LACN convention draws dealers, protestors

Monterey, Calif. Green building topics dominated the agenda of the Lumber Association of California and Nevada (LACN) annual meeting this year, but that didn’t stop protestors from gathering outside the hotel on Nov. 2 to picket Sierra Pacific Industries, an LACN member who attended the event. A crowd of 30 individuals, organized by ForestEthics, chanted and held signs urging the Redding, Calif., lumber producer to stop its clear-cutting logging practices. In response, a spokesman for Sierra Pacific Industries said the company operates under sustainable forestry practices. "The state approves all of our timber harvesting," the spokesman said.

Inside the hotel, Mark LaLiberte of Building Knowledge, kicked off the conference by urging dealers to stay ahead of the green building curve by familiarizing themselves with the green industry’s offerings. “People don’t want to buy anything from someone who knows less than they do,” he observed.

LaLiberte gave numerous examples of building materials, some inexpensive and easy to install, that reduce energy consumption and block moisture from coming into houses. He also talked about the unforeseen consequences of some well-intentioned products, like whole-house fans designed to cool down home interiors. Installed in today’s airtight homes, these powerful fans can suck air out of the garage, where gasoline, pesticides and other toxic chemicals often reside, he observed.

Educating builders and contractors is just the first step, LaLiberte said. “Dealers are going to have to help their builders market [green] homes,” he predicted.

The debate over various green building standards came up during Kelly McCloskey’s presentation on the use of lumber in non-residential building projects. A representative of the Wood Promotion Network, McCloskey outlined the differences between the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED and the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes rating systems. Lumber dealers around the country should urge their legislators not to codify one set of standards over the other, McCloskey said, adding, “Give the markets some options.”

The LACN is currently lobbying the Nevada state legislature to offer tax breaks to buildings that qualify under both rating systems, according to executive director Ken Dunham. The trade association was also instrumental in persuading California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto legislation last month that would have mandated LEED standards (or their equivalent) in state buildings. The LACN and other representatives of the wood products industry had opposed the bills, saying they went too far in their effort to promote sustainable building practices.

The three-day convention also included sessions on selling wood products to commercial builders, finding and hiring quality people and budgeting/forecasting. Although attendees commiserated over the state’s building slump -- production of single-family homes fell 50 percent in September, according to the California Building Industry Association --several dealers said they were keeping busy with high-end remodels.