You love the reddish-orange undertones of Jatoba and the vibrant, striped look of Tigerwood. Sapele would be perfect for the floor of that contemporary home you’re working on, while the dramatic figure of Lyptus hardwoods are sure to add class to the upscale winery project you just landed. The problem is, you’re still hearing rumblings about illegal logