit (FPMU). Through this workshop, the public was able to learn about the operation, and see first-hand the methods employed to manage our urban forests.

The Forest Service hopes learn a thing or two from the Kenosha operation too. FPMU believes that the project demonstrates the effectiveness of “forest to market supply chain” thinking. Similar efforts could efficiently remove and utilize woody biomass from land restoration and fuel reduction projects in our clogged forests — particularly in the western United States, where fire danger continues to climb.

As researchers continue to find new uses for low-value wood through emerging technologies like nanocellulose, the demand for such material will only increase. Keeping costs low will be important for making urban wood utilization operations attractive. The tree removal project in Kenosha County shows that by considering the supply chain, utilizing local businesses, and educating the public, tree removal can benefit the local communities as we cut costs and trees alike.

Paper Poised to Fill New Gaps as Insulation: Mirrorpanel May Mitigate Foam Flaws

Buildings account for 40% of energy usage in the United States. In a world that stresses increased levels of responsible energy use, ensuring that new and existing construction is as efficient as possible will be vital to meeting our nation’s sustainability goals. Wood has long been the material of choice for framing, walls, and floors, but designers often fall back on conventional foam insulation to keep the heat in and the elements out. New research however, published in Forest Products Journal, introduces an insulation system that may help give forest products the green light to fill in new gaps.

A cutaway of a Mirrorpanel revealing its layered construction.

The article, co-written by FPL Supervisory Materials Research Engineer Samuel Zelinka, and FPL Research Physical Scientist Samuel Glass, proposes a new type of insulation called Mirrorpanel. Mirrorpanel takes advantage of the low thermal conductivity of still air, and is made of closely spaced layers of coated paper in a wood or fiberboard frame. It has been fabricated and tested at the laboratory, wall, and building scale and was found to perform as well as its foam counterpart — so well that it would even meet the stringent 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for continuous insulation.

Adding to Mirrorpanel’s appeal is its comparatively small environmental footprint. Conventional foam insulation is made using fossil fuels, and can have up to 24 times the environmental impact of natural insulation materials like cellulose or cork. A paper-based insulation like Mirrorpanel would mitigate this energy usage, and could even be made from recycled materials or low-value woody biomass clogging our nation’s forests and increasing fire danger.

The test house constructed using Mirrorpanels.

Paper-based insulation is not a new development in the forest products industry. FPL’s own Research Demonstration House, constructed in 2001, is insulated with a blown-in cellulose product made of recycled newspapers. It is the layered construction, IECC compliance and thermal efficiency, and scalability of the panels which puts Mirrorpanel ahead of the pack.

Although Mirrorpanel has been tested in house-sized structures, researchers caution that further development is needed for it to become a viable insulation system. More testing needs to be done, especially in regards to its moisture-storage characteristics, and economic feasibility. With the rise of environmentally friendly commercial construction, Mirrorpanel should also be tested at even larger scales to ensure it meets the requirements of large energy-efficient commercial buildings.

It may not be ready for prime time yet, but ideas like Mirrorpanel represent a step in the right direction for insulation systems, and embody what research at FPL is all about — the latest scientific research, promoting the health and sustainability of our nation’s most valuable resources, for the betterment of the American people.

For more information, please see Thermal Insulation System Made of Wood and Paper for Use in Residential Construction