Friday Offcuts – 5 May 2017

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Fallout, comment and positioning – on both sides of the US and Canadian border – continues apace after the tariff on Canadian softwood imports into the US was announced last week. We’ve got some analysis this week that offers an opinion on US home affordability as a consequence of the tariffs. After the dust has settled, independent industry analysts have concluded that the tariff in fact isn’t going to have a significant effect on the cost of home construction, it’s not going to affect the real estate market and it's not going to impact on US housing prices. Check out the story below.

We’ve covered several stories in this week’s issue showcasing mass timber construction in the region. In Australia, Lendlease have just completed their third CLT building, International House Sydney. It’s the first engineered timber office in Australia standing at six floors and covering 7000 square metres. As anticipated, it’s already creating a stir amongst the country’s designers and developers. The first mass engineered timber building in Southeast Asia (again using CLT and glulam) called The Wave, has also just been built. It’s a new sports hall in Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (one of four developments in Singapore that have adopted the timber construction method.) and it features a 72m roof made of seven large timber arches.

In New Zealand, the University of Canterbury have announced a new state-of-the-art building that’s going to be built in the University’s new Science precinct. The University says it’s going to push the boundaries of multi-storey timber-framed construction in New Zealand. On completion, more than NZ$300 million will have been invested in this University precinct in Christchurch. Details on all three building projects are contained in this week’s issue.

Over the next two weeks we’ll be covering recent analysis from WOOD MARKETS’ president Russ Taylor on the Russian forestry and sawmilling industry. In a couple of articles drawn from a recent address made at the Council of Forest Industries (COFI) annual convention in Vancouver, Russ details the means by which Russia has now become a major competitive force in log and lumber export markets.

Finally, congratulations this week go out to a forestry company in New Zealand who has picked up yet another award. Not in forestry, but in food. Keewai New Zealand is a company set up by Ernslaw One who diversified into farming koura (or freshwater crayfish) using fire ponds in their forests in the lower South Island. They picked up last week the Spirit of New Zealand award at the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards 2017. This follows on from their success last year with an environmental award and recognition with another major food award at the 2016 NZ Food Awards. Staying South, a University of Canterbury forestry student is also to be congratulated having been awarded a major scholarship from the Southern Wood Council. It’s the sixth awarded to students as part of an annual scholarship programme set up by the Council in 2011. Enjoy this week’s read.



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Remote sensing advances to usher in virtual reality

New technological tools harnessing the power of remote sensing to make it quicker, easier and cheaper to measure forest inventory will soon be unveiled – and in future could potentially enable a virtual “walk through the forest”.

Researchers are set to brief estate managers and forest planners on the results of a world-leading three-year, AU$1.8 million collaborative research study jointly funded by Forest & Wood Products Australia (FWPA), forestry companies, universities and government.

The project has delivered:

- methods to map forest canopies using aerial photography that are effective and cost less than other airborne remote sensing techniques or field-based measurements and that can be incorporated into existing workflow systems
- an “app” to count individual trees using 3D point cloud data acquired from airborne remote sensing
- a forest sampling method that can significantly reduce the number of reference plots required to produce a representative model of the variability in a forest stand
- a best practice guide for airborne data collection that will assist the forest industry to achieve efficiency gains from these new remote sensing methods and to integrate dense 3D point cloud data into their operational workflows.

Leader of Forest Science at the NSW Department of Industry – Lands, Dr Christine Stone, said the next step in the research would be to utilise virtual reality technology and remotely acquired 3D point cloud data to enable foresters to visually characterise and measure individual trees.

“It will be like walking through the forest, and you can measure individual trees remotely. You’ll be able to electronically select a tree, pick it up, ‘chop’ it in half, tip it up and look at its diameter and put it back down.”

Dr Stone said the quality and quantity of data available is expanding rapidly, with the challenge being its interpretation. “Five years ago, you might have had two data points per square metre, and now you’ve got up to 100 data points per square metre, so much information that you can just about ‘touch’ the trees,” she said. “What we’re doing is using data collected and converting it into something useable – and that’s the hard step.”

Researchers wanted to discover whether timber volume estimates derived from analysis of aerial photography – a science called photogrammetry – were comparable to volume estimates derived from more expensive technology called airborne laser scanning (also referred to as lidar). “The thing that really surprised us is that the answer is yes. That’s a big breakthrough,” she said, adding that it worked very well with radiata and eucalypt plantations.

The Managing Director of FWPA, Ric Sinclair, said that no single company or institution could have conducted the research alone. “Collaboration is the key to a thriving and sustainable industry where technology is harnessed to the benefit of all. We’re pleased to have played a part in this valuable project, and would like to thank the many members and researchers who participated in the research,” he said.

The research briefing will be held in Melbourne on 11 May 2017 to demonstrate the tools and technologies developed in the project, with members of the research team to hold follow-up meetings for FWPA levy payers who want further assistance to incorporate the latest developments.

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Forestry company winners at NZ Food Producer Awards

Seven of the nine accolades delivered last Thursday at the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards 2017 recognised New Zealand's agriculture and horticulture industries.

The winners were announced in Auckland after a panel of 10 expert food judges tasted more than 150 products from 82 growers, farmers and crafted producers in early March 2017 at the Fresh Factory in Auckland.

Keewai New Zealand won the Spirit of New Zealand award for its freshwater crayfish. Keewai, who have been profiled in previous issues of this newsletter, is a brand developed by forestry company Ernslaw One, which diversified into farming koura using fire ponds in its forests throughout Otago and Southland, as well as creating new ponds.

The southern region of New Zealand’s South Island is now home to over 1800 ponds that make up the Keewai freshwater crayfish catchment area. Further details on the operation and crayfish can be found on their website, keewai.co.nz.

Source: Otago Daily Times, Scoop

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Myrtle rust found in NZ for the first time

A biosecurity response is underway after the detection of myrtle rust on mainland New Zealand for the first time, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry announced yesterday. Myrtle rust is a fungal disease which can seriously damage various species of native and introduced plants in the myrtle family, including pohutukawa, rata, manuka, gum, bottlebrush and feijoa.

“The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) was notified on Tuesday evening by a nursery in Kerikeri that five pohutakawa seedlings had suspected myrtle rust, and laboratory testing has now confirmed this,” says Mr Guy. “MPI has moved quickly and initiated a Restricted Place notice to restrict the movement of any plants and people at the site, and is treating nursery stock with fungicide spray as a precaution. Work is also underway to trace any stock that has left the nursery and all other nurseries in Kerikeri were been inspected yesterday.

“The disease is prevalent in eastern Australia and Tasmania, and was discovered on Raoul Island in late March this year. “Myrtle rust spores are microscopic and can easily spread across large distances by wind. Officials believe that wind was the likely pathway of incursion into Raoul Island, and it’s likely that wind has carried spores to mainland New Zealand from Australia.”

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says the incursion could have serious consequences for some native species. “Myrtle rust generally attacks soft new leaf growth, and severe infestations can kill affected plants. This could include native species like the pohutakawa and the rata,” says Ms Barry.

In Australia, the fungus has had different levels of impact on myrtle species, with some more seriously affected than others. “Myrtle rust has long been expected to arrive in New Zealand, and since the Australian outbreak began in 2010, the Government has worked on a range of measures to help manage and adapt to the fungus in the long term if necessary,” says Ms Barry.

“This includes accelerating work already underway to collect and store germplasm from affected species, searching for signs of resistant myrtle strains which could be incorporated into a breeding programme and monitoring at 800 locations across the country. DOC will also be conducting inspections of our myrtle species on public conservation land in Northland for any early signs of the fungus.”

There is no known method of controlling the disease in the wild, apart from application of fungicide in very small areas as a last resort. Even if eradication is achieved, there is an ongoing risk of reinfection from Australia.

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Lendlease completes first wooden office in Sydney

The first thing that hits the senses when walking into Lendlease's International House Sydney is the sweet smell of the forest. It is the first engineered timber office in Australia and sits in Barangaroo complex, Sydney. The designers say it will help to lower blood pressure and orders are said to be flowing in.

