Mableton, Georgia – Atlanta Hardwood Corporation (AHC) is headquartered just outside of Atlanta, in Mableton, Georgia. Founded in 1952 as Howard Lumber & Kilns by James W. Howard, Sr., the company has grown and evolved over the years, by introducing industry-leading technology and production techniques to address the needs of the ever-changing manufacturing and construction markets.
As a lumber broker in the early days, the elder Mr. Howard, father of the current chief executive officer, Jim Howard, grew his business by selling to furniture manufacturers in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. In the mid-1950s, the company was moved to Atlanta and began processing Appalachian hardwoods in leased kilns. By 1960, a plant was built in Mableton, Georgia. In 1966, a second plant in Huntersville, North Carolina was opened to service the furniture industry in the Carolinas.
Under the leadership of the younger Howard, the company has grown to include three drying yards operating as AHC Hardwood Group. Also operating under the AHC brand are the AHC White County Mouldings plant in north Georgia, AHC Import Lumber, importing African and South American hardwoods, AHC Export Lumber, which sells Appalachian hardwoods around the world, and AHC Logistics, the trucking division of the company.
According to company president Hal Mitchell, “We purchased the Clarksville, Tennessee facility from Averitt Lumber Company in 2008. Initially, we ran the plant as a concentration yard catering to the export market, supplying poplar, red oak, white oak, and ash. Over the years, our vision has evolved toward more value-added markets. Further vertical integration helps us control the supply chain from the green mill all the way through to the finished products.”
Today, AHC purchases 60% green lumber and 40% kiln-dried lumber. Mitchell noted the success of AHC’s White County Moulding facility provided the groundwork that led to the value-added expansion at Clarksville, Tennessee, “We focused on the idea of becoming a world-class, value-added manufacturer. We manage the supply chain through our relationships with our green sawmills, all the way to the finished products for our stocking distributors throughout North America.”
AHC recognizes the labor challenges that the hardwood lumber industry faces. “We cater to our millwork customers with large-volume runs so our customers can focus on the higher margin custom runs in-house. While we efficiently manufacture large-volume runs to save them labor and yield,” Mitchell said. “We utilize the entire board from the green supplier all the way to the finished product, so it gives us a lot of purchasing power from the supply chain throughout the system. We could start with No. 2 Common and Better lumber, control the drying process, and produce a high-quality dimension finished product to meet the customer’s needs in terms of grade and length specifications. We can also sell low-grade or high-grade KD lumber depending on the product mix and market,” Mitchell explained.
Regarding AHC’s focus on the value-added evolution, Mitchell offered, “For us, it’s a progression from lumber to value-added lumber, a much higher, detailed-type of finished product our customers can utilize in mouldings, S4S, cut-to-length, furniture component and cabinet parts. With the state-of-the-art technology that we have implemented in our facilities, we can provide flexibility to our customers with a diverse and consistent supply of products.”
AHC has faced many challenges throughout the years and continues to thrive by approaching a constantly changing market with innovative solutions. After their operation in Cleveland, Georgia was destroyed by fire in October 2020, the company was operating again within six months.
According to Mitchell, “Today there’s a smaller footprint at the north Georgia facility with a leaner manufacturing mentality now. The equipment is more automated, which allows us to reduce our labor and still produce comparable volume. It was a win, so we duplicated the process at our plant in Clarksville, Tennessee. Historically, we produced architectural mouldings and S4S profiles. With the new WoodEye scanning defect lines, we can supply finished component parts in blank or moulding form. Whether we are chopping the blanks to precision length prior to moulding or after moulding, we have the capability to do both functions at any of our reman facilities.”
With up to 175 sawmill partnerships, AHC maintains about 16 million board-feet of inventory in and out of their locations at any given time. Mitchell noted, “Our manufacturing plants are 50/50 value-added components and kiln-dried lumber.”
“Our mission,” Mitchell stated, “is to become a world-class manufacturer of finished dimension products. We are developing a culture of servant leadership where our management group supports our employees to get more engaged and give them ownership in their daily production. Whether the plant is winning or losing on a particular day, we want everyone to understand that we are part of a team, working toward the same goals. So we’re changing the culture of our company and engaging our employees all the way through the lean manufacturing processes.”
Mitchell continued, “Our focus is controlling the process from the green mill all the way through to the stocking distributor level. Our distributors have the sales teams and logistics tools to really service local customers. We supply them with both cost and production efficiency savings for an array of value-added products or rough lumber to service their customer base.”
Repeat business has driven AHC’s long-term success. Mitchell said, “Our investments are driven by our customers’ requests to help resolve some of their labor and supply challenges.” Mitchell continued, “They may require rough blanks or color-sorted finished products to help implement a simpler manufacturing process. We’re striving to meet their needs. We can often optimize the lumber raw material and provide a natural, lower cost solution for them than what they could produce in-house. We serve a lot of millwork manufacturers, OEM’s and two-step distributors that sell to retail outlets. We focus on our customer needs to supply them with value-added alternatives to help solve the production and personnel constraints. If they are struggling with labor issues, we try to provide them with solutions and a better return for their business.”
