Industry and trade associations today tried to find good things to say about yesterday's American Lumber Standard Committee's (ALSC) decision to accept design value changes to Southern pine No. 2 2x4s.

The Structural Building Components Association (SBCA) took a positive tone regarding the decision. "SBCA believes the narrow ruling on the part of ALSC and the reasonable implementation date will allow for Southern pine specifiers and users to effectively plan for a reasonable marketplace transition," said the association on its website.

While it plans to help its members follow the instructions, Southern Forest Products Association (SFPA), which represents Southern pine interests, representatives said there was no sense of urgency. The association said it is telling members to finish current projects before worrying about implementing the changes.

"People can use whatever properties they are given, they just need to know what they are," said Cathy Kaake, SFPA's senior director of engineered and framing markets. "The effective date announcement was big."

The ruling even included a few lines in bold, italic lettering that seemed to project a sense of urgency and importance. "Although given the facts, circumstances, and controlling authority of this particular matter, the Board did not approve design values for the other sizes and grades and has recommended a future effective date, it cautions all interested parties to take note of all available information in making design decisions in the interim," the decision read.

It continued: "The values in the SPIB proposal represent approximately a 25-30% reduction. Many of the critics of the proposal acknowledged that some reductions were in order, albeit the magnitude of those reductions were disputed. All design professionals are advised in the strongest terms by the Board to evaluate this information in formulating their designs in the interim period."

Tom Searles, president of the ALSC, said the text was bolded to make readers and aware of important information and to make sure they analyze and understand the changes.

It was clear that dealers and builders didn't get everything they wanted. That feeling was obvious in the comments from the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA). "NLBMDA worked diligently to achieve a better outcome than the one that was proposed last October and we believe this decision, while not perfect, will help avoid major disruptions in the marketplace," said the association's president Michael O'Brien.

The NLBMDA also raised a concern over what the future holds for Southern pine, especially with testing of other dimensions currently underway.

"NLBMDA will continue to work with ALSC and other industry stakeholders to minimize additional uncertainty relative to this decision and, going forward, to establish a more orderly and transparent process for changes in design values for all species of lumber," said O'Brien.

The decision marked a milestone in an almost three month battle in which opponents of the plan voiced concerns over the harm it could do to the construction and construction supply industries.

Dealers fear the changes could affect the costs of projects by requiring more materials and could force customers to either alter or cancel existing projects.

The changes stem from a proposal brought forth by the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau, which called for design value changes to Southern pine lumber. The ALSC, a quasi-governmental agency that oversees and approves lumber grading standards, approved design value changes to 2x4s, but due to its own rules regarding grading it was unable to accept changes for dimensions which are yet to finish testing.

In a supplemental ruling released today, the ALSC announced that the changes are effective for all Southern pine 2x4s graded No. 2 and lower.

According to Forest Economic Advisors, a consulting group focused on the timber and lumber trades, the changes could create a potential demand loss of 1 billion to 2-1/2 billion board feet of Southern pine. All is not lost, however, as the consultancy predicts Southern pine to retain large parts of floor joist, roof rafter, truss chord, and beam and header markets.