The managing director of Barangaroo, Rob Deck, said now clients can see the property "we have a received a lot of interest" for possible new sites. Standing at six floors and covering 7000 square metres, the property will be the new home for advisory group, Accenture, when its lease expires at Workplace6, Pyrmont.

International House Sydney is made from the building materials Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and glue laminated timber (Glulam). Building contractor Strongbuild is leading Australian innovation in CLT and has recently begun construction on a 10-storey tower as part of a luxury retirement village at the western end of Sydney's Norwest Business Park precinct.

International House Sydney is Lendlease's third CLT building in Australia and joins Forte Apartments and public building Library at The Dock, both in Melbourne. Lendlease is also delivering 5 King, the first engineered timber building in Queensland and the tallest in Australia, and the Community Hub at Jordan Springs in Western Sydney, the first public building in NSW to be built from CLT.

The chief executive of the Green Building Council of Australia, Romilly Madew, said Lendlease's work on International House, and its other timber high-rise buildings, heralds a new era for timber construction in Australia. International House Sydney was built using 1750 pieces of CLT and Glulam, more than 20,000 screws to put it together and took just under a year to construct.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald



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Re-introducing partially untreated timber dangerous

New Zealand’s Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is secretly pushing to allow partially untreated framing timber back into the New Zealand Building Code says Red Stag Group CEO Marty Verry in a release earlier this week. The move risks reigniting the Leaky Home Crisis, estimated to have already affected up to 80,000 houses and cost New Zealand up to NZ$30 billion.

Last year MBIE took over the timber treatment standards process and one of the changes it intends to introduce is to allow envelope treated timber. Envelope treatment involves a thin layer of treatment around the outside, but leaves the inside untreated, and at risk of decay where the timber is cut or holed, as is what happens to almost all timber.

“The leaky home crisis was New Zealand’s largest man-made disaster”, says Marty Verry. “Houses are still leaking, and the public needs to have absolute assurance that the timber they are using has treatment throughout.”

Red Stag runs New Zealand’s largest sawmill with 380 staff in Rotorua, and supplies approximately twenty five percent of New Zealand’s structural timber. “We completely reject this dangerous move by MBIE”, adds Verry. “It threatens people’s major home asset, and it risks timber’s reputation as a reliable building material.”

Figures from the latest BRANZ wall framing market share survey showed timber had 98 percent market share up to 2002, but then lost 13 percent between 2002 and 2011 - the peak of the leaky home crisis publicity. The survey shows timber’s market share increased back to 94 percent in the latest year covered by the survey - 2014.



“We estimate the lost market share cost the industry NZ$233 million in sales”, says Verry. “It’s been a fragile recovery based on absolute assurance to the public that timber is treated throughout. We are not prepared to lose that trust again. Any loosening of the standards takes us back to the bad old days of 1995 when untreated framing timber was allowed, with the disastrous consequences that followed. Full treatment was reinstated in 2003”.

“Currently the standard NZS3640 requires full sapwood penetration. Builders and consumers can trust that. The boron treatment used is harmless, yet proven over decades to be highly effective at preventing decay and insect attack. It works, so why change it? If New Zealand is to move to partially untreated timber, then let that be something the building industry, councils and the public are consulted on, not something pushed through behind closed doors by MBIE,” says Verry.

“Back in 1995 it was certain errant wood processors pushing untreated timber. This time it is MBIE, and the industry is resisting. In hindsight, it is a pity more wood processors didn’t speak up in 1995. Red Stag Timber wasn’t around back then, but we’re here now. We completely reject this dangerous development.”

Source: Red Stag Timber



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University building a timber-technology first for NZ

The University of Canterbury in NZ has signed a contract with Dominion Constructors for a state-of-the-art building in the University’s new Science precinct that will push the boundaries of multi-storey timber-framed construction in New Zealand.

Vice-Chancellor Dr Rod Carr says he is proud the latest Science precinct building will be built using innovative timber technology that the University’s academic researchers developed and are teaching UC Engineering students to use.

