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Promoting hardwoods to U.S. architects – 
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WMC by Richard Lipman
Richard Lipman is president of the Wood Manufacturing Council. For more info email rlipman@wmc-cfb.ca
As part of a new promotions program, the hardwood industry, through the Canadian Hardwood Bureau (CHB), is working together to promote Canadian hardwoods and expand opportunities through the U.S. commercial construction market.  
This will be the first time that the CHB has engaged in this type of promotional activity in the U.S. in many years. If you have photos of products and projects that feature solid Canadian hardwoods in some capacity, it would be great to add those to the bank of examples we can use to demonstrate their beauty and how they function. Please email wmc@wmc-cfb.ca. Photo credit will be provided. A big thank you to those firms that have already contributed great pictures!
To increase the understanding of the benefits and uses of hardwood by U.S. architects and specifiers, a webinar is being developed. The content will include technical and product information to showcase the beauty, durability, and green benefits of Canadian hardwoods. The CHB will become a certified provider of continuing education (CE) credits to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Ten webinars will be promoted and offered this year to the thousands of members of the AIA and other U.S. design and construction associations. The webinars will be offered free of charge to participants, to ensure the largest possible enrollment.  To reinforce the material covered in the webinar, a brochure will be produced by the CHB and their construction specifiers guide will be updated. The brochure will include information on applications and design, durability, and the beauty and sustainability of hardwood.   
The aim is to increase the awareness and exports of Canadian hardwood lumber and flooring and Canadian hardwood species. This could certainly also increase awareness and exports of other Canadian products made from hardwood lumber - value added products like kitchen cabinets/doors, furniture, millwork/mouldings etc. This effort looks to facilitate, increase and sustain preference for Canadian hardwood products in U.S. commercial buildings, in order to increase Canada’s market share. In addition, it will support Canada’s environmental reputation through the promotion of our strong record of sustainable forest management. This will be vitally important to architects and specifiers in their work.  CHB’s project matches well with the newly released Ontario Forest Sector Strategy. The project will increase the awareness of the forest sector and certainly responds to the interest in increasing the overall use of wood.     
While hardwood products tend to be decorative rather than structural, there are great opportunities available in the U.S. commercial construction market. The solid hardwood industry has found competitive products are taking market share, in part because they are not getting the message out – and that is one of the goals here.
Opportunities in hotels, offices, institutional buildings etc. for more hardwoods to be used are significant.
Just a small increase in the use of hardwoods in commercial construction could provide some great return for our hardwood companies. Recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate estimated construction spending in non-residential construction and public construction is, let’s say….enormous. COVID has impacted people’s ability to go on missions and do face to face presentations to people. These virtual presentations to U.S. architects and specifiers are simple, yet effective and provide our industry stakeholders with the chance to make a real difference.
The coalition conducted research into consumer attitudes towards the purchase and use of hardwood products compared to imitation products. It revealed that while domestic consumers value the concepts of sustainability, renewability and environmental friendliness, their purchase decisions are most often based on sheer dollars and cents. Although industry has placed a lot of emphasis on hardwood being the best green product, they have not focused on practical considerations such as cost and overall consumer budget restrictions. Prosumers identified that their clients’ main concern is having a healthy product in their home or commercial building.  
By engaging consumers early in the decision-making process and steering them towards hardwoods over other products, industry is confident that they can overcome misperceptions about faux wood products that close enough is good enough and is better value than real hardwood products. 
Without this CHB project, the use of substitutes and products imported from countries other than Canada would continue with little response. Architects and construction specifiers will have the opportunity to become aware of and gain knowledge about Canadian hardwood lumber and flooring products, as well as those products that use hardwood lumber as components. The production and online delivery of this educational material will support the education/awareness of key target audiences.
To support the effort, just send photos!

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