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Hardwood groups roll out promotion efforts

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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
The hardwood industry, on both sides of the border, continues to roll out its programs to promote solid hardwoods to key audiences.
The Canadian Hardwood Bureau (CHB) is now into a second year of promoting Canadian hardwoods, to expand opportunities through the U.S. commercial construction market.
To increase the understanding of the benefits and uses of Canadian hardwood by U..S architects and specifiers, CHB retained a seasoned industry consultant to develop a webinar on the benefits and uses of Canadian hardwoods in commercial construction, to improve the understanding of American architects and specifiers.
The webinar provides details on technical and product information to showcase the beauty, durability, and green benefits of hardwood lumber and flooring products. It also discusses the environmental, health and other benefits of designing with wood. The presentation includes numerous product photos from a wide variety of Canadian manufacturers and photos of key Canadian species to showcase the offerings from our companies. Information on hardwood forestry practices was gathered from a wide variety of private firms, governments, research organisations and professional associations.  CHB also consulted many sources 
for information on sustainability issues, including the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers and they reviewed current research from U.S. consumers and prosumers on hardwood purchasing.  
The bureau engaged a webinar presenter who has significant experience in making presentations on hardwoods to architects and specifiers all over the globe and his vast experience has proven very valuable. The CHB became a certified provider of American Institute of Architects (AIA) Continuing Education (CE) credits. The webinar was presented for the in time August 2021, and the presentation content remains fluid as it 
is regularly updated and adjusted, based on participant questions and feedback.
In the first year of its program, the CHB ended up 
holding 12 1-hour webinars, with a total of 1,393 participants enrolled.  
More than 1,350 participants completed the program and submitted evaluations. Seminar size ranged from 24 to 428 participants and the evaluation found that the seminar was well received by all participants. The program fulfilled the expectations of the participants, who reported the technical level of the 
program was very good and that the topic was of value to them. The possibility that participants would specify Canadian hardwoods was quite encouraging.  
In this second year of the program (2022-23), an additional twelve 1-hour webinars will be delivered. With the benefit of experience, CHB has been able to increase their audience by participating not only in general (multi-topic) webinars, but also in ones on specific topics of interest to commercial architects, including those focused on health care facilities, renewable energy, commercial buildings, on specifying wood products, on hospitality establishments, institutional and government buildings, education facilities, interior finishes and building green. Also in the second year, to reinforce the material covered in the webinar, two case studies of commercial construction projects using Canadian hardwoods will be produced and made available for downloading by architects and construction specifiers and the CHB will also produce several fact sheets on key Canadian hardwood species.  
   The webinars are hosted and promoted by America Training Solutions (ATS) and are offered to the over 95,000 members of the AIA and other design and construction associations across the U.S. Successful completion of the webinars provide architects and construction specification professionals with continuing education (CE) credits that can be applied to annual licensing and association requirements. ATS provides the CE certificates directly to the participants.  
The aim of the promotional effort is to increase the awareness and exports of Canadian hardwood lumber and flooring and Canadian hardwood species. This could increase awareness and exports of other Canadian products made from and containing 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. It also supports Canada’s environmental reputation through the promotion of our strong record of sustainable forest management. This is vitally important to architects and specifiers in their work.       
While hardwood products are mostly decorative rather than structural, there are great opportunities available in the U.S. commercial construction market. The solid hardwood industry’s goal is to get the message out. Opportunities in hotels, offices, institutional buildings etc. for more hardwoods to be used is significant. We have the advantage that we can truly provide for those who want a healthy home/built environment. The CHB has seen an increasing number of requests for design values for large timbers, either covered by or constructed from hardwoods – which could offer some real possibilities in the future. Getting some of the mass timber market would be very beneficial. Just a small increase in the use of hardwoods in commercial construction could provide some great return for our hardwood companies.    
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 now 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 supports the education/awareness of key target audiences.
The Real American Hardwood Coalition (RAHC), which was formed in the U.S. in 2019, has as its purpose to meet the imperative goals of increasing markets and sales of Real American Hardwood products, celebrating the sustainability of hardwood goods, generating new products and improving overall industry stability. Very recently, RAHC launched the website RealAmericanHardwood.com, designed to inspire and educate consumers.  
Michael Martin, president and CEO of the National Wood Flooring Association, says: “The website takes visitors on a digital journey to learn how and why they should choose Real American Hardwood flooring, cabinetry, millwork, furniture and other goods for their homes. Today’s consumers are overwhelmed with product choices and often believe they’re buying natural and renewable hardwood products, when in fact, they’re buying look-alikes. Now, the industry has an informative tool that’s setting the record straight and separating fact from fiction – backed by research and science. The website educates consumers on the advantages and benefits of Real American Hardwood products and serves as a hub for project inspiration, maintenance tips and environmental facts and explores how hardwood is influencing lifestyles and culture in the 
modern world.”
The U.S. hardwood associations formed this coalition to identify opportunities and challenges in promoting the American hardwood industry. Current challenges faced by the hardwood industry include the rise of competing products, particularly substitute products and the spread of disinformation, which has resulted in shrinking domestic hardwood markets. Faux wood producers and environmental activists have negatively impacted consumer perception of the quality, value, and sustainability of hardwood products. 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. The concept of the healthy home differentiates hardwoods from its competitors, as hardwood is a natural product with attributes that satisfy the need for a safe and healthy home. Overall, research subjects gave hardwoods a high rating as an attractive product that provides warmth and the right look to homes, however consumers want the look of hardwood but accept alternatives.   
To support the effort, just send photos! If you have photos of products and projects that feature solid Canadian hardwoods in some capacity, it would be advantageous to add those to the bank of examples that can be used to demonstrate their beauty and how they function.
Please email 
wmc@wmc-cfb.ca Photo credit will be provided.

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