“The University of Canterbury has always been at the forefront of using timber as a building material, and this building presents the opportunity to showcase the innovation developed at the centre of our own campus,” Dr Carr says.

The new Science precinct began with the construction of the NZ$55 million Biological Sciences laboratory building before the Christchurch earthquakes and the refurbishment of the former Zoology Building. By completion more than NZ$300 million will have been invested in the precinct, from University funds, Crown Capital contribution and Insurance settlements.

UC Learning Resources Executive Director Alex Hanlon is pleased to announce the last building in the Science precinct. “This is leading edge construction. Buildings already exist that use some of this technology, but this will be the very first multi-storey, all timber ‘moment’-framed building in New Zealand, and potentially in the world” Ms Hanlon says.

A moment frame is a two-dimensional series of interconnected members that uses rigid connections. It can resist lateral and overturning forces, is more flexible than other options, and allows larger movement in earthquakes.

The design was driven and developed by a team from UC, BECA, and architects Jasmax. It uses laminated veneer lumber, or LVL. “The team wanted something that was not only environmentally friendly, but utilised the University’s extensive knowledge, especially the research of Professor Andy Buchanan in pre-stressed timber and multi-storey timber buildings,” BECA structural engineer Andre Kirstein says.

After researching structures in Auckland and overseas, particularly tall timber buildings in Canada, the team consulted builders and developers who were implementing similar technology. A timber supplier advised on the cost benefits and construction options.

“Essentially, we took the theory and went out into the field for the hard practical knowledge before developing something that we believe marries the best of both worlds. The final design utilises much of what Professor Buchanan developed, with a little adaptation,” he says.

“Across the building, we’ve designed a four-storey moment frame, which uses this stressed system, but using a similar system along the length of the building would have pushed the boundaries of construction technology too far, so we have cross-braced it longitudinally instead.”

The project will demolish the old building, but maintain the 1960s-era basement which does not meet current codes. The team devised an above ground system with foundation loads that could be accommodated by the basement without significantly strengthening it.

“This is why we’ve braced a number of bays rather than using one big cross-brace, and used moment frames to reduce lateral forces at foundation levels. It’s enabled us to spread the load evenly across the whole basement,” Mr Kirstein explains.

“Most timber buildings have a thin layer of concrete on top of the timber floors to help with what we call the diaphragm action between structural systems. But we’re not doing that, we’re using the timber itself to distribute the load.”

The team undertook significant research to complete the design for a building that steps out ahead of current design codes in other ways too, such as acoustics and fire performance.

“When we looked at overseas practice, we seemed to be hitting the sweet spot in terms of what they have found over the years. So, although it’s a first in terms of a New Zealand design and new technology, it’s not new in principle and has sound research behind it.”

Source: Scoop



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Wide Bay supply chain exporting timber biofuel

A simple conveyor belt joins Hyne Timber's Tuan Mill in northern Queensland and neighbouring Altus Renewables. Such is the way for efficient transformation on one plant's sustainable by-product into another plant’s core business being biofuel.

It is certainly not unusual for large scale plantation softwood processing plants to exist as part of a supply chain hub and while each one of these hubs are unique, the manufacture of timber biofuel for clean, renewable energy production is common place.

In this case, the timber by-product is compressed through a manufacturing process of its own into pellets which are highly sought after in Japan and some European countries to fuel clean energy production in what were once entirely coal fuelled power stations.

David Knight, Plant Manager of the Altus Renewables' 100,000 MT capacity pellet facility next to Hyne Timber near Maryborough said their customers want durable pellets with high calorific value.

"We essentially buy all the sawdust and shavings we can get from over the fence at Hyne Timber. Our plant then densifies the wood by-product including drying the timber to maximise fuel quality while making transport significantly more cost efficient”.

"Pellets are transported to the Bundaberg Port by trucks where they are stored in a dedicated building prior to being shipped to customers in Europe and Japan who will co-fire the pellets in their coal-fired power stations. Well, at least that’s about 95% of our plants pellets. The other 5% service domestic customers ranging from equestrian bedding, kitty litter to home heating solutions”.

