Certified Wood Products

Certified wood products are those made from lumber harvested in a sustainable manner and certified by a reliable third party. The certifying groups most active at this time are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). The LEED rating system only awards points for FSC-certified wood, partly for historical reasons and partly because it is the most rigorous third-party rating system. However, Green Globes and the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) Green Home Building Guidelines also recognize the SFI and CSA systems. As a practical matter, most of the timber harvested in the US comes from public lands and is not certified to

Bainbridge Island, Washington, City Hall, features FSC-certified CollinsWood hem-fir and ponderosa pine from Collins Pine Company's forest in Chester, California.

any standard. Among certifications, typically from private woodlands, FSC has about 25% of the market (at the beginning of 2007) and SFI about 75%.23

Certified wood products all carry a "chain of custody" certificate that tracks the lumber from the forest to the end-user. LEED-certified projects must use certified wood products for 50% of the value of all permanent wood-based materials in a building, including flooring, dimensional lumber (2-by-4s and the like), subflooring, roof decks, paneling, door cores and cabinetry. Softwood, typically used for structural purposes, carries little cost premium, while hardwood, using in finished carpentry such as cabinets and furniture, still carries some cost premium, often depending on whether the seller is vertically integrated (owns their own woodlands, mills, etc.) or not.

One very interesting development in the past few years has been the growth of underwater salvage logging from thousands of reservoirs around the world that have dead but usable trees. Think of a reservoir as a drowned valley, and you'll appreciate the beauty of the concept. A Canadian company, Triton Logging, has developed a unique, remote-controlled submersible logging machine (dubbed the Sawfishâ„¢) to do the trick and to float the logs to the surface. Triton Logging expects its SmartWood Rediscovered certified (by the Rainforest Alliance) salvage lumber to be widely used in green building projects, since it can be harvested about 20% cheaper, with a much smaller environmental footprint, than standing timber in a forest.

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