What is Hip

Everywhere these days wood is in. It’s sexy. It’s renewable. There was a time – it seems like not that long ago – when marketers were telling us that wood was on the way out. No more. Today, wood is the answer to that timeless question from my favorite band Tower of Power.

Even the digital age, consumer electronics, are making room “for the comfort, simplicity and beauty of wood.” Check out these wooden gadgets.

No more slumber in lumber. New construction is finding renewed benefits in building with wood. Buildings are higher, better, because of wood. Speaking at an industry event in Minneapolis last week, architect Brian Court of Seattle’s Miller Hull Partnership said “There’s this kind of awakening, sort of the rebirth of timber.” Hull was reportedly named Seattle’s “Young Architect of the Year” in June by the American Institute of Architects. He recently finished work on the Bullitt Center – a six-story office building in Seattle that used wood framing as part of a foundation challenge to design the greenest commercial building in the world. “It’s a huge movement right now, and there are lots of engineers and architects focused on it because of the virtues of timber framing from an environmental footprint perspective,” says Hull, in the full story here.”If you consider the forest, when you’re growing the trees, carbon is sequestered in the wood. Even after you mill it, deliver it to the site and install it, all the energy it took to create that material is virtually offset by the sequestered carbon inside it, whereas concrete and steel require massive amounts of energy to generate the final structural product – tenfold, if not more.”

It seems the world is discovering anew the benefits of working with a renewable resource, the advantages of dealing in products whose lifeblood is dependent on development in harmony with the environment. Finds a lumber trader feeling proud to be involved in the industry – again.

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“Virtue in Disarray”

Does a messy desk breed creativity in lumber trading? According to the surprising results of a study reported in The New York Times here, the answer to that question is yes.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered that working in chaos has significant advantages. “Few previous studies found much virtue in disarray. The broken-windows theory, proposed decades ago, posits that even slight disorder and neglect can encourage nonchalance, poor discipline, and nihilism. Chaos begets chaos. But in the study led by Dr. Kathleen D. Vohs, a behavioral scientist, disordered offices encouraged originality and a search for novelty. ‘Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights,’ conclude Dr. Vohs and her co-authors.”

Based on this finding, is it such a leap to assume that when parents are not too concerned about little ones making messes, it probably confirms creative parenting? But then, as learned in an earlier post, it could also lead to shrinking testicles?

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“Dak Desk”

National Forest Week

It’s a week to celebrate. September 22nd to 28th is National Forest WeekPerhaps we’ll even take a walk in the woods. A celebration of National Forest Week acknowledges the natural beauty of our forests while underscoring  the importance of managing the sustainability of a resource that supports a way of life.

In today’s Vancouver Sun, the six-part Journey of a Log series concludes with reference to the nuances of lumber markets. The series included this report on high-tech equipment such as x-ray scanners which now provide opportunity to examine the inside of the log to facilitate the process of maximizing recovery and value. In another column here, Don Kayne, President and CEO of Canfor, elaborates on significant developments the industry has achieved in maximizing the use of every tree – while reducing the carbon footprint by using wood residuals to fuel operations and provide surplus energy to the power grid. In a year that Canfor celebrates its 75th anniversary, the need for bringing a holistic approach into industry discussions recognizes that further integration – “from forest ecosystems to harvesting, to sawmilling, pulp, paper, engineered wood, and energy” is vital.

Thanks to my uncle Stan Harder for the lovely images below, taken during a walk in the woods this week in Abbotsford, B.C.

“Affordability Metrics”

In stark contrast to Canada, where it’s estimated that houses are overpriced by 74% compared to rental prices, buying a home in the United States is reportedly 35% more affordable than renting (it was 45% more affordable one year ago). In the full story at Bloomberg (see U.S. Homebuying Math Bolstered by Bernanke’s Surprise), it’s reported that the cost of homeownership is cheaper than renting by at least 20% for buyers in Orange County, California, the New York area, New Jersey, and San Diego. In Honolulu, the affordability gap has narrowed faster, making it 10% less expensive to buy than rent, compared with 24% last year. In San Francisco, where home values gained 24.5% in June from a year ago, owning is now cheaper than renting by just 9%, compared with 28% a year ago. San Jose, California, where it’s 4% cheaper to buy, is closest to reaching a tipping point, the data show. Buying a home is most affordable in Detroit, Gary, Indiana, Memphis, Tennessee, and Cleveland.

This regional data was all provided by the powerfully transparent U.S. real estate site Trulia, which just today launched their most sophisticated Rent vs. Buy Calculator to date. The calculator enables users to determine whether it’s cheaper to rent or buy in any market. And by tweaking the home price, a renter can even pinpoint the price of a home that would cost the same to own, on a monthly basis, as that person’s current rent (Source).

Good Reading

Local media weekend reading offered up insights into value on divergent fronts where our forests contribute a spectrum of enjoyment and added value to life. In the beginning of a six-part series by Gordon Hamilton in the Vancouver SunJourney of a log expands on today’s woods industry and delivers interesting insights, while spelling out groundwork for the economic significance of an industry along the way. At the same time, a weekend story here in The Province on a unique overnight experience offered in a sphere-shaped tree-house reaffirms another kind of potential enhancement to life, proving once again that “good things come in trees.”