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uni'wissen 02-2013_ENG

People walk on it, sit on it, and build with it: wood. Whether for the floor or for furniture, wood is a popular and versatile natural product for interior design. In order to get the best out of wood, Prof. Dr. Gero Becker, professor of forest utilization at the University of Freiburg, and other researchers initiated the project “What Makes Wood So Attractive? Transforming Customers’ Emotions into Material Characteristics.” It began in 2011, will run until 2014, and is receiving fund- ing from the Baden-Württemberg Foundation within the context of the program “International Top Research II.” “Up to now, the market has developed its prod- uct range and set prices in accordance with the idea that only timber with a flawless surface can be categorized as ‘premium’ wood,” says Becker. Logs with knots, unevenly spaced growth rings, or various kinds of discolorations are generally regarded as being of inferior quality and thus command a lower price. However, pilot studies conducted in Sweden indicate that there are also customers who prefer surfaces with variations in color and grain and are by no means only inter- ested in premium wood. Becker and his team are drawing on these studies in their project: “Our goal is to increase the profitability of high-grade Flawless or with knots? In a survey, the scientists asked customers to rate floor patterns made of spruce wood Photos: Chair of Forest Utilization wood by finding out what customers want and taking their preferences into account when cut- ting logs into timber at the sawmill.” In order to achieve this, Becker has engaged researchers from several different disciplines and departments for the project. The main task Becker and his research assistant Andreas Man- uel from the Institute of Forest Utilization and Work Science are working on is to determine what customers want and to translate these pref- erences into measurable characteristics. They received support from Dr. Rainer Leonhart from the Institute of Psychology of the University of Freiburg in designing and conducting the survey. The results of the survey were passed on to Dr. Franka Brüchert and Lorenz Breinig from the Forest Testing and Research Institute of Baden- Württemberg (FVA) in Freiburg: They are devel- oping methods to saw logs in such a way that the resulting timber meets the aesthetic demands of the customers. Also participating in the project are the wood research institute SP Trä and the Wood Science and Engineering Institute of the Luleå Tekniska Universitet in Skellefteå, Sweden. The starting point of the project was 58 Nor- way spruces from the Black Forest. The team “Up to now, the market has developed its product range and set prices in accordance with the idea that only timber with a flawless surface can be categorized as ‘premium’ wood” 33