LEESBURG, VA. – On June 11, the North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI) issued a news release warning of the use of European lumber in North Carolina. The news release identified several potential use issues given the building community’s lack of familiarity with European lumber and served to alert suppliers, designers, builders, and regulators that lumber should be used in accordance with applicable codes and standards; however, there were several statements that need to be clarified or corrected. The Pacific Lumber Inspection Bureau has prepared a detailed response to the NCDOI new release and can be located at the following link: PLIB’s Response to North Carolina DOI warning notice | Pacific Lumber Inspection Bureau.
Prescriptive provisions in the building codes that cover wood-frame construction are primarily based on the four major commercial species combinations: Douglas Fir-Larch, Hem-Fir, Southern pine, and Spruce-Pine-Fir (SPF) from Canada. These prescriptive provisions provide species- and grade-specific span tables for common loading conditions for the four major species combinations or the requirements are based on the minimum properties for certain grades of the four major species combinations. However, the building code allows the use AWC’s Span Tables for Joists and Rafters (STJR) for other grades and species of lumber and for other loading conditions. The span tables in STJR are species independent and only require the user to know the adjusted design values for the grade and species of lumber. Where European lumber has the same or higher design values than North American lumber, the material can be directly substituted.
In areas where the basic wind speeds are 130 mph or less (in some locations less than 140 mph), prescriptive provisions in the building codes that address wall studs and connection requirements have been considered to be independent of the lumber species. However, in areas where the basic wind speeds are greater than 130 mph, including coastal areas of North Carolina, the prescriptive provisions of the building codes don’t typically apply and the user is directed to use the pre-engineered wood-frame construction provisions in AWC’s Wood Frame Construction Manual for One- and Two-Family Dwellings (WFCM) or ICC’s Standard for Residential Construction in High-Wind Regions (ICC 600) or to design the structure in accordance with the loads in ASCE’s Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures (ASCE 7). When designing to the wind loads in ASCE 7, AWC’s National Design Specification® for Wood Construction (NDS®) is used, which includes design values for all North American and non-North American species approved by the American Lumber Standards Committee, including European lumber species. Adequate resources exist for use by plans examiners, builders, and designers to accommodate the use of European lumber with these standards.
Due to the rapid increase in use of and lack of familiarity with lumber species other than the four major species, prescriptive design provisions for these other species are lagging, but are being developed. The Pacific Lumber Inspection Bureau is working to develop species-specific span tables for use with the prescriptive provisions in the building codes based on the NDS and has already developed exterior wall stud tables in accordance with provisions of the WFCM for use in high wind areas and can be located at the following link: TR-5-Max-Stud-Length-Tables-for-European-Species-1.pdf (plib.org).