USDA logo Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches and Communities

Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)

Providing information on wood housing, forest products technologies, commercial opportunities, and current research and development programs

Program Basics
The USDA Forest Service's Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), established in 1910 in Madison, WI, serves as a centralized wood research laboratory and a clearinghouse for information on the uses of wood. FPL's research and demonstration programs are accomplished through coordinated partnerships involving industry, university, and government.

Innovations developed at the Forest Products Laboratory are patented and licensed for use in private companies for commercial application. The Forest Service Patent Program coordinates its services with the USDA Office of Technology Transfer. The Technology Marketing Unit of the FPL serves as a focal point for transferring information by matching customer needs with existing research. The general public, industry, regulatory agencies, state and private foresters, educators, and other government agencies and organizations use FPL information to build better wood homes, solve wood use problems, or develop improved wood processing systems.

Project Examples
Partnership Aiming for Faster Research Results
One major hurdle to durability research is the amount of time it takes to obtain results; studying materials in real-life, or in-service, scenarios can take years. To address this issue in one area of durability research, researchers at FPL and the University of Wisconsin are working together to develop methods that correlate in-service performance of metal fasteners and controlled corrosion experiments in wood. One step in developing this correlation is to understand how uncertainties in measurements affect the calculated corrosion rate in a controlled environment. The next step will be to compare metals immersed in a solution of preservative chemicals with corrosion of metals in contact with treated wood. The goal of this collaborative effort is to develop a qualitative test that mimics the corrosion behavior of metals in contact with treated wood without using actual wood specimens. Such a test would be of great value in rapidly evaluating the corrosiveness of new wood preservatives.

Promoting Commercial Success Through Economic Analysis
After having worked with a commercial partner, Wyoming Sawmills, to develop value-added laminated lumber products from undesirable timbers, FPL economists created a computer program, called LamLum, to analyze economics of laminated lumber manufacturing facilities. The model is now available to anyone interested in a business venture of this nature.

Product Promotes Healthy Ecosystems and Rural Economy
Western juniper and pinyon pine have spread over millions of acres of rangeland in the west, lowering water tables and increasing erosion and pollution of streams and lakes. FPL's Engineered Composites Sciences unit developed a composite panel made from juniper and recycled high-density polyethylene plastic; creating a commercially valuable use for these species can help reduce their impact on the land. With the help of FPL's Technology Marketing Unit, P&M Signs, Inc., of Mountainair, New Mexico, now produces Altree™ based on this research.

Application and Financial Information
FPL staff provides information upon request, helps develop information needed, or suggests alternative sources of information or expertise. No financial assistance is available, although some technologies need partners to demonstrate or evaluate them, and FPL helps private-sector partners find sources of capital either through other USDA agencies or participating state government incentive programs.


Gordon E. Blum
1 Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: (608) 231-9200

Last Updated January 26, 2010

Please note: Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches and Communities is also available for download in PDF format.

PDF Icon800KB ~ 118 pages

ATTRA Logo Home | Site Map | Comments | Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Webmaster NCAT Logo