With products being shipped off overseas or bagged up for other domestic market needs, it’s hardly surprising that many locals don't know these two operations exist in the forest, collectively employing around 200 people directly, and hundreds more indirectly.

Hyne Timber was established in Maryborough in 1882 with the Tuan Mill, now one of the largest softwood processing plants in the Southern Hemisphere, established in 1985. The company employs around 570 people, 300 of whom are in the Fraser Coast Region alone, a region faced with higher than average unemployment rates.

Altus Renewables, headquartered in Loganholme, QLD is also in the process of working on a new 500,000 MT pellet plant project in the Green Triangle in South Australia. The plant near Maryborough is an example of Advanced Manufacturing, operating a clean, lean process supported by robotics and technology.

Both Hyne Timber and Altus Renewables also fuel their own heat plants using timber biomass from sawdust or timber shavings. Photo: Altus Renewables Plant at Tuan

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Russian exports: a competitive force

At the recent B.C. Council of Forest Industries (COFI) annual convention in Vancouver, WOOD MARKETS’ president Russ Taylor delivered an overview of the Russian forestry and sawmilling industry, detailing the means by which it has become a major competitive force in log and lumber export markets. Interestingly, much of the information and analysis seemed to come as a surprise to many attendees. The most common queries were related to Russia’s expanding and competitive sawmilling industry, its high profitability, and its increased export market share in China.

Russian Industry Overview:
For background, Russia is one of the world’s dominant log and lumber producers and exporters. Consider the following:

- Softwood timber harvest: Russia has a 12% market share of global output and surpassed Canada in 2014 for the #2 spot;
- Softwood lumber production: Russia represents 10% of global lumber production and that level is growing. It is the third-largest country producer (after the U.S. and Canada);
- Softwood log exports: Russia has a 15% global market share and is second only to New Zealand; and
- Softwood lumber exports: Russia represents 21% of global lumber exports and has been growing its share steadily. It is now the second-largest country exporter (after Canada).

The trends in the Russian timber harvest (softwood and hardwood industrial roundwood) reveal steady gains since 2009 (when the Russian log export tax reached 25%). The Russian export tax subsequently reduced log exports to China, and exports to other countries dropped to almost zero. The exception was Finland: pulpwood exports persisted following changes to the export tax (in 2012) when Russia was admitted to the WTO. A summary of total Russian log and softwood lumber exports shows a dramatic fall in log exports and an increase in lumber exports. The Russian log export tax and, more recently, the devaluation of the ruble, have created a high-margin sawmilling industry that is processing more sawlogs within Russia, and exporting more lumber/fewer logs.

Outlook:
As we have been saying for more than two years, the Russians are coming. This is a result of competitive costs coupled with major capital investments into logging, sawmilling, value-added processing and logistics. With a competitive advantage, due to the devalued ruble, Russian mills will continue to gain lumber market share in China, especially as they increase their volume of kiln-dried and higher-grade lumber. Also of note, Chinese mills at the border are adding sawmill and value-added equipment to process Russian logs and produce high-value kiln-dried lumber that can be shipped much further afield. Furthermore, with FSC-certified timber and lumber, Russian producers are learning about the economic returns of providing customers with the sizes and grades of lumber they need/want — a big change from ten years ago.

The simple fact is that Russia poses a growing threat to all other countries exporting lumber to China. The country’s influx of investment into forestry and sawmill capital improvements has greatly enhanced its cost-competitiveness, and it would be perilous to underestimate the extent of the country’s growing dominance. In next week's issue we'll look more deeply into Wood Markets analysis of major cost reductions being seen in Russia and the potential impact that this will have on their log and processed lumber exports.

Source: International WOOD MARKETS Group, www.woodmarkets.com

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NZ forestry student picks up major award

A University of Canterbury forestry student has just received top forest industry honours with a major scholarship being awarded. This year’s Southern Wood Council (SWC) Scholarship has been awarded to Logan Robertson, a Bachelor of Forestry Science student, studying at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch.

