ORONO – You see them everywhere. Now, you’ll soon be able to see the wood from Norway Spruce trees being used to build homes. Lumber made from the same kind of tree used as the Christmas trees in Rockefeller Center will be available for contractors, thanks to the University of Maine.
It’s been nearly 100 years since a new species of wood has been proven to be structurally sound to be used in construction. And, after a year of testing, the Norway Spruce has received the American Lumber Standards seal of approval.
“For the industry, it’s huge because it adds a whole new resource that was unavailable to them for construction material,” said Jeff Easterling, president off the Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association.
Students and staff at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center played critical roles in proving the Norway Spruce could handle the stress associated with being part of a structure.
“We did basic structural testing with two-by-fours, two-by-sixes and two-by-eights in edgewise bending and also tension testing. Being able to be part of this is just…dream,” said Ben Farber, a UMaine grad student who worked on the project.
In a demonstration Wednesday morning, one Norway Spruce board withstood the four-point bending test until more than 1,600 pounds of pressure was exerted on it.
“So it gives a higher quality mix of logs going into the lumber we make, which helps us on the sales end,” said Jason Brochu, co-president of the Pleasant River Lumber Company.
J.D. Irving is the largest single landowner in the state. The director of its Maine operations is Anthony Hourihan. He says the Canadian company’s officials hoped this day would come.
“We started planting Norway Spruce around 1988. And in Maine, we’ve planted 9 million Norway Spruce seedlings, not knowing what the market held,” said Hourihan.
It was during the 1860s when Norway Spruce first made its way to North America. And it’s been since the 1920s, that a species of lumber has been certified construction worthy.