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AHEC lauches first show house in China with specially commissioned interior design using US hardwoods

Shanghai, October 28, 2003 - The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) announced today the launch of its first show house in China to demonstrate the diversity, variety and quality of US hardwood applications for interior design and fittings. The 428-square-meter, three-story show house, located at the Oasis Riverside Villa in Zhujiajiao, Shanghai, was a joint effort with developer Shanghai Zhu Fu Estate Co, a subsidiary of Shanghai Real Estate.

"Rapid economic growth and deregulation of the housing sector in China have created a new generation of increasingly affluent, savvy consumers who are eager to outfit their living space with quality interior decoration and furnishings made with US hardwoods. In 2002, China topped the international market as the largest importer of US hardwood products. In first seven-months of 2003, the total value of direct import of US hardwood products reach US$109 million, representing a 13.9% year-on-year increase. Including Hong Kong, the total value is US$174 million. The completion of this signature show house in China is a testimony of our continued commitment to this important market," said Michael Snow, Executive Director of AHEC.

"We have seen rapid growth in the market. Housing sales in the first six months rose 44.8 percent from a year ago to US$25.4billion. The rapid rise of disposable income in China has led to greater consumer demand for high quality housing and increased appreciation for interior decoration and furnishing. We are building homes that satisfy these needs. US hardwoods are well known for their quality and variety, and can perfectly match with the overall design and architecture concept of our development. In addition, consumers are now more environmentally conscious. We are addressing this need with US hardwood, a renewable resource through its forestry management, which ensures its perpetual production. Use of US hardwoods also aligns with the "Natural" theme of the Oasis Riverside," said Mr. Shi Jiandong, Executive Director of Shanghai Real Estate Ltd.

Rising incomes in China and increasing sophistication of Chinese consumers' tastes with their living environment have boosted the demand for all kinds of wood products. Statistics showed that consumers in China had spent around US$9bn on wood products for interior decoration in 2001. Individual housing consumption and building expenses totaled US$54.3 billion in 2002, at a time when the income of Chinese consumers increased 9 percent in the first half of this year. Market demand for interior decoration is expected to increase exponentially.

"The show home is a vivid demonstration of how US hardwoods and veneer can be processed for a wide variety of trendy furniture and interior fittings, and how they can be applied, mixed and matched to achieve a uniquely tasteful interior. Thanks to the support of the Foreign Agriculture Service of the US Department of Agriculture, and Shanghai Zhu Fu Estate Co, we are able to give life to our signature home in China; and we are also very excited that we are now able to show to the consumers in China a real life example of what a quality home in the Chinese design style with US hardwood products is all about. US hardwood is well recognized as a high-end interior furnishing and decoration material, and this show home illustrates how the use of different wood species, textures and colors can bring exceptional style and character to a home and caters the needs of the Chinese consumers," said John Chan, Regional Director of AHEC's Southeast Asia and Greater China office.

The interior design of the show home is based on neo-classicism style. Renowned Hong Kong interior designer Patrick Fong combined various US hardwood species in an ingenious fusion of contemporary design and Chinese elements. "US hardwood is known for its exceptional quality and diverse applications. Awareness and acceptance for US hardwoods in Greater China has increased significantly over the past 10 years through AHEC efforts. Architects, interior designers and contractors have become increasingly knowledgeable and receptive to various applications of different US hardwood species," said Fong.

"Contrast is used to create differentiation for each section of the house. Five US hardwood species -- red oak, hard maple, walnut, cherry and white oak -- were used throughout, each providing a unique character. For example, red oak and hard maple flooring were used extensively in the show home. A walnut wood carving plaque with stylized Chinese calligraphy on the wall and the hard maple ceiling in the living room provide an opposing yet harmonizing effect, giving the space a very special character. In the master bathroom, an inspiring design of red oak is used as the surrounding planks for the bath tub," Fong added.

The show home is the first of its kind in China for AHEC, which will continue to explore similar opportunities in other parts of China and Asia. "We will continue to provide 'specifiers' in the industry with different technical support and guidance toward promoting the use of US hardwood products and enhancing their effective applications and competitiveness in the market. Looking ahead into 2004, we believe our China and Hong Kong markets will continue to register strong growth," Chan added.