The Scholarship is the sixth that has been awarded to students as part of an annual scholarship programme set up by the Council in 2011. The annual scholarship awarded by the SWC is one of the most prestigious and valuable awarded to forestry students in New Zealand. In any one year, the SWC has up to $13,500 committed to three student scholarships.

Logan, born and raised in Southland has farming and forestry in his blood. Both of his grandfathers were bushmen in Southland and on his father’s side, his grandfather worked as a bushman in Canada, moving to Tuatapere in the early 60’s to continue his with his trade. Logan has continued family traditions studying forestry whilst working on wilding pine control eradication in Arthurs Pass over his holiday break. Logan is in his second year of study.

“The Annual Scholarship is an opportunity for forestry and wood products companies in the lower South Island to put back something into the industry and to support outstanding students studying towards either the Forestry Science or Forest Engineering courses at the School of Forestry” says SWC Chairman, Grant Dodson. “The SWC is delighted to award this year’s scholarship to Logan and the industry is keen to continue to support all of the current scholarship recipients, both in their study – and in their future employment” says Mr Dodson.

The University Scholarship is offered each year by the SWC in addition to running a major industry training and awards programme for the forestry, wood products and transport industries in the lower South Island in Dunedin in May of each year.

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Remote sensing to assess pest and pathogen damage

In a recent review by Christine Stone, NSW Department of Industry – Lands and Caroline Mohammed, University of Tasmania, developments and applications in remote sensing that can improve the accuracy and timeliness of health assessments in plantations managed for timber and pulp production were assessed.

The detection and mapping of damage extent and severity caused by insect pests and fungal pathogens is a common requirement of foresters managing plantations. The objectives of these surveys can range from early detection for targeted intervention to more strategic aims of predicting stand susceptibility or evaluating the performance of management strategies.

Recent developments in remote sensing technologies and big data modelling techniques can now provide spatially explicit, quantitative solutions for these management objectives that are more accurate than manual field-based assessments of tree damage or airborne visual mapping.

Past studies have identified a large number of spectral, textural and structural metrics that have been used in models to classify specific tree crown damage symptoms. This process requires a detailed understanding of the chronology of crown symptoms for specific damaging agents and the spectral responses to these symptoms. Continuing increases in the spatial and spectral resolution of remote sensors enables crown-level damage classification.

The development of data processing workflows that fuse spectral information with three-dimensional (3D) data acquired simultaneously from single or different remote platforms promote the opportunities to derive both structural and physiological crown-level attributes that relate to crown damage. The simultaneous acquisition of spectral and 3D point data will enable plantation foresters to derive several spatial products, including the assessment of tree health in a cost-effective manner. For a full copy of the report, click here.

Photo: Oregon State University

Source: Christine Stone, Leader Forest Science, NSW Department of Industry - Lands

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US builders worried about profits, not buyers

Following a lengthy, detailed investigation initiated in November 2016, the U.S. Department of Commerce last week determined that Canadian lumber exports to the U.S. market are subsidized and set an average tariff of 20 percent to offset these subsidies.

For the U.S. forestry industry, the full and effective enforcement of the U.S. trade laws by the Trump administration means that more softwood lumber will be produced in the United States by U.S. workers. Trade law enforcement brings about a shift in production volume to satisfy the U.S. market — away from Canada and to U.S. companies, workers and their communities.

Homebuilders, however, expressed concern that lumber costs would rise, and they would be unable to pass these costs onto new home buyers, thus reducing their near-record profits. In response to their member's concerns, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) launched a public relations campaign, including an op-ed piece in The Hill last week, claiming the tariff would reduce something it calls "home affordability," a curious index the NAHB appears to have invented for PR purposes.



Importantly, a careful reading of the NAHB editorial finds no argument that the tariff would significantly affect the actual number of homes built or result in a meaningful increase in new home prices. The reason? As independent industry analysts have concluded, the tariff has no significant effect on the cost of home construction.

As the duties were announced, Bob Wetenhall, a homebuilding analyst at RBC Capital Markets (Canada's largest investment bank), told CNBC that the effect on the U.S. housing market would be no more than a "papercut" and that, "It's not going to affect the real estate market, [and] it's not going to impact housing prices."

Nor does the NAHB editorial even venture a guess as to what the tariff's effect will be on lumber prices or, in turn, homebuilding costs. Instead, a close reading shows that the NAHB only asserts that an increase in lumber prices earlier this year was "largely" due to the yet-to-be-imposed tariffs. Read more.

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Why agriculture drone solutions deserve a closer look

A myriad of innovative new technologies around sensors and the collection and use of data from drones were showcased at the MobileTECH 2017 event run for primary industries in Rotorua in March of this year.

Foresters and resource managers late last year at the ForestTECH event run in New Zealand and Australia were also given updates on research and trials that were being undertaken in local forests. This article reviews the use of drones for agriculture (the research and analysis will be of use to inventory foresters as well) and provides a link to download the recent research from Sentera (image: Sentera).

I’ve been researching and writing about agriculture drone solutions since early 2012. I recently came across this OpEd in PrecisionAg titled Opinion: The Agricultural Drone War Is Over, And They Lost” and read it with great interest. Two and half years ago, our research indicated the same thing—that small drones might not be able to deliver more usable data to a farmer or provide a cost benefit over the existing image solutions available to them.

Even last year I had my doubts. In our June 2016 report, The Truth about Drones in Precision Agriculture, we looked at how drones have been used as remote sensing devices in agriculture thus far, reviewed competitive and traditional approaches using incumbent technology (like satellites and manned aircraft), and discussed the opportunities and challenges posed by the technology itself.

But a lot has changed since then. Agriculture drones have matured, and so have the sensors and analytical solutions that support them. A rising number of software vendors are targeting the agriculture space with increasingly useful solutions. And a new generation of drones is delivering much needed functionality.

Not all agriculture drone solutions are created equal, so it pays to do a bit of research before committing. There are many factors to consider, from software compatibility to price to technical capabilities such as:

- Can you get all the components—drone, sensor, software, and analytics—from one company?
- Is an internet connection required in order to process data?
- Will it integrate well with your existing tools?
The research process to find the best solution can be overwhelming and time consuming, but there is some good news. We’ve done a fair amount of this work already which you can access in our latest report, Using Drones to Ensure ROI in Precision Agriculture. You’ll also find a checklist there to help you determine which solution is the best fit. Read More.

Source: dronelife.com

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Wooden sports hall rides the wave of sustainable design

Large-scale timber architecture is increasingly popular lately, and with projects like The Wave, a new sports hall in Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU), it's easy to see why. Attractive, sustainable, and impressively efficient, the building is yet another reminder of how engineered wood is revolutionizing sustainable construction.

Presumably deriving its name from the shape of its sculpted roof, The Wave is the first mass engineered timber (aka mass timber) building in Southeast Asia, according to NTU. Put simply, mass timber refers to a range of wood products (including CLT and glulam) that consist of multiple layers of wood laminated into dense prefabricated panels.

The panels allow buildings to be assembled quickly and can actually have a stronger weight-to-strength ratio and perform better in a fire than reinforced concrete. In The Wave's case, using mass timber sped construction time up and saved an estimated 25 percent in manpower, compared to conventional methods. It also meant that the large 72 m-long roof can be easily supported without any internal columns. Instead, external columns support the roof's seven long-span timber arches, which weigh over 440 tonnes.

Read more.

Source: newatlas.com

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New evidence backs case for review of possum's status

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has submitted a nomination to the Federal Government for a review of the status of the Victorian Leadbeater’s Possum, as new evidence shows it is more numerous and occupies a wider habitat range than previously understood.

The Federal Government listed the Leadbeater’s Possum as ‘critically endangered’ in 2015 following the 2009 Victorian bushfires, which were thought to have destroyed around one third of the possum’s suitable habitat.

AFPA CEO Ross Hampton said over the past three year’s new evidence that has emerged that indicates the possum is more resilient, adaptable and populous than previously thought. As at 1 May 2017, there are 603 known colonies identified, 450 of which have been identified since 2014. Possum colonies are being found in areas they were thought not to inhabit, including regrowth in forest burnt in the 2009 fires, and the trial of nest boxes and artificial hollows has also proven very successful.

“While AFPA strongly supports the ongoing actions seeking to secure the long-term survival of the Leadbeater’s Possum, and that every attempt is made to ensure the ongoing viability of our sustainable forestry practices, it is important that all decisions are informed by the best available conservation advice,” Mr Hampton said.

“On that basis, AFPA has submitted a nomination under the statutory process for a reassessment of the Leadbeater’s Possum’s ‘critically endangered’ listing. Importantly, this is not something the Minister can unilaterally do. The legislation clearly sets out the independent process, and it is appropriate that the same processes evaluate the new evidence.”

Significantly, there has never been a reliable population count for the Leadbeater’s Possum, despite the Commonwealth’s draft National Recovery Plan for the possum last year recommending “further investigations should be undertaken to provide a robust and reliable estimate of current total population size”. However, a comprehensive population study has still not occurred.

“The new evidence brings into question the need for some of the restrictions imposed on the forestry industry by the former Victorian Liberal Government, particularly the 12.5 hectare exclusion zone being enforced around every new colony sighting.

“It also underscores the need for a comprehensive population study that examines all potential habitat, which is why we have also asked the Federal Government work with the Victorian Government to ensure the scientific work is done to produce an accurate picture of the possum’s population and range. This will not only provide a better understanding of the Possum’s status, but also inform a whole-of-landscape approach to the conservation of this marsupial alongside a sustainable forestry industry.”

Source: FWPA



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U.S. wants fair treatment in climate pact

President Donald Trump complained on Thursday that the United States was being unfairly treated in the Paris Climate Agreement and told Reuters he would announce a decision in about two weeks on whether Washington would remain in the accord.

The Republican Trump, elected in November, had vowed during his campaign to withdraw from the Paris accord within 100 days of becoming president, part of a broader plan to sweep away Obama administration environmental protections he said were hobbling the economy.

He has since said he is open to staying in the pact if Washington gets better terms, and scores of large U.S. companies and several Republican lawmakers have urged him to stay in the deal as a way to protect American industry interests overseas.

Trump, who marked the 100th day of his presidency on Saturday, told Reuters in an interview he would announce his decision "in about two weeks," but complained that China, India, Russia and other countries were paying too little to help poorer countries battle climate change under the agreement's Green Climate Fund.

An administration source told Reuters earlier that Trump administration officials would likely meet in May to decide whether to keep the United States in the climate deal, having had an initial meeting on Thursday at the White House.

The group of advisers, which includes Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, was on track to make the decision before a Group of Seven summit on 26 May, the source said.

Source: reuters.com

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... and one to end the week on ... the hearing aid

Two elderly women were eating breakfast in the care home one morning.

Ethel noticed something funny about Mabel‘s ear and said, ‘’Mabel, do you know you’ve got a suppository in your ear?”

Mabel answered, “Pardon, what did you say?”

Ethel raised her voice a few decibels: “I said, do you know you’ve got a suppository in your left ear!”

“I have a suppository in my ear?” She pulled it out and stared at it.

“Ethel, I’m glad you saw this thing. Now I think I know where to find my hearing aid.”



One more for you. Frank decided to trim his household budget, so instead of having his car professionally cleaned he’d do it by hand.

Proud of his savings, he boasted to his wife: “Just think, Myrtle, we are $20 richer because I washed the car by hand.

“Awesome,” she replied. “Go out and wash it again then!”






And on that note, have a great weekend. Cheers.

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
Distinction Dunedin Hotel
6 Liverpool Street, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
PO Box 904, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (03) 470 1902, Mob: +64 21 227 5177, Fax: +64 (03) 470 1906
Web page: www.fridayoffcuts.com


This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at www.fridayoffcuts.com

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