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03 October 2008

58th General Assembly of WEI Lausanne, Switzerland, 3-6 September 2008

The European Institute for Wood Preservation, WEI, based in Brussels, held its 58th General Assembly and Annual Congress in Lausanne, on invitation of Mr Daniel Descoeudres of member company Bois-RIL from Palézieux.
The main focus of the discussions during the three-day meetings were current legislative developments affecting the operations of the member companies, such as the Biocidal products directive, technical developments and new techniques for wood treatment.
The keynote presentation at the conference was given by Mr Ed Pepke, Forest products marketing officer of the UNECE Timber Committee based in Geneva, who presented key data on the international wood products market based on the annual UNECE Forestry products review. Mr Pepke also drew attention to international trends and policy issues, such as the climate change debate and energy policy discussions, bringing about both challenges and opportunities for the woodworking sector, and made a number of very concrete suggestions to companies on how to deal with these.
Much attention was devoted to the biocidal products directive, which, having introduced a European evaluation scheme for all wood preservatives and their active substances, has already had immediate effects on the availability of wood preservatives to the companies.
WEI supports the main goals of the directive, being to bring about a high degree of protection for man and the environment, but is concerned that the economic and social benefits brought about by the wood treatment process and the treated timber, like poles, fencing, railway sleepers etc, are not always considered fully in the decision-making process. Therefore, the organization is closely monitoring developments and working closely with the relevant European authorities.
Dr Frank Werner presented the first results of a new LCA study performed on wood sleepers. It evaluates the environmental performance of wood sleepers treated with the latest generation of creosote and compares it with concrete and steel sleepers. The first results are most promising, indicating a leading position of the wood sleepers over the other materials for most parameters measured. The final study is likely to become available later this year.
Dr Yann Benoit of “Concepts bois structure – Concepts bois technologies” presented a non-destructive technique to perform quality control of poles in service and performance prior to installation in order to ensure lines with a low degree of maintenance and longer service-life.
Prof. Jean-Luc Sandoz launched a strong appeal to use more wood and presented several innovative applications for traditional sawn timber in structural applications. He also addressed the important role wood plays within the global debate on climate change and the inherent advantages the material has over other materials like steel and concrete.
Dr Ed Suttie of the Building Research Establishment, BRE, discussed the work of Cost Action E 37 on wood durability and the findings of a survey among European research institutes on how they believe the wood preservation sector will develop, which products will be used in future and which issues will be dominant in future debates.
The durability of heat-treated wood was the subject of the lecture by Mr Denny Ohnesorge, who presented the preliminary results of research performed in co-operation with the company of WEI President Dr. Patrick Corbat.
The WEI secretariat, finally, updated the members on the revision of the Construction Products Directive and the intentions of the EU to introduce legislation on the legal supply of wood and wood products and green public procurement matters.
During the General Assembly, held on 4th September 2009, WEI could welcome three new members. The companies Impregnacija from Slovenia and Baret sarl from France were accepted as Full members, next to the Norwegian organization Treindustrien that will represent all Norwegian companies active in wood preservation activities within the organization. An important decision was taken with regard to the management at the secretariat of WEI. Mr Frederik Lauwaert, legal adviser of WEI, was appointed secretary general in succession of Filip De Jaeger, who had been in charge of the organization since 1995. Mr De Jaeger will now focus more on his work within CEI-Bois, the European Confederation of Woodworking Industries, which manages WEI, but remains available to the institute as senior adviser.
The next annual congress of WEI will be held in Dresden, Germany, from 2nd to 5th September 2009.