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American Hardwood Export Council

2013 AHEC European Convention Highlights

The American Hardwood Export Council’s European Convention was recently held in Budapest, Hungary. The event theme, “Forward thinking, sharing strategies,” reflected AHEC’s recent research and European projects focused on strengthening existing and new markets by identifying and promoting new applications for American hardwoods.

Nearly 120 delegates from 18 countries attended the two day event. Session topics were numerous and included a markets update, sustainability and legality of U.S. hardwood resource, and thermal modification.

European Markets
Europe remains a vitally important region for long term U.S. exports, and according to AHEC Executive Director Mike Snow, “After China, half of the world’s top 10 largest hardwood importers are European countries.  Italy, Germany, UK, Belgium and Netherlands are markets that the U.S. will not ignore.” However, markets across the European region are still very volatile.

In the first six months of 2013, total U.S. hardwood lumber exports to Europe were 178,800 m3, down 4 percent compared to the same period in 2012. In value terms, year-on-year exports were at $128.8 million, down 3 percent. The decline is mainly due to lower exports to Germany during first quarter 2013.

However, exports to the UK remained robust and have begun to recover to France and Southern Europe, including into Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece. And despite the turbulence since 2008, American hardwoods have retained their market share.

AHEC’s Environmental Strategy
AHEC’s most forward thinking effort to providing data to support and communicate our industry’s strong environmental credentials - all the way down the supply chain from importer, to manufacturer, to architect and to consumer - has resulted in the American Hardwood Environmental Profile, a shipping document referred to as AHEP.

  • Its content will combine data from the AHEC Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) project and information derived from other credible data sources, to demonstrate the legality and sustainability of U.S. hardwood lumber and veneer delivered into export markets.
  • The structure of the AHEP aligns with the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation.
  • By year end, AHEC members will be able to attach these documents to each shipment, thus providing access to information on the sustainability of the U.S. hardwood species contained in that consignment, as well as quantitative data on the environmental impacts associated with delivering each specific consignment to an individual customer.

“We are still in a world where people think that wood is bad,” said AHEC Executive Director Mike Snow. “We can only convince them with credible, scientific facts.”

New applications for American hardwoods - thermo treatment
Neil Summers of Timber Dimension and Dr. Wolfram Scheiding, IHD Technical Institute of Germany, presented on thermal treatment, a technology to increase hardwood’s durability.

  • Heat treated timber for exterior joinery, decking, cladding and window manufacture is becoming increasingly popular with consumers because of its enhanced durability classification.
  • Its advantages include that it is free of chemicals; it hides any staining on the raw timber; it eliminates the need for stainless steel fixings, and it has excellent machining properties and better thermal values.
  • Heat treatment also allows for better utilization of American hardwoods because after treatment, the finished color is consistent regardless of color variations from the heartwood and sapwood of the raw material.
  • The treatment does not dull character - depending on the species, the grain pattern remains apparent - or color, which can vary from pale to cark chocolate brown.
  • Many species work with heat treatment, (high density and ring porous species do not), but particularly good results are achieved with high grade ash and tulipwood.

Significant opportunities exist for heat treated timber in the window market and Germany is already using heat treated cores in windows because it improves the thermal performance of the windows by 10%. With 92 heat treatment plants in Europe and only 10 in the U.S., there is much room for growth.

Of the 2013 AHEC European Convention in Budapest, AHEC European Director David Venables said, “The role of the European Convention continues to provide a unique discussion platform to help both the European trade and U.S. industry develop new markets and communicate the potential for greater use of a wider range of U.S hardwoods.”

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