New design values for Southern pine take effect today, ending the almost six month phase-in period and marking the first design value changes to Southern pine in two decades. The changes reduce by 25% to 30% some of the design values, but not all, for Southern pine and mixed Southern pine.

The changes were brought before the American Lumber Standard Committee (ALSC) by the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau (SPIB) in a proposal made public last fall. The ALSC, a quasi-governmental agency that oversees and approves lumber grading standards, approved the changes in early January and gave the date for the implementation.

The proposal originally created an outcry from industry associations and trade groups that argued such changes could cause a drop in demand and would devalue whole inventories. Following the ALSC’s rulings, many associations toned down their remarks and tried to find the good in the decision.

"The Structural Building Components Association (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 in January.

Forest Economic Advisors, a consulting group focused on the timber and lumber trades, said 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.

“Southern Pine remains one of the best construction products on the market today,” said Cathy Kaake, senior director of engineered and framing markets for the Southern Forest Products Association. “Southern Pine users have many available product options, including visually graded dimension lumber and an increasing supply of mechanically graded lumber.”