At White County Mouldings, Mitchell said the operation leans heavily to FAS lumber from a secondary manufacturing standpoint. “Everything that goes through the production plants is typically No. 1 Common and Better, 4/4 through 8/4 thicknesses,” he explained. Mitchell continued, “Our species mix is heavy poplar, red oak, cypress, hard and soft maple, cherry, and walnut. We also process a variety of import species, such as red grandis and sapele. We can provide any of those products in rough lumber form or a finished dimension product. We can also provide stock for a myriad of end-use applications. Whatever fits our customers’ needs, we can build into program-style business. We partner with our vendors and our customers and rely heavily on feedback from both. Our objective is to help them run their businesses more effectively.”
With 16 company-owned trucks, AHC Logistics is the right arm of the AHC operation. Mitchell explained. “Since we operate our own fleet, we can get a pack of finished surface- ripped lumber from our import company all the way down to moulding and millwork products, like S4S and paneling, and consolidate shipments to send to a stocking distributor.
“We run our own fleet within a 1,000-mile radius of our manufacturing plants in the Southeast and we ship other locations through either use of a common carrier, containers, or box van — whatever works best for the customer. We have loading facilities at all our plants that can handle anything from flat beds to hot shot trailers and LTLs, all the way through the box van and van loading to containers.” Typical turnaround time for delivery of dimension products is two to three weeks.
AHC takes extensive measures to protect their products, including curtainside trailers and tarping. “We want to ensure that the finished product is protected until it is delivered to our customer,” Mitchell said. “We stretch and shrink wrap the individual units just to protect them from dust and damage that can occur in warehouses. Runners are provided built in to the wrapping station, which is an automated system to make sure the product is 100% usable for our client.”
Special requests and circumstances are common for AHC, which Mitchell said they are prepared to accommodate, “All of our facilities have multiple 12-inch moulders to meet customer demands. Our automated scanning equipment has 12-inch chop lines in place to help facilitate the S4S and specialty programs with 1/16-inch length tolerances. We have defect saws that are capable of chopping 6-by-12s or 8-by-8s for more industrial-type applications through the system.” Mitchell added, “We have a diverse product offering in dimensional components, from small component parts to large industrial sizes. We manufacture hobby board programs that are from ¼ inch by 1-½ inch, all the way up to a large ¾ inch by 11-¼ inch S4S program.”
As a multi-generational company with a long-term vested interest in sustainable forestry, AHC Hardwood Group is committed to renewable wood resources and responsible forest stewardship. Mitchell stated, “We are blessed to live in a country that has an abundance of the world’s most renewable natural resource in hardwood lumber and it is our responsibility to practice stewardship for the betterment of our industry and for future generations. By investing in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, AHC is able to utilize these raw materials in the most efficient and effective way from green lumber to mouldings.”
AHC is a member of the National Hardwood Lumber Association, the Hardwood Manfacturer’s Association, the Southern Cypress Manufacturer’s Association, the Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association and the Kentucky Forest Industries Association (KFIA).
For more information, visit www.hardwoodweb.com.
Vaxjo, Sweden — Stockholm and its suburbs are filled with construction cranes these days, reflecting a growing population combined with a housing shortage. But few of its developments are as extensive as Hagastaden, just to the north of central Stockholm where it meets the neighboring municipality of Solna.
Here, it looks as if an entirely new city is being built.
The 237-acre, or 96-hectare, development is a collection of housing, offices, institutions and public space projects conceived as a model of livability and sustainability, part of the Stockholm “Vision 2030” plan.
One section in particular is notable: two city blocks where a concrete foundation has been laid above a tangle of tunnels that funnel rail and road traffic to the north. It is an impressive feat of engineering, but the real significance is what is now rising from it, one of the largest apartment complexes built from timber in the world.
Cederhusen (or Cedar House) is the latest example of a growing practice of building big with what’s known as C.L.T., or cross-laminated timber.
It is a showcase for the industry of how far the technology has come.
Concrete is necessary for the foundation, but after that it is all wood, up to 13 stories at its highest point. The first block of two Cedar Houses is nearly complete and a second block is scheduled to start construction soon.
The tunnels below the development can only support so much weight. But because timber is about a fifth as heavy as concrete, the structure above the tunnels could be higher.
Using timber also has environmental benefits, the industry says.
“This is tech that we already have that can be used today, and it is a fast track to lowered emissions,” said Mathias Fridholm, the director of Svenskt Tra (“Swedish Wood”), an industry organization that promotes timber and wooden products. “But it’s not only the climate,’’ he added. ‘‘The whole building sector needs to be modernized and a good way of doing that is through a higher degree of industrialization.
“Wood is in many ways an excellent material for building in dense cities, because we can prefabricate all the elements in factories, instead of on-site.”
Mr. Fridholm said that prefabrication would speed construction and reduce disruptions such as constant truck traffic at the building site and road closures.
Because timber is lighter than concrete, floors can be added to existing buildings if there is a need for expansion, he said.
Timber accounts for roughly 20 percent of new multistory buildings in Sweden, but that figure is on the rise. That is happening in part because of companies like Folkhem, the real estate developer behind Cederhusen, which decided in 2012 to build exclusively in wood. The company is hoping projects like this, and around a dozen others in its portfolio, will help to tip the scales.
“This project is going to be really important because it’s a whole two blocks in inner Stockholm where you can choose to buy an apartment made out of timber,’’ said Anna Ervast Oberg, a project manager at Folkhem. ‘‘So it’s going to be a symbol of the possibilities and the techniques and industrial capability that we have.”
Over a plate of cinnamon buns in the small construction site offices at the Cederhusen site, Ms. Oberg said that just changing the structure of a building to wood from concrete would result in an immediate 50 percent reduction in emissions. She said that if you looked at the carbon emissions over the lifetime of a typical concrete building, roughly 70 percent would be just from the roughly two years that it is under construction.
“And then of course we can optimize the building further,” Ms. Oberg said. “We have other aspects like shorter construction time, less transport. Those make the numbers even better.’’
She added: ‘‘What we have to do now is to stop the emissions, very fast. This gives us a hint of where we should be focusing, where we can make the biggest difference.”
C.L.T.’s list of benefits is long. It is exceptionally strong and light. It is also breathable, meaning it holds heat but doesn’t need plastic layers to manage moisture, as concrete does. Concrete also requires sand, a finite resource that increasingly requires damaging procedures like drudging up the seabed, while managed forests can be replanted. As a bonus, a city built out of wood becomes an urban carbon storage facility.
Before 1995, this sort of thing wasn’t even allowed in Sweden, the result of rules established many years ago after fires ravaged primarily wooden cities across Europe. But adoption of European Union rules meant an end to the former two-story building limit.
The technology has been steadily developing since then, to the point that those in the industry say fire risk is on par with other materials. Recognizing that, building regulations are now function-based rather than material-based, which is to say that as long as developers can prove the building withstands critical threats, like fire, it doesn’t matter what it is made of.
As for height, the sky is theoretically the limit, according to Folkhem executives. But, they add, because timber is lighter, it needs added stabilization as it climbs. Above floors in the mid-teens buildings need added ballast, often in the form of concrete slabs.
As the technology progresses, that may change. The current record holder is an 18-story wooden building in Brumunddal, Norway. For scale, the building is just a little shorter than the Statue of Liberty.
All this works especially well in a place like Sweden which has well-managed forests, and plenty of them. Seventy percent of Sweden’s land is forest, double what it was 50 years ago.
One of the biggest apartment complex developments so far in Sweden, according to Folkhem, used around 211,000 cubic feet, or 5,975 cubic meters, of wood for the construction. That wood, the company said, was estimated to take around 20 minutes for the Swedish forests to regrow.
Building single family homes out of timber is, of course, nothing new. The majority of homes in Sweden are wooden, as in many places around the world. What is new is the push to build larger buildings, office structures or apartment blocks as well as infrastructure like bridges, using timber frames instead of concrete or steel. But although timber use is on the rise, concrete still dominates in the construction industry.
Tomas Nord, a senior lecturer at Linkoping University in Sweden, has spent years studying the timber industry. “It should be obvious that it’s superior to concrete,’’ he said of wood. ‘‘It’s efficient and fast. You can build exactly what the customer wants in the factory. It’s a renewable material. It’s strong, durable and light.”
Mr. Nord added: ‘‘The challenge is down to the industry structure, the value chains that we have built up over years. In any mature industry, you have an idea about how you have to operate to be profitable. Then if you say we have to change, there’s going to be resistance to that.”
Those in the timber industry say that they are optimistic. “We’ve gone from zero to 20 percent market share since 1994,’’ said Mr. Fridholm of Swedish Wood. ‘‘And it won’t take long to get to 30 percent.”
“The building industry is quite medieval,” Ms. Oberg said with a laugh. “But in the last few years it’s come to a tipping point. We see a lot of [timber] projects being built in Sweden. Other countries are doing the same.
‘‘It’s down to the climate change becoming so obvious,’’ she said. ‘‘But it also has been years lobbying, talking to politicians, working with their rules and regulations, building up competence among engineers and so on. And now we have a complete foundation, and we have reference projects, that show that it’s possible.”
Those projects range from simple seven-story apartment buildings to more striking examples. One company has plans to build timber windmills as tall as 500 feet, or 150 meters. A test version, standing at about 100 feet, was erected in 2020, and commercial production is expected to begin next year. The northern Swedish city of Skelleftea, another timber pioneer, has had an air traffic control tower built from wood since 2004.
The development isn’t happening only in Sweden, of course. New projects are going up around the world. Norway, in particular, has had a huge increase in wooden buildings.
The construction company Veidekke, based in Oslo, recently built two identical structures in Trondheim, Norway, one in timber and one in concrete. “What happened was they could make three more stories on the timber house and still save two million kroner [about $230,000] on the foundation work because it was easier to make,” Ms. Oberg said. “They also looked at the health of the construction workers and saw that the hours people were sick was much less in the timber project. Injuries were less, and construction time was shorter.”
The small city of Vaxjo, population 94,000, sits in the middle of the timberlands of Smaland Province, in southern Sweden. Among municipalities in Sweden, many see Vaxjo as the leader in timber construction, as wooden buildings have been at the center of the city’s strategy since the 1990s. The city government reached its target for at least 50 percent of all new buildings to be timber-framed as of last year, and the municipality says it is now working on new and more ambitious plans for building with wood.
When I visited Vaxjo last summer, Catharina Winberg offered to show me around the city. At the time Ms. Winberg was a local politician and chairwoman of the Vaxjo Kommun Foretag, which oversees much of the building as well as energy production in the city. (Earlier this year she left her position to to return to the private sector.)
What I saw was impressive. Whole sections of land outside of the city center have been designated as timber-only development areas. Around town were dozens of construction sites for timber apartment buildings, schools and more, many of them using energy-saving measures, in varying states of completion.
