A Special Series from North American Wholesale Lumber Association
source—from the forest floor to the finished product,” Fernholz says. “That is a unique benefit of wood products.” Still, there are objections to the use of wood as a construction material—objections that often are influenced by misperceptions about exactly what “renewable” and “sustainable” means, and objections that Fernholz believes can be addressed with more education and simple common sense. “Sometimes people misunderstand what it means when we say wood is a renewable material, and that is such a powerful attribute of wood,” she says. “Nobody’s out there saying that we’re going to run out of tomatoes—nobody’s saying ‘stop eating ketchup.’ If we keep using tomatoes, we’ll keep growing more—and it’s the same for wood. If we want more forests, they’re renewable, and we can choose to have more.” To address those misperceptions and provide resources for further education about the sustainability of wood products, Fernholz encourages builders to look for labels and certification, and do extensive online research—generally speaking , to get to know potential suppliers as much as possible (see sidebar). Here again, she says, wood as a building material is unique in that it’s possible to get a close-up look at the production process. “One of the things that’s unique to wood materials is that you can seek out forestry tours,” Fernholz says. “Every company I’ve ever worked with around the world is willing to open their doors and give tours—to see their planting practices first-hand, and to tour their mills. That’s one of the fun things about forestry: You can get right out there to see the forest, see what’s happening, and see exactly where materials
are coming from.” That kind of hands-on experience should help builders exploring the sustainability aspects of wood to get direct exposure to the innovations being applied from the forest to the finished product that are increasing the versatility of wood and the different ways it can be used, she says—including steps to reduce waste in the manufacturing process, increased energy efficiency, and new material engineering methods. “Increasingly, we are seeing wood being embraced as a high-tech material,” Fernholz says. Fernholz notes that she is seeing more information exchange and collaboration about sustainable building practices and materials across a wide range of sectors, which is increasing the opportunity to educate people on the attributes of wood materials and contributing to the expansion of a community of people who share similar values and practices. So, as a forester who loves trees as much as she loves the building products innovation they make possible, Fernholz requests that people keep an open mind, do their research, investigate their potential suppliers thoroughly, and not be blinded by preconceived notions about sustainability. “If you love trees, don’t use that as an excuse to not love wood,” she says. “If people who care deeply about the resource could care as deeply about the materials it makes possible, it all comes together.” For the opportunity to learn more about the sustainability practices of hundreds of industry-leading suppliers, be sure to join 1,500 buyers and sellers of forest products at NAWLA’s 2016 Traders Market, Oct. 26-28, at The Mirage in Las Vegas. Learn more or register at nawla.org.
Resources for Sustainable Resourcing A wealth of information is available online to help anyone—regardless of age—interested in getting more educated about the renewability and sustainability of wood: reThink Wood represents North America’s softwood lumber industry with the goal of generating awareness and understanding of wood’s advantages in the built environment. The organization provides an array of in-depth educational material about the economic, environmental, and performance aspects of wood use in construction and insight about technology innovation in wood construction. A section of its website is dedicated to the renewable characteristics of wood, with topics ranging from evaluating the carbon footprint of wood buildings to estimating the overall environmental impact of green buildings. The Hardwood Forest Foundation provides a variety of educational programs and activities throughout the U.S. and Canada, with the support of its parent organization, the National Hardwood Lumber Association. Among other initiatives, the organization produces Truth About Trees, an educational kit that is distributed free to educators worldwide consisting of lesson plans, videos, music, games, and coloring books designed to teach the benefits of properly harvesting trees.
Building Products Digest
June 2016 issue of Building Products Digest, monthly magazine for lumber & building material dealers & distributors