A Perceptional Comparison of Wood in Separate Infrastructure Markets

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Virginia Tech


Decision-makers involved in material choice decisions in the United States infrastructure were surveyed to identify factors which are important in the material choice decision and to determine the perceptions of wood in various infrastructure applications. This information led to the development of strategies to increase the use of wood in infrastructure markets across the US. The highway, marine/inland waterway, railroad and utility systems composed the four markets representing the US infrastructure. A total of 2344 questionnaires were mailed nationwide. The perceptions of wood were further defined through personal interviews with 112 individuals in four geographically dispersed states.

The most important factors in material choice decisions were durability, maintenance and cost. Environmental impact, ease of design and innovativeness of material were less important in the material choice decision. Highway and marine/inland waterway respondents perceived wood to be among the lowest materials in overall performance. Railroad and utility respondents perceived wood to have significantly better overall performance than highway and marine/inland waterway respondents.

Respondents perceived wood's advantages to be its aesthetically pleasing appearance, low initial cost, ease in repair and ease in field modification. They perceived the disadvantages of wood to be high life-cycle costs, high maintenance requirements and low biological decay resistance. Several strategies are suggested to increase wood use in infrastructure, including: greater market approach by the wood products industry, improved timber structure design details, and increased service life of wood through improved chemical preservative treatments.



Wood, Infrastructure, Highway, Marine, Inland, Waterway, Railroad, Utility, Structures, Perceptions, Factors, Materials