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Extension highlights


Urs Buehlmann Urs Buehlmann

May 14, 2014 – The wood products industry in Virginia is a critical contributor to the economy of the state, an industry represented by more than 1,000 primary and secondary industries and over $25 billion in economic impact.
The Department of Sustainable Biomaterials (SBIO) at Virginia Tech is one of the leading U.S. academic programs in the field of renewable materials with a focus on cellulosic materials such as wood products. Besides research and teaching efforts, SBIO has an important role in dissemination of new knowledge in the area of renewable materials through SBIO’s three extension specialists.

Housing market updates

The April 2014 housing report for the February 2014 data has been released. The housing scorecard (Figure 1) displays a mixed picture, with several housing market indicators declining in February. However, as this decline being considered normal for a winter month, we will have to wait for the next few months’ data to be able to spot a trend. The bright spot in April’s scorecard was the increase in housing permits, which may hold promise for the future. Housing completions data was also positive.
Overall, the near-term outlook on the U.S. housing market faces some potentially negative macro-factors at this point in time for a robust housing recovery (based on historical long-term averages), including:
1. Lack-luster household formation,
2. a lack of well-paying jobs being created,
3. a sluggish economy,
4. declining real median annual household incomes (though January increased slightly),
5. strict home loan lending standards,
6. new banking regulations, and
7. global uncertainty.

Urs Buehlmann and Al Schuler publish monthly updates on the U.S. housing market to provide our industry partners with timely information to gauge market opportunities and to allow for planning. All past housing reports can be viewed at: http://woodproducts. To be added to the mailing list for the free monthly housing reports email to

Helping the Primary Industry

In March, Dr. Brian Bond and Dr. Henry Quesada of the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials and Extension Agent, Bill Worrell, assisted Southern Forest Products, a hardwood sawmill in Appalachia, Virginia, conducted a grade yield study to compare two different sawing decision scenarios. The small scale study was conducted to determine the value difference between sawing small diameter, low grade logs into lumber versus sawing lumber and pallet cants. There is a significant value difference between the two sawing decisions and the goal was to help the company make the best decision for their sawmill setup and log quality.

Short-course in Statistical Process Control (SPC)

On March 18, Henry Quesada, extension specialist in the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials, delivered an SPC short-course to a group of 22 primary wood products producers in Costa Rica. The course covered a review of basic probability distributions and the teaching of X control charts to monitor continuous variables such as thickness, width, length, and moisture content. Attribute control charts were also taught to the participants. These type of charts are used to control and monitor attribute data such as defects and number of defects. The teaching methodology included the use of MS Excel to capture, analyze, and plot the control charts.

Wood Preservation Re-certification Workshops

Dr. Brian Bond with the assistance of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, conducted two category-12 (Wood Preservation) recertification workshops. The workshops cover rules and regulations, a review of wood treating chemicals and treatment processes, insects and decay in wood and safety measured for the treating industry. One workshop was held in Lexington, VA and the other Urs Buehlmann Participants use MS Excel to implement a SPC system Dr. Brian Bond discusses lumber productivity with the general manager of Southern Forest Products held in Madison, VA. Over 20 certified applicators and technicians attended the two workshops. All registered applicators and technicians are required to attend a recertification course every two years to maintain their certification. The workshops are held at the end of March every year.

SBIO faculty collaborates with USAID extension project in Nicaragua

Henry Quesada collaborated in March with the Innovation for Agricultural Training and Education (InnovATE) project, a USAID funded initiative that is led by Virginia Tech under the leadership of Tom Hammett. The project has as goal to create capacity development of agricultural training and education systems from primary school through secondary institutions, vocational schools and universities. InnoVATE targets developing countries where help is needed in building those capacities. Quesada traveled to Nicaragua in March to conduct a scoping mission. The goal was to visit government institutions, education centers, non-governmental organizations, and private industries to understand how they operate and to identify potential improvement strategies



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