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UMaine research leads to Norway spruce earning construction grade

After months of extensive testing at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composite Center, the Norway spruce earned certification for commercial and residential buildings, making it the newest species of tree to earn certification in almost 80 years. The American Lumber Standards Committee awarded the inclusion of Norway spruce to the approved lumber list on Oct. 20 and it can now be used for home construction and industrial applications.

UMaine invited leaders of the state’s forest products industry to a press conference on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at the Advanced Structures and Composite Center to announce the new certification, including representatives from Pleasant River Lumber and the Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association (NELMA).

Students and other researchers tested the species at UMaine for approximately five months, using roughly 1,300 pieces of lumber grown in areas of Maine, Vermont, New York and Wisconsin. The team of researchers conducted tests of bending, tension, shear and compression of the Norway spruce.

The new certification of the Norway spruce is expected to have a tremendous impact on Maine’s economy and the forest product industries. Prior to the new designation, Norway spruce was previously harvested as a pulpwood. However, after the closure of Madison paper mill, which was the last spruce-fir pulping operation in the state, there was little economic use for the species.

Now the Norway spruce can be used in everyday building, including home construction uses as wall studs and floor and ceiling joists.

Maine’s lumber industry, including landowners, loggers, lumber mills, retailers and builders are expected to benefit from the new certification, creating a new market for the Norway spruce that never previously existed.

“This is a momentous occasion for the building industry,” Jeff Easterling, president of NELMA said in a news release. “The addition of a new species hasn’t happened in almost a century, and it’s been a very exciting year as we’ve worked to shepherd it through testing and bring it into the mainstream.”

Associate Director for the Composites Center, Stephen Shaler, who also directs the School of Forest Resources at UMaine, says that students and faculty have a multitude of new opportunities within the field due to the new certification.

“It has inspired students to pursue careers in the field and we look forward to a continued partnership with NELMA and the forest industry,” he said in the release.

The Norway spruce has been used for building in Europe and other places in the world for decades, however the species was never previously certified in the U.S. because strength tests of American-grown Norway spruce trees had never been conducted.

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