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Posts Tagged: California

New Fire Standards out of Anaheim Conference, Part One

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Committee E05 on Fire Standards is meeting this week in Anaheim, California. ASTM is a standards writing organization. Today many task groups met to review and consider changes to standard test methods. For example, the task group that oversees ASTM E-84, Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials met. This test is used to determine the flame spread rating (Class A, B, or C) for construction materials, and is one of the measures used to describe the performance of deck boards that comply with Chapter 7A of the California Building Code. Chapter 7A is the state code that applies to new construction in California. Today it was announced that a modified version of ASTM E-84, that subjects the test material to the standard flame for 30 minutes instead of 10 minutes, was approved as an ASTM standard. This is the test method used by the Office of the State Fire Marshal to determine if a material can be considered an “ignition resistant material.” This procedure has been used for a number of years, but it just became an official standard.

ASTM members at the Research Review Session in Anaheim, CA.

The ASTM Committee E05 on Fire Standards Research Review Session was held at the end of the day. The title of today’s session was “Quantification of Exterior Fire Exposure Metrics” Task Group Activities and Related Research Programs. The program consisted of four presentations:

-Joe Zicherman (a graduate of UC Berkeley) and President of Fire Cause Analysis, gave a talk titled “The Challenge of Wildfire/Bushfire Events”

-Jon Traw, a building code consultant and Task Group Chair for exterior fire exposures, presented information on a workshop held at the University of California Richmond Field Station in February of this year. This workshop followed the Fire and Materials 2011 conference that was held in San Francisco.

-Dr. Samuel L. Manzello, a researcher at the National Institute for Standards and Technology reported  on recent testing on building vulnerabilities that he has been leading in Japan.

-Steve Quarles, UCCE Forest Specialist reported on recent testing at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety Research Center. Co-authors for this presentation were Anne Cope, the Research Director at the Research Center and Jack Cohen, Researcher at the USDA Forest Service Fire Lab in Missoula Montana.

Tomorrow the subcommittee for exterior fire exposures will meet. Task groups that are developing standards for exterior-use materials are being developed within this subcommittee.

Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 11:50 AM
  • Posted By: Jaime Adler
  • Written by: Steve Quarles, UCCE Forest Specialist
Tags: building materials (1), California (7), fire (2)

How many tons of climate benefits are on that log truck?


Making estimates of the life cycle benefits of harvested sawlogs are now required as part of every timber harvest plan in California. While forest managers are intimately familiar with what happens in the forest and at the landing, we are dependent on others to synthesize current and historical data to come up with accurate estimates of the ‘carbon footprint’ of sawlogs after they have left our control. Unfortunately, a number of the common calculators used in California to estimate the life cycle benefits from sawlogs depend on historic and poorly documented estimates that significantly undercount the climate benefits of harvested products. This post highlights some noticeable differences between accounting systems and concludes that data-based estimates will clarify the often underestimated benefits of wood products with respect to global carbon storage impacts.

As anyone who has seen new wood buildings going up, there are many technological innovations, such as the I-Joists (shown below), that suggests that ever more building performance is being squeezed out of logs. A key question for any accounting system that is predicting future trends is how technological innovation is addressed in the estimates.


Source: Wood I-Joist Awareness Guide, AF&PA 2006



Both the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) Forest Protocol 3.2 (http://www.climateactionreserve.org/how/protocols/adopted/forest/current/) and the Calfire GHG Estimator (http://www.fire.ca.gov/resource_mgt/resource_mgt_forestpractice_pubsmemos_memos.php) refer to a USDA Forest Service document, GTR-NE-343 (Smith 2006) or the DOE 1605b publications with the same data tables as the key source for their estimates.  For simplicity, I will compare estimates based on current efficiencies with the California relevant data tables in Smith (2006). The following bar chart compares the estimated climate benefits from an initial delivery of 100 tons of sawlogs to a sawmill in California through all the end uses over a century.


sawlog graph


The bioenergy benefits estimates for the 2006 and 2009 USDA Forest Service publications are fairly similar but are ignored by both Climate Action Reserve (CAR) and Calfire. For whatever reason, CAR and Calfire treat bioenergy from wood residues as if they create no useful energy. However, the use of wood residues for energy is considered to be a climate benefit by both the California Energy Commission and in the national accounting that the US EPA provides to the International Program on Climate Change (IPCC) since they replace fossil fuel based sources of energy.

The other differences are how much wood gets wasted in the sawmill (an estimated 15.6% in Smith 2006 versus a measured 1.5% in the 2010 RPA document), the useful life span of the wood products, the efficiency of the collection of wood waste after consumers toss it out, and whether the landfill storage gets counted as carbon storage or not. We do not need to go into great detail here, but more recent data such as Skog (2008), Smith (2009), and US EPA (2011) all provide estimates that wood carbon is stored much longer in both products and landfills than estimated by Smith (2006). The difference between more recent and better documented life cycle analyses and the CAR and Calfire protocols are even greater since CAR and Calfire ignore bioenergy.

After all the numbers are in, it appears that the best practices for utilizing sawlogs in California can retain over 90% of the initial carbon storage benefits. Unfortunately, project level accounting systems that choose to use poorly documented historic estimates and ignore bioenergy (even though bioenergy meets the Renewable Portfolio Standard –RPS - in California) come up with much lower numbers that are out of sync with more recent work in North America and Europe. For example, accounting systems that only include the carbon in wood products assumes a carbon storage efficiency of only 25%. As I mentioned earlier, any consideration of technological innovation will further improve the amount of initial wood carbon that stays in storage or is used as bioenergy.

As California moves towards our stated goals to become more energy-efficient, reduce fossil fuel related emissions, and shift away from energy-intensive building materials, we will need to ‘double check’ our math when it comes to thinking about sawlogs once they leave the landing.



Skog, Kenneth E. 2008 Sequestration of carbon in harvested wood products for the United States. Forest Products Journal 58 (6):56-72.

Smith, James E., Linda S. Heath, Kenneth E. Skog, and Richard A. Birdsey. 2006. Methods for calculating forest ecosystem and harvested carbon with standard estimates for forest types of the United States GTR-NE-343. USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station: Newtown Square, PA.

Smith, W. Brad, tech. coord; Miles, Patrick D., data coord.; Perry Charles H., map coord,; Pugh, Scott A. Data CD coord. GTR-WO-78. 2009. Forest Resources of the United States, 2007. Washington, DC:  USDA Forest Service, Washington Office.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2011. Inventory of U. S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 – 2008.  http://epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html

Posted on Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 3:47 PM
  • Posted By: Jaime Adler
  • Written by: Bill Stewart, UCCE Forest Specialist
Tags: bioenergy (1), California (7), carbon (1), climate benefits (1), emissions (1), energy-efficient (1), sawlog (1), timber (1)

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