To meet the Materials Petal of the Living Building Challenge, all lumber used on the Desert Rain structures must be either reclaimed or Forest Stewardship Council – certified. As stated on their website, the mission of the Forest Stewardship Council is to ‘promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial, and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests’. The process of FSC certification aims to protect and maintain natural communities, biodiversity, and high conservation values within the forests. The social aspect assures that the rights of workers, communities, and indigenous peoples are respected and upheld. FSC has a vision to meet current forest product needs and sustain economic viability, without compromising the health of forests.
FSC certification process assures that the wood is coming from responsibly managed forests as defined by their standards. Certifiers are independent of FSC and the companies they audit. FSC believes this third-party verification is crucial to the integrity of their system. One of the certifications of FSC is ‘Chain of Custody’. This process tracks the certified material through the entire production process from the forest to the end consumer. The FSC certified material is identified and kept separated from non-certified material throughout the supply chain. FSC declares on their website that ‘any company in the supply chain, including harvesters, processors, manufacturers, distributors, printers, retailers or anyone that is taking ownership of the forest product before the end user, needs to be FSC certified to be able to label or promote their products as FSC certified’.
The scope of certification and tracking would indicate that FSC products would be significantly cost prohibitive. ‘Not always’, said KC Eisenberg, Director of Sales at Sustainable Northwest Wood in Portland, Oregon. KC worked with Desert Rain builders and Parr Lumber in Bend to source FSC dimensional framing lumber, plywood, and cedar siding for the project. She said while some products, such as dimensional lumber, may be higher, other products are competitive. FSC certification may add 10 to 20% to the cost of dimensional lumber, typically due to the mills covering the costs of auditing and additional paperwork required to maintain the chain of custody. KC said that their FSC certified plywood, cedar, and hardwoods do not necessarily cost any more than box store lumber. Sustainable Northwest Wood works directly with local mills eliminating middle men and keeping the supply chain short.
Sustianable Northwest Wood considers themselves a different kind of lumberyard. They offer only sustainable, restorative, and FSC certified lumber products – all harvested and milled in the Pacific Northwest. As a subsidiary of Sustainable Northwest, Sustainable Northwest Wood was founded in 2008 as a for profit, guided by a mission of supporting small mills in rural communities to bolster sustainable, economic development. KC said, ‘the company was also created to help make FSC lumber more available’. She acknowledged that the demand for FSC lumber has been increasing annually since the company began. They have been the source for other LBC projects and LEED projects throughout the northwest.
The structures at Desert Rain showcase a variety of wood building products. The exterior soffits, interior ceilings, trim, doors, floors,and some of the interior walls are reclaimed or salvaged lumber. FSC certified lumber was used in the framing, floors, cedar siding, Loewen window frames, and the cabinets. The FSC website states that ‘FSC-certified wood was found to be the most specified green-building product in McGraw-Hill’s database of 60,000 project specifications collected annually, surpassing even EnergyStar’. FSC declares that Oregon has 137,950 acres of forests being managed by their standards. For Desert Rain and other green-building projects in Oregon – that’s good news for good wood!