Q. So you would be saving money on firefighting and damage to forests while creating a high-demand product?
A. You would have that (low-value) wood coming (out of the forests) and now the rate of catastrophic fires (begins) to come down. We've estimated that we probably could save 12 to 15 percent of our fire expenditures if we had an aggressive wood-based nanotechnology program that's being developed by the
Q. What piqued your interest in wood?
A. I was born in East L.A. (
Q. How do you get young people interested in forestry?
A. The money is a problem. My first job, now this is 45 years ago, was
Q. Having the research facility in
A. Those scientists at the laboratory have the wonderful ability to do applied and basic research at the same time. With the work that they do, they really worry about it being constantly relevant to improve people's lives. Wood-based nanotechnology is very technical. You have a range of scientists at the FPL that are (working on) short-term to long-term stuff, and that is a wonderful nuance.
Q. What kind of things can we look for from the lab in the next 10 years?
A. We want to make sure that whatever we do affects investments in the economy, creates new jobs and accelerates forest restoration. There are 851 million acres of forest across the country, from rural to urban. About 400 million of those are in need of some type of restorative action to keep them healthy and sustainable. The lab needs to work on things that address that.
Q. What is the Green Building Construction Initiative?
A. If you think about the culture of engineers, they come out of school thinking about concrete and steel. A lot of codes can easily illustrate that reasonable uses of wood in commercial construction makes perfect sense, and we're going to keep advancing that. There's a culture that associates wood with commercial buildings as bad. I'm not talking about 100-story buildings. But up to 30 stories we have shown that wood is really cost effective, lasts longer, is renewable and the way to go.
Q. What can FPL do to help the state's shrinking paper industry?
A. We're constantly thinking of new coatings. The wood-based nanotechnology can be an interesting additive to make paper smart paper. (Imagine) wallpaper that is really a flat screen TV that has electric capabilities to it. We really need to rethink trees.
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