New Grant will Continue to pursue Hardwood lumber for Cross-laminated Timber (CLT)*

By Henry Quesada

*Published in the August 2019 Newsletter of the Virginia Loggers Association

The Department of Sustainable Biomaterials at Virginia Tech has secured $249,000 from the US Forest Service to continue research on the use of hardwood lumber for the manufacturing of structural cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels.

Currently, there is no market for hardwood lumber in structural CLT panels because APA/PRG 320, the CLT standard, does not allow it. According to the standard, only softwood lumber can be used for structural CTL panels. However, a CLT mill interested in manufacturing and selling hardwood CLT panels for structural use could pursue a custom certification by a third party to make hardwood CLT panels available to the construction market.

CLT panel made of yellow poplar

In this project, Virginia Tech will work with Smartlam in Montana to produce CLT panels made of yellow poplar. The panels will be tested by APA. Hardwood organizations such as the Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers, the National Hardwood Lumber Association, and the Hardwood Manufacturers Association are partnering with Virginia Tech to promote the project among their members and to find potential donors of yellow poplar lumber for the manufacturing of the CLT panels to be tested.

Another barrier that this new project is addressing is the structural grading of hardwood lumber. Currently, grading of hardwood lumber is based on appearance and not on structural performance. Rules to grade hardwood lumber have been developed but no one producing hardwood lumber is using these rules, mostly because there is no market for structural hardwood lumber. This new grant will work with NELMA, a grading agency, to train hardwood sawmills on structural grades for hardwood lumber.

Other factors that might impact the use of hardwood lumber for structural CLT panels are:

  • Prices: Prices of #1 and #2 softwood lumber are usually less than $450 per thousand board feet. However, species such as yellow poplar and soft maple might have a chance to compete in terms of prices.
  • Volume: A medium size CLT mill will produce around 50,000 m3 or 21.2 million board feet per year. An average hardwood sawmill produces less than 20 million board feet per year. Several hardwood sawmills would work together in order to supply lumber to such a CLT mill.
  • Dimensions: Hardwood lumber is currently produced in random widths and CLT panels require fixed widths.
  • Adhesion: Chemical companies have been able to produce glues that work very well with softwood species such as spruce, Douglas fir, and southern yellow pine. The same glues have been used successfully with yellow poplar but other hardwood species might require a different formulation.

The market for CLT panels in the US is expected to reach over 2 million m3 or 850 million board feet in the next 10 years. The current manufacturing capacity in the US is less than 200,000 m3. This represents a huge opportunity for the hardwood industry.

If you have any questions about this project, please contact Dr. Henry Quesada at

2018 Annual Report of the Center for Forest Products Business

Dear Colleagues:

Dr. Robert Smith, Director the Center for Forest Products Business

It is hard to believe that another year has gone by and I am here wondering again what to share with you about the Center.  Three months ago, we graduated 40 students from our program and some of them are now working in your companies. Our department’s undergraduate program has grown to nearly 200 students, and it is probably the largest in the country.  We believe the changes we have made in recent years regarding our undergraduate degrees and our name change are starting to attract a broader range of students to our profession.  I have often told students that our program is the applied field of business, engineering, physics, or chemistry to our natural resources and wood.  Whether it is the student who has a business interest and wants to go into international marketing or the student who has an engineering interest and wants to lean up your mill, our undergraduate program allows students to apply these disciplines to wood products. We remain committed to providing the best marketing, manufacturing, and business education in forest products in North America.  Our goal remains to attract and train good students who can help your companies compete in this changing world marketplace.

I have now completed six years as the department head.  It is nice being back in the department with my colleagues and directing such a successful endeavor.  We are fortunate to have some of the leading scientists in our field working in the department. I want to thank those of you who took time to visit us this past year and spend time with our students.  Your interest and experience help us demonstrate the great opportunities that exist for careers in wood products.  Students always comment on how they love to hear from our industry partners. Your internships, scholarships and job opportunities demonstrate the partnership that is needed to help us attract and train your future employees. If you would like to visit the department and speak with our students, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Your center has had a good year.  Our faculty accomplishments are listed later in this report. We awarded over $25,000 of scholarships in 2017 and will award nearly that amount again in 2018. Your donations make this possible and allow us to better train our students for this changing wood products industry. We have updated our website to provide more information, so please visit us at    I thank you for your continued support of our center. If there is anything I can do, please feel free to contact me at 540-231-7679 or

Follow this link to download the full report.


SBIO Department participates at the 2016 Expo Richmond

Blacksburg, VA. The Department of Sustainable Biomaterials (SBIO) had an active participation during the 2016 Expo Richmond. The machinery exposition is organized by the Virginia Forest Products Association (VFPA) and it is co-sponsored by the College of Natural Resources and Environment (CNRE) at Virginia Tech and the Virginia Department of Forestry. The show attracts thousands of industry members, industry organizations, and wood hobbies who come to get a glimpse of new developments related to software and hardware in the forestry and forest products industries.

Dr. Brian Bond, professor at the SBIO Department presents on the latest development in vacuum drying technology
Dr. Brian Bond, professor at the SBIO Department presents on the latest development in vacuum drying technology

This year the trade show kicked off with the SBIO Department presenting an innovative educational session that included speakers from Virginia Tech, the US Forest Service, and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC).

For the following two days the SBIO Department along with other members of the CNRE at VT, showcased new research and short-course opportunities, and delivered short courses to visitors coming to the Expo Richmond. As usual many fellow Hokies stopped by our booth to greet and catch-up on latest developments. The Expo Richmond is also a great venue to network and reconnected with industry and industry organizations that hire a good portion of the graduates from the SBIO Department.

Drs. Brian Bond and Henry Quesada enjoy Smokey Bear's visit to the SBIO Department booth.
Drs. Brian Bond and Henry Quesada enjoy Smokey Bear’s visit to the SBIO Department booth.


SBIO Newsletter. Volume 3, Number 1.


Extension highlights

The wood products industry in Virginia is a critical contributor to the economy of the state, an industry represented by more than 1,000 primary and secondary industries and over $25 billion in economic impact.

The Department of Sustainable Biomaterials (SBIO) at Virginia Tech is one of the leading U.S. academic programs in the field of renewable materials with a focus on cellulosic materials such as wood products. Besides research and teaching efforts, SBIO has an important role in dissemination of new knowledge in the area of renewable materials through SBIO’s three extension specialists.

Click here to download the most recent SBIO newsletter.