The movement towards environmentally-conscious building has significantly changed the way structures are being designed.
The LEED® program and rating system has achieved popularity nationwide, and has positively impacted how architects and builders approach their projects. To put this surge in interest into perspective, in 2006 there were less than 300 certified LEED buildings. In 2017, there were over 65,000 LEED certifications granted.
The use of responsible and renewable materials is an integral part of achieving LEED certification. There are a number of different materials that align with these standards, including traditional wood products.
Sustainable vs. Renewable Wood Products
Before discussing how to determine whether a wood product is the right fit for your projects, it's important to understand some common terminology.
Since the start of this building trend, some phrases have been overused. The primary offender is the word “sustainable.” It is one of the most popular terms used to describe products that are suitable for LEED and similar projects.
Unfortunately, this phrase is vague, which has led the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to adopt stricter guidelines on how sustainable products are described. This benefits consumers as companies are now required to more accurately describe their products.
Seek out a company that explains how their products are beneficial to the environment, rather than simply using loose terms. For example, a hardwood plywood brand may describe their product as “sustainable” without describing why they've labeled their product as such.
Instead, look for a company that offers a responsibly-sourced product that has been manufactured in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.
Why Renewable Wood Products Are Important
In an ideal world, all wood products used in construction are grown, harvested and manufactured in a way that aligns with responsible forestry practices. Irresponsible forestry causes devastation to forests worldwide, which why many companies today only source products from reputable businesses.
Deforestation is a very real concern that has decimated jungles and forests. The Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC) is the primary authority on responsible forestry, maintaining the most recognized certification for renewable wood products.
The FSC was founded in 1990 to combat the growing global issue of deforestation. They estimate that deforestation, and the overall destruction of forests, is the second highest cause of carbon pollution. Roughly 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the harvesting and poor handling of timber.
Opting for responsible wood products lets you play a role in reducing emissions, as well as helping to preserve and eventually regrow damaged forests and jungles. By taking business away from negligent lumber companies, you contribute to saving our forests, protecting native flora and fauna, and the construction of healthier, safer buildings.
Responsible Forestry and FSC Certifications
The most effective way of determining whether a lumber product is an ethical choice is to see if it's FSC-certified. The FSC certification is considered the gold standard of responsible forestry due to their strict certification guidelines.
The Forest Management certification is given businesses that grow and harvest raw timber. Companies purchasing raw timber with the purpose of producing their own responsible finished products must ensure that their source has a Forest Management certification.The Chain of Custody certification is given to companies that sell wood products to consumers. Products that are FSC-certified show the consumer that the lumber has been grown and harvested by a certified woodlot in addition to being manufactured in a way that adheres to healthy building design principles.