“We really believe in wood as a material — it’s circular, it’s renewable, and it’s healthy,’’ Ms. Winberg said. “And we have the resources close by, so we might as well take advantage of that.”
She added: “We started to work with this very early, and that has generated a lot of interest. People want to learn about our strategy and see what we’ve done. So we think it’s very important how we carry this on because there’s so many looking to us now.”
The latest flagship project in Vaxjo, now in the final stages of completion, is a glass-panelled timber structure at the center of town that houses the new main train station, City Hall and a small shopping center, with a hotel scheduled to be erected.
“I think people today are longing for things that are genuine,’’ Ms. Winberg said. ‘‘And this is a very genuine place to live, with genuine buildings. They’re made of the forest that we have around us.
‘‘We have a housing shortage in this country, but if we didn’t, you could just choose,’’ she said. ‘‘Do you want a concrete building or a wooden building. What do you choose? That’s quite easy I think. But we’re not quite there yet.”
The industry is getting closer as a new law in Sweden will require a comprehensive climate declaration for every new building starting in 2022. The calculation comprises the total impact from start to finish of construction, including materials and transportation. The thinking is that once everything is taken into account in a systematic way, the benefits of timber should become even more apparent.
And recent developments in the world may help the Swedish timber industry’s goals.
“One thing that I think people will start thinking more about now is you cannot take globalization for granted,” said Mr. Fridholm of the forest industry group.
“Today from Swedish sawmills, 70 percent is exported to other countries,’’ he said. ‘‘In the foreseeable future people will start thinking about what resources we have in Sweden that we maybe should use better than we do now. And the eyes will fall on the forest. What is the best way of utilizing that? We can build with wood and store the carbon there. We can support ourselves with that.”
Leigh, Gabriel. “Wooden Buildings Reach for the Sky.” The New York Times, 30 July 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/30/todaysinyt/wooden-buildings-reach-for-the-sky-in-vaxjo-sweden.html?smid=url-share. Accessed 2 August 2021.
Clarksville, Tennessee (July 27, 2020) — AHC Clarksville, a division of AHC Hardwood group, has completed an expansion with the addition of remanufacturing capabilities at the Clarksville, Tennessee location. In the first month of operation, the plant processed more than 120,000 board-feet of moulding and other hardwood products.
The expansion adds 25% to the overall capacity of AHC Hardwood Group while also adding premium options of precision cut-to-length and defecting capabilities. Based on current orders, AHC Clarksville expects to double its sales by this time next year, which is also increasing available jobs in the area.
AHC Clarksville expects to produce more than 175,000 board-feet of hardwood products in the next 30 days and has the capacity to triple its first-month production. The Clarksville expansion includes a Kentwood model M609X moulder, a Kentwood model M812HS 220 moulder, a Baker model ABX band resaw, Diehl SLR model SL-52, Newman model S-382 planer, a Mereen Johnson Model DC-424 gang rip saw and Weinig model 450Xl optimizing cross-cut saw. The capabilities offered with the Weinig saw are available in fewer than 10% of facilities in the industry.
“This new equipment gives us expanded capabilities,” says Hal Mitchell, president of AHC Hardwood Group. Mitchell continues, “Our expertise in the industry is lumber and millwork. For decades, we’ve offered a diverse mix of hardwood lumber and finished products. Now we can offer even more. The new Weinig saw is unique. We can run up to 8” x 8” or 4” x 16”. It will remove defects to optimize clear parts to the exact dimensions our customers need.”
Although the expansion took place under the shadow of COVID-19, sales and production are increasing ahead of schedule. While moving forward with an expansion during these times may seem unusual, Mitchell notes, “It’s often during the most difficult times that there is the greatest opportunity to redefine yourself. That’s what we are doing.”
According to Jim Howard, CEO, AHC Hardwood Group, “The Clarksville expansion is an investment in the future and a commitment to the changing landscape of the hardwood industry. We’ve seen a move away from commodity lumber and a growing demand for value-added secondary manufacturing. This reflects a long-term shift for us and the commitment we have to meeting the needs of our customers.”
AHC Hardwood Group specializes in premium hardwoods, offering more than 50 species of domestic and imported hardwoods. According to Mitchell, “By controlling the raw material from green lumber through the supply chain to finished millwork, we can connect our customers to the world’s most renewable resource.” For more information about AHC Hardwood Group, visit hardwoodweb.com.
Iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright described wood as “universally beautiful to man. It is the most humanly intimate of all materials.” Biophilic design brings the symbiotic relationship human beings have with trees into the interior spaces of where we live, bringing with it documented benefits to health and well-being.
In this informative talk, Criswell explains with data how the use of American hardwoods in building and design is good for the environment and actually part of a being a good steward of the natural resource of trees.
Criswell Davis, President of Mighty Oaks Consulting in Louisville, Kentucky, is an internationally recognized American hardwood expert, speaker and hardwood specification consultant. He advises some of the largest architecture and design firms in the world, inspiring the use of sustainable American hardwoods in design. He has been in the American hardwood industry for over 31 years, representing the American Hardwood Export Council internationally. A founding Director of the Timber and Forestry Foundation, Criswell is a passionate brand ambassador for the American hardwood industry. He believes that designing with American hardwoods will improve our personal health and the health of the planet.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
A new residence hall graces the campus of ‘Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii as part of a larger, multi-year expansion project for the culturally diverse, co-educational preparatory school that serves more than 2,000 students. VikingWoodTM, a natural, green, chemical-free thermally modified wood, manufactured by AHC Hardwood Group, based in Atlanta, Georgia, can be seen accenting the exterior of the five-story structure.
