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LACN convention draws green advocates

BY Brae Canlen

Outside the hotel, protestors held signs declaring, “Protesting Forests is Everyone’s Business.” Inside the hotel, lumber-yard owners listened to presentations on certified wood, solar panels and water-saving devices. So went the annual meeting of the Lumber Association of California and Nevada, held Nov. 1 to 3 at the Portola Plaza Hotel in Monterey, Calif.

The protest was organized by ForestEthics, a group that has targeted Sierra Pacific Industries, a lumber supplier in Redding, Calif., for its clear-cutting logging practices. A member of LACN, Sierra Pacific representatives were in attendance at the conference. A Sierra Pacific spokesperson told HCN that the environmental group has mischaracterized the company, which operates under sustainable forestry practices. “The state approves all of our timber harvesting,” the spokesperson said.

Green building kept surfacing throughout the three-day event, which was kicked off by Mark LaLiberte, a building industry consultant who frequently speaks on the topic of environmentally responsible homes.

“Green houses don’t have to be a yurt in the middle of nowhere,” LaLiberte told the assembled dealers. He outlined the many paths toward sustainability, from installing duct-work in hallway ceilings instead of overheated attics to $50 sensors that turn off lawn sprinklers whenever it rains.

In many instances, green building can be accomplished by simply employing best practices like pan flashing around windows and drainage behind exterior cladding, LaLiberte explained. But each product must work within a whole systems approach, he warned. In today’s airtight homes, for example, big house fans can cause problems by sucking unhealthy air out of the garage, where gasoline and garden chemicals are typically stored.

Dealers need to educate themselves on new products and installation methods so they can share this expertise with their customer base. “You might be a leader by showing a builder a product he didn’t know was possible,” LaLiberte said.

Becoming familiar with the green industry’s offerings also makes good business sense. “People don’t want to buy anything from someone who knows less than they do,” he observed.

One of the most controversial topics in the green building industry—the different ratings systems for certified wood—also came up for discussion at the LACN event. Kelly McCloskey of the Wood Promotion Network addressed the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) versus Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) issue during his presentation on a new initiative to increase the use of wood in non-residential markets.

Although wood shell construction is permitted for commercial buildings of four stories or less in California, “there’s a real tendency by the building communities to default away from wood, regardless of what the codes will allow,” McCloskey said. The new campaign, which is being launched in California, Georgia and the Carolinas, will try to persuade architects and builders to substitute wood products for concrete or steel in schools, libraries, firehouses, community centers and other non-residential buildings.

However, many of these buildings must be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council, which gives points for lumber only when it’s FSC-certified. Many dealers in the industry believe that all lumber should be considered a renewable resource and that other certification systems, such as SFI, should have equal footing with FSC.

McCloskey agreed. “Give the markets some options,” he said, urging dealers to lobby their legislators not to codify one set of green building standards over the other. Currently, 12 state legislatures have chosen LEED as the only acceptable standards for their green incentive programs, according to McCloskey.

In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation last month that would have mandated LEED standards (or their equivalent) in state buildings. The LACN and other representatives of the wood products industry had opposed the bills, saying they went too far in their effort to promote sustainable building practices.

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Lumber Liquidators closes IPO

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Toano, Va.-based specialty hardwood flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators has closed its initial public offering.

The company offered 10 million shares of common stock at a price of $11 per share, including 3.8 million shares offered by the company and 6.2 million shares offered by selling stockholders.

The company intends to use the net proceeds of approximately $36.4 million from the offering to repay outstanding debt and support the growth of the business, which includes plans for 25 stores in 2007, followed by 30 to 40 new stores per year until 2011.

Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch acted as joint book-running managers with Lehman Brothers, Banc of America Securities and Piper Jaffray serving as co-managers for the offering.

Lumber Liquidators has seen same-store sales growth of 8.5 percent to 9 percent each quarter this year. According to the company’s S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in 2006 Lumber Liquidators had sales of $332 million, up 35 percent from sales of $245 million in 2005.

The retailer currently operates 111 small-format stores in the United States. The company is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “LL.”

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NKT Holdings withdraws initial public offering

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Providence, R.I.-based HVAC company NTK Holdings has canceled its initial public offering according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week.

The company said that the application was withdrawn “due to the unsettled market conditions.” The company had planned to use the IPO proceeds to repay debt.

The announcement was part of Nortek’s third-quarter earnings statement. Nortek, which reported a 4 percent increase in sales, is a subsidiary of NKT.

The company reported net earnings of $37.6 million for the period ended Sept. 29, down 44.9 percent from last year’s earnings of $67.7 million in the same period last year. Nortek also reported net sales of $602 million, up 4 percent from $579 million last year.

NTK Holdings manufactures air conditioning, heating ventilation and home environmental control technology products.

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