The primary objectives of this study are to demonstrate the feasibility of:
1. Producing high quality value-added products from lesser-used species through prototyping; and
2. Marketing high quality value-added products from lesser-used species through consumer research on the prototypes at home shows.
In year one of the project, fibre was sourced and prototype products designed and produced. This was achieved through partnering with eleven companies from the primary and value-added wood industries in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Having carried out these prototyping exercises, there are two main areas to assess after the first year of the project. These are: (1) the appropriateness of the underutilized fibre for use in furniture and interior finish products, and (2) the infrastructure that exists to take the fibre in log form through to market-ready interior finish or furniture products.
Year two of this project sought to determine the consumer response to the products made of under-utilized species from Saskatchewan and British Columbia. The method by which this was accomplished involved three stages: 1) creating cabinet, flooring and chair samples from each of the select species (Broadleaf Maple, Western Hemlock and Western Larch from BC and Trembling Aspen, Tamarack and White Birch from Saskatchewan); 2) displaying the samples and collecting responses in Santa Clara, Denver, Toronto and Vancouver; and 3) analyzing the results.
The wood samples were displayed and the data was collected at four home shows in Santa Clara, Denver, Toronto and Vancouver. A booth was created to display the wood products from one province at a time and consumers were asked to share their opinions by filling out a five minute survey. The survey consisted of four sections asking respondents to: choose the most attractive floor and cabinet sample within each species displayed; choose the overall most attractive door and floor among all species displayed; rate the general attractiveness of each species; and finally, provide specific demographic information. A total of 1141 surveys were collected at the four shows.
Vertical grain larch and darker birch products emerged as the most attractive species from both provinces in both cabinet and floor applications. Differences existed between the cities, such that respondents in Denver responded almost as positively to light and dark birch floors. The largest demographic difference existed between urban and rural populations, in which some samples (knotty samples) became more attractive to respondents if they lived farther from an urban centre, while others (lighter coloured and flat sawn samples) became less attractive.
The greatest obstacle to overcome for underutilized species will be exposure and familiarity. While home show attendees exhibited significant interest in these products, they were totally unfamiliar with the majority of species and somewhat leery of their performance compared to traditional species.
Fibre-reinforced wood systems are light, strong, stiff composites that can efficiently replace larger wood members and can be relied on to provide consistent mechanical properties.
This report is an introduction to fibre-reinforced wood systems for members of the Canadian wood products industry. It provides the motivation for reinforcing wood with synthetic fibres, and surveys the choice of materials and their uses. Numerous examples of current applications are discussed to demonstrate the strong and weak points of various approaches and examine the durability and management of fibre-reinforced wood products, as well as to indicate opportunities that exist for the Canadian wood products industry.
This report is intended to be a useful reference for the Canadian wood products industry, and assist future developments in structural and non-structural applications of fibre-reinforced wood products.