The residence hall was designed by G70 (formerly Group 70 International, Inc.) a Honolulu-based award-winning architecture, civil engineering, interior design, planning and environmental firm. According to Lance Hirai, AIA, G70 project architect, “Responding to the surrounding context, the architecture honors the original housing and style that occupied the site, but with a contemporary expression.”
HK Consultants, LLC of Aiea, Hawaii, suggested the cost-effective, sustainable, high-performance exotic wood alternative, often used for exterior applications. According to Mark Hee, exotic wood specialist and senior partner at HK Consultants, “When you have a lot of moisture in the air, a wood that is not kiln-dried properly is going to absorb moisture, and with moisture you get mold and mildew. This lets us take a wood that is normally very inexpensive that is treated through the thermal modification process to create a wood that can compete against more expensive exotic woods like ipe.”
Hirai explains how VikingWood thermally modified ash came to be specified for the residence hall exterior, “We were inspired by biophilia1 due to its benefits in enhancing student development. Connections to nature are reinforced through the use of natural materials like the thermally modified wood panels. We were keen on using natural materials to also maintain an honest expression of the architecture, as well as add warmth to the exterior, and with time, the wood will weather and serve as an example of how a building can age.”
A number of different exteriors were considered for the exterior facade of the residence hall, including composite materials. Several desirable characteristics of thermally modified VikingWood wood weighed into the decision, including the green, chemical-free nature of the wood.
VikingWood also acquires a rich, brown color during the thermal modification process and was finished with a clear WOCA exterior stain. According to Hirai, “We wanted to truly reflect the color of the thermally modified wood.” A clear stain was applied to experience the natural graying process, rather than a colored stain or a UV coating to inhibit the graying effect.
VikingWood is treated under extremely high temperatures (400oF+), which cook away the natural sugars found in wood, leaving a safe, green alternative to chemically preserved wood. Under this extreme heat, the hardwood is “thermally modified,” permanently altering the wood’s chemical and physical properties. The thermal modification process reduces the equilibrium wood moisture content down to a very low range of 5 to 6%. The thermally modified ash used for the ‘Iolani residence hall offers a Class 1 exterior durability rating.
Once sugars are removed from the wood and the moisture content is reduced, the conditions that can lead to decay and rot, as well as attract bugs, are virtually eliminated. This process produces a wood that is up to 85% more stable than traditional kiln-dried woods. Thermal modification also virtually eliminates the ability for the wood to reabsorb moisture from the atmosphere, which can be an important consideration when building in high humidity climates.
Hee adds, “It makes a lot of sense that this wood can hold up to the elements and the pests. It’s a natural, green alternative to composites and doesn’t gray out like exotics, even in the tremendous sun we have in Hawaii.”
Hirai summarizes, “The dormitory moves forward the school’s vision to ‘Create meaningful, sustainable, and reciprocal global relationships that stimulate the exchange of ideas, foster a deeper cultural awareness, and build students’ desire to improve the world around them’.”
‘Iolani School was originally founded in 1863 by King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma as a boarding school that housed students from around the world. The new dormitory can accommodate 112 students in grades nine through 12 and marks the first time since 1959 that on-campus housing has been available for students. The last phase of expansion on the ‘Iolani campus is slated for completion by mid-2020.
1. biophilia (n) bio·phil·ia: a hypothetical human tendency to interact of be closely associated with other forms of life in nature. Merriam Webster Dictionary
After a multi-year capital campaign to build a new building, the Forest History Society (FHS) located at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, has successfully completed a $7 million capital campaign and officially opened a new library, archives, and headquarters.
The grand opening, May 3, 2019, drew more than 160 supporters and donors from throughout the U.S. Atlanta Hardwood Corporation was among the in-kind donors, recognized at the event for contributing architectural mouldings for the new library and headquarters. Mouldings were milled in the AHC White County Mouldings facility in Cleveland, GA, which has been producing premium hardwood mouldings for more than 50 years.
The FHS is the world’s largest private library and archives of forest and conservation history. FHS is world-renowned for its unique holdings and for advancing scholarship in forest and conservation history through its publications, educational outreach efforts and research.
In addition to the expanded space for collections and archival materials, the new FHS headquarters has a state-of-the-art conference facility with live-streaming capabilities, a processing center that will enable more efficient digitization of historic photographs and records, and a soundproof oral history interview suite specifically designed for recording the lives and expertise of forest workers and leaders to capture information unavailable anywhere else in the historical record.
Since its establishment in 1946, FHS has published dozens of books and produced three award-winning films. Its most recent is the Emmy Award–winning America’s First Forest, a documentary about Dr. Carl Alwin Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School. Researchers all over the world can access FHS’s free research portal (at www.foresthistory.org), which contains more than 45,000 searchable topics and 22,000 photographs. Those needing further assistance may contact FHS library staff through the “Ask a Question” feature on the FHS website, or by phone at (919) 682-9319.
The FHS looks forward to growing its archival collections and offering new and engaging programs. Forest products organizations, family land owners, and others seeking a permanent home for their records, are welcome to contact Steven Anderson, president and CEO, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The library is open to the public Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., for forest and conservation history research and exploration.
New Library Ceiling
Etched Glass Panels Installed in Reading Room
Library Shelves Being Stocked
View of the Library
By Hal Mitchell, President, Atlanta Hardwood Corporation
It’s not often that we see a revolutionary new process in the lumber industry. New developments in thermal modification may well be one of these processes.
The idea is relatively simple: heat lumber to above 320° F in a low-oxygen atmosphere to produce chemical and physical changes in the wood’s cellular structure. The heat treatment results in improved durability and increased dimensional stability. The improved stability allows for a superior flooring performance where minimizing movement is important.
Thermally modified lumber (TML) has been widely accepted in Europe for decades and is finally making its way to North American industrial production. While the treatment concept is relatively simple, the technology is complex and costly. Also, there is little history of treatment schedules (recipes) for most North American species. Each species and thickness requires a unique treatment temperature and duration to achieve proper modification levels. Entry barriers, lengthy learning curves, and lack of production standardization have kept American production relatively low.
There are two basic treatment systems: open and closed. Open systems use atmospheric pressure or a vacuum during treatment, while closed systems operate under high pressure. Open systems require drying the wood to nearly zero percent moisture content during the treatment phase to reach temperatures above 212° F. Open systems comprise most of the worldwide production. Closed systems require high pressure often above 100 psi. This allows for the material to retain moisture during treatment, which results in less shrinkage stress and lower degrade. Closed system cycle times are much faster, but the throughput is typically lower. Additionally, closed systems may not require as much heat to provide sufficient modification levels.
The treatment process uses only heat and steam, so it is completely “green” with no introduced chemicals. During treatment, the wood undergoes both physical and chemical changes. Some sugars are “burned” away (decomposed), leading to a reduction in food source for decay fungi. Wood color is changed through its cross-section to a darker color resembling walnut or tropical imports. The energy input also develops a much more stable product. Bond sites on cell walls provide for dimensional movement in wood as they attract and release water molecules with environmental changes.
One theory on the increased dimensional stability of thermally modified woods is that during the thermal modification process, enough energy is introduced to crosslink these sites and limit the woods ability to absorb water. Thermal treatment significantly reduces the available bond sites for water molecules, so dimensional stability is improved. Research indicates that dimensional movements due to moisture uptake can be reduced 50-90 percent (Jamsa and Viitaniemi, 2001).
Thermal modification reduces many of the mechanical properties of wood. Increased brittleness and decreased strength occur with bending strength reductions of 30 percent or more depending on treatment intensity (Kubojima et al., 2000). Hardness decrease is relatively limited at approximately 3 percent, but can vary tremendously by treatment levels. A “burnt” odor is produced during the process and can remain present in the wood. The unpleasant smell results largely from furfural production and can be limited if a vacuum is pulled during the final production phase. The odor will dissipate over time and can be negated once sealed.
The stability enhancement can allow wood products to be used in new and improved applications including flooring. Treatment will limit the dimensional change of wide plank flooring. This idea is often used by European plank flooring manufacturers when decay is not an issue as the dimensional stability can be greatly enhanced without reaching full modification and color change. Where stability is extremely important, such as basement or porch flooring, thermal modification will provide significant performance improvement. Of course, no wood product is 100 percent stable, so often micro-beveled edges are used in areas subject to large humidity changes. Moisture content is lowered in treated wood. Typically, thermally modified wood is dried to 4.5-6 percent. Lower moisture content is a good attribute when lightweight installation is needed such as garage doors and shutters.
Current markets, particularly in Europe, consist heavily of three products: cladding, decking, and flooring. Softwoods comprise the majority of the worldwide production, but hardwoods are gaining popularity. Historically, untreated American hardwoods could not be used in cladding or decking, but with the thermal treatment process, they perform well.
TML characteristics are similar to the untreated species characteristics. After treatment, finish quality often improves, grain patterns remain the same, and the sapwood and heartwood often become difficult to distinguish. Increased brittleness requires sharp tooling and often eased or beveled edges are preferred due to chipping. The material glues well with non-water based adhesives.
Stainless steel fasteners are often necessary for installation. Flooring installation requires extra caution with the degree of brittleness. Brittleness is dependent on treatment level and species, tongue breakage is a concern.
Finishing typically requires oil-based products, but there are specially formulated water-based products that are becoming popular as well. The wood oxidizes (grays) quickly to a silver patina unless treated with a UV inhibitor. While the finish life is improved due to increased wood stability, the UV inhibitors will typically need to be reapplied annually in areas with direct UV contact.
North America currently lacks the support of a thermally modified wood industry association to promote increased production and utilization of thermally modified wood; however, the American Wood Production Association (AWPA) is working to provide standardization. To ensure that TML manufacturers are properly treating their material and not overstating the performance properties, there will need to be a collaborative effort to provide user standards. Mechanical and durability tests will need to be performed on the North American species; some of this work is currently underway by the University of Minnesota Duluth at the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI). Product quality can vary due to initial lumber quality, treatment recipes, and kiln types. It will be imperative that specifiers, installers, and consumers are educated on proper installation techniques and performance expectations to prevent market failure and “overselling” of performance capabilities.
We have a unique opportunity to create new and improved uses for North American lumber through the thermal modification process. This opportunity is rare in our industry, and we must be diligent to ensure manufacturers and customers have realistic expectations of the TML.
Hal Mitchell is President of Atlanta Hardwood Corporation based in Mableton, Georgia. He has been with the AHC Hardwood Group since 1999 and has a Master of Science Degree in Forest Products Marketing and Management from Virginia Tech. AHC operates a closed-system thermal modification plant in Cleveland, Georgia. He can be reached at 800-476-5393 / 706-865-3166 or via email. To learn more about Atlanta Hardwood, visit hardwoodweb.com.
Jamsa, S., Viitaniemi P., 2001. Heat Treatment of Wood Better Durability Without Chemicals. In: Rapp, A.O., Review On Heat Treatments of Wood. Cost Action E22. Proceedings of Special Seminar, Antibes, France, pp. 17-21.Kubojima, Y., Okano, T., Ohta, M., 2000. Bending Strength and Toughness of Heat-Treated Wood. Journal of Wood Science 46, pp. 8-15.
Mableton, GA – Atlanta Hardwood Corporation, located here, which recently rebranded as AHC Hardwood Group, has been continually pioneering new hardwood markets since its founding 65 years ago. Recently, AHC installed a state-of-the-art, high-pressure thermo-modification kiln at their moulding plant in Cleveland, GA. The company’s new product offering, VikingWood™, is ideal for exterior applications, including siding, cladding, porch flooring, shutters, doors, rain screens, decking and window framing. Thermo-modification improves stability, repels moisture and is chemical free (www.vikingwood.org) providing green options for architects and builders looking for alternatives to chemically-treated wood products.
Atlanta Hardwood was founded in 1952 by James W. Howard Sr. in Knoxville, TN. Howard started as a lumber broker selling to furniture manufacturers in eastern Tennessee. In the mid-1950s, he moved to Atlanta and leased kilns on Glenwood Avenue near downtown. His brothers, Sid and Lee, joined the company, which became known as Howard Lumber and Kilns. By 1960, they had built a plant nine miles outside of town in Mableton, GA, and Atlanta Hardwood became the sales arm for Howard Lumber. In 1966, they opened a second plant in Huntersville, NC, to service the furniture industry. In 1992, James’ son, Jim Howard, became chief executive officer and principal owner.
Today, AHC includes nine operating facilities, including four drying yards, a moulding plant, several affiliated southeastern distribution warehouses, and a logistics company. AHC’s lumberyards are located in Crystal Spring, PA; Huntersville, NC; Clarksville, TN; and Cleveland. AHC kiln yards are strategically located near the Appalachian timber region and east coast ports.
In 2010, AHC acquired Craig Lumber, which is now the import division of AHC Hardwood Group–AHC Import Lumber (www.ahcimportlumber.com). Both the import and export divisions operate in Huntersville.
In addition to mouldings produced in a state-of-the-art facility in Cleveland, known as White County Mouldings, the yards offer S2S, planing, gang ripping, specialty sorting, export packaging and overseas freight services. According to Vice President of Remanufacturing Operations Zack Rickman, “Offering a diverse range of products allows us a competitive advantage. On a single truck, we can deliver domestic and exotic products from lumber and blanks, to millwork in both solid and finger-jointed form.”
AHC has a diverse inventory of 75 species of domestic and imported premium Hardwood. Through its import division, AHC’s inventory includes some of the most desired species from around the world. The company also sells worldwide to customers, direct from the source. Their offerings include African Hardwoods, such as Bubinga, Black Limba, Sapele and Zebrawood, and South American Hardwoods, such as Peruvian Walnut, Red Grandis, Ipe and Jatoba. By offering customers both domestic and imported species, AHC Hardwood Group is able to streamline ordering and offer mixed loads for efficient, cost-effective purchasing.
In January 2016, Hal Mitchell was promoted to president of AHC Hardwood Group and is responsible for overall operations at all company facilities. He frequently tours each facility and helps troubleshoot any issues. His motto, inherited from company founder James Howard, is “expect and inspect” and Mitchell believes his managers must have autonomy to make decisions as long as they are consistent with the company principals, culture and goals. “This year,” Mitchell noted, “AHC implemented two new corporate initiatives to improve business processes and company performance. We’ve learned to focus on a couple of key initiatives per year.” He continued, “By incentivizing all managers and supervisors to focus on better inventory controls and recruitment/retention plans, we’re enhancing our performance and profitability.”
According to CEO Jim Howard, “We don’t bet the ranch, but we are continually striving for improvements. We’ll invest in technology if we see a payback. All of our trucks now have tracking software and we have recently invested in a thermo-modification kiln and a planer mill upgrade.”
The state-of-the-art thermo-modification kiln was installed at the moulding plant in Cleveland in mid-2016 to produce their newest product offering, VikingWood. Through the use of a high-pressure chamber, the thermo-modification kiln burns all of the sugar out of the lumber, causing chemical reactions at the cell wall bonding sites, so they can no longer absorb water. After thermo-modification, what’s left is a board resistant to decay that could be used in exterior applications because of its stability and resistance to moisture. When lumber is processed through a thermo-modification kiln, it has a dark chocolate color, so lighter looking species like Ash or Poplar can sometimes be substituted for Walnut. “This is a whole new market for American Hardwoods,” said Mitchell, “and AHC is excited to be on the forefront.”
Besides thermo-modification, a second corporate initiative in the past 12 months has been the founding of a logistics business called AHC Logistics. Six-year veteran, Chris Rider, heads up the company’s logistics team headquartered in Huntersville. AHC Logistics not only serves AHC’s freight needs, but also is a licensed third-party logistics freight provider. Rider noted, “We have 11 trucks in our fleet, not counting local distribution trucks, and we handle all of AHC Hardwood Group’s import and export-based logistics. In addition, we are currently supporting two of our lumberyards, as well as the shipping needs of White County Mouldings.” As a third-party provider, AHC Logistics also specializes in handling building material freight hauled on flatbeds such as stone, steel or softwood lumber.
Company-wide, AHC employs approximately 300 individuals. Today, the people strategy is as important as long-term capital investments. AHC invests in ongoing training programs and has a long-standing relationship with North Carolina State University and Virginia Tech. Numerous managers and officers, including Mitchell, started their careers as interns. This past year, AHC also completed several large capital projects to expand its niche product offerings and services and to drive product quality.
Howard noted, “AHC is proud of our company heritage and family-friendly culture. We’re a family-owned business offering quality Hardwood products with values based in integrity, loyalty, determination and a strong work ethic. As a successful multi-generational company, we have a long-term vested interest in sustainable forestry. We believe in the future of the forestry industry and hope that our values and commitment to it encourage others to think of us for their Hardwood needs.”
Facility and contact information for AHC Hardwood Group is listed below
– AHC Hardwood Group: 800-476-5393, 706-865-3166 / Email: email@example.com.
– AHC Import Lumber 800-476-5393, 706-865-3166 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
– AHC Export Lumber, 800-476-5393, 706-865-3166 / Email: email@example.com.
– White County Mouldings 800-476-5393, 706-865-3166 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Hardwoods of Tennessee 877-989-9663, 931-802-2534 / Email: email@example.com.
AHC Hardwood Group is a member of several lumber associations, including: the National Hardwood Lumber Association; International Wood Products Association; Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc.; Hardwood Distributors Association; Hardwood Manufacturers Association; Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association; American Hardwood Export Council; Penn-York Lumbermen’s Club; Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association; and the Tennessee Forestry Association. More information is available by visiting www.hardwoodweb.com.
When walking into the front lobby of the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Atlanta, Georgia, you are immediately struck by a lobby that perfectly balances sophistication with an open welcoming atmosphere. The lobby is part of a much larger capital campaign that allowed Cristo Rey to expand by renovating a former Oxford Industries building. Much like the school’s approach to its education priorities, the renovation breathed life into a building that no one was sure what to do with and made it shine.
Cristo Rey is no ordinary Catholic school. It offers a very unique high school education experience, giving Atlanta’s economically disadvantaged students a way to prepare for college, the workforce, and life. Cristo Rey’s unique program offers students a college preparatory curriculum, but this intensive program doesn’t come free. “When all of our students come here to register for school, we also register them as our employees,” explains Bill Garrett, President of Cristo Rey. Students attend classes while also working for one of the school’s corporate partners, earning a large portion of their tuition. Parents are also expected to chip in, on a sliding scale. “Two-thirds of our operating budget is provided by students working with our corporate partners,” explains Camille Naughton, Vice President of Advancement and Corporate Partnerships. The remainder of the costs are covered by parent contributions and philanthropy.
The lobby of their new education building was an important design element. The lobby needed to set the tone of success for the school,” Naughton explained. “We are very pleased with the design. The lobby needed to be sophisticated, polished, and professional while also giving being warm and inviting and I feel that’s exactly what was achieved.” She continued, “What an amazing gift AHC Hardwood Group has given us.”
AHC Hardwood Group frequently donates wood for non-profit community projects. Chief Executive Officer Jim Howard feels strongly about giving back. “As a company, it’s important that we support programs in our local communities”. He explained, “By donating exquisite hardwoods for community projects, we are able to provide high quality environmental and architecturally interesting building products, showcasing the warmth and versatility of wood, and help support the community.”
Details, a local corporate interior design firm, proposed a high visibility wood treatment for the lobby. AHC Hardwood worked with Details Owner and Designer Jillian Carr Mitchell to select the perfect wood. “With over 45 wood species to choose from, we worked to find the right combination of look and function for the project,” explained Stewart Sexton, Import Lumber Senior Product Specialist for AHC Hardwood Group. “We chose White Limba for its clean lines and contemporary feel.” The design plan called for a wood with straight grain, consistent color, and a modern look overall. The golden colored sapwood also coordinated well with the anigre furniture used in the space. “We are really pleased with how the wood wall project came out,” said Naughton. “When people come into the lobby, they are immediately drawn to the wall. Many even reach out and touch it.”
The lobby is just the start of the variety of ways that Cristo Rey sets the tone for success. With their first graduating class leaving for college in 2018 with a 100% acceptance rate and over $12.8 million in financial aid and scholarships, Cristo Rey Atlanta is well on its way to leaving their mark.
Cristo Rey Atlanta thanks the 2018/19 corporate sponsors for their continued participation and support. The Cristo Rey Network is comprised of 32 high schools that serve over 11,000 young people from low-income backgrounds, living in urban communities with limited educational options. If you would like to learn more about the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Atlanta, visit their website: CristoReyAtlanta.org,