Value engineering – what is it? According to Dictionary.com, to value means “to calculate,” and engineering refers to “the art or science of making practical application of the knowledge of pure sciences” or “skillful or artful contrivance; maneuvering.” Applied to lumber and building, value engineering refers to planning based on the specific characteristics (particularly size and availability) of the lumber species at hand. Some species require more careful value engineering than others, due to their natural limitations or market-driven issues; Teak is one of those species and falls into the latter category.
Sourcing Difficulties for Teak
When it comes to availability, Teak is up against some pretty difficult issues. First, there’s the long distance from the Myanmar forests to North American lumber yards. But there’s something else, too: economic sanctions preventing many importers from purchasing Teak directly from the source. As a result of these issues, Teak prices (per board foot) have been on the rise for decades. Unlike most lumber species, for which premium quality and extra wide or long boards are understandably higher priced, even short, narrow Teak boards with plenty of defects are considered valuable.
Size Limitations for Teak
In a typical load of either domestic or exotic lumber, we expect that a certain percentage will be short, narrow boards, depending on the species. For Teak, that percentage is particularly high. In addition to the higher percentage, the definitions are different, too: while a “short” board is usually one under 8 feet long, a Teak “short” is under 6 feet. So if you use the traditional definition of “short” instead, the percentage of short boards in a typical load of Teak would be even higher.
Quality Issues for Teak
While marine applications retain the highest demand for FEQ Teak, its gorgeous golden appearance with straight, vertical grain and high degree of resilience have made this species increasingly popular for other uses, too. The problem is that while marine applications absolutely require FEQ Teak, everyone else wants the highest grade, as well. Combined with size limitations, this means that everyone wants the quality of Teak that’s a pretty low percentage of the volume purchased. And as the demand for wide and long FEQ Teak continues to rise, it requires lumber suppliers to purchase even more Teak that no one wants. This scenario, of course, drives prices up and leads to even more limitations on Teak availability.
This is where value engineering comes in. Realizing that Teak boards are generally smaller and shorter than those of other species, designers and builders can create project specifications that require 6-foot-long (and shorter) and 6-inch-wide (and narrower) boards. They realize that we all have to live within natural limitations of reality, not ideals. The higher percentage of a log that’s actually usable, the less waste will be produced, and the less the price point will rise (due to having to absorb the cost of waste). Not only does value engineering benefit the customer’s pocketbook and the lumber industry at large, but it also benefits our global ecology; it’s the green thing to do.
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J. Gibson McIlvain Company
With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods. As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House and Capitol building. Contact a sales representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling toll free (800) 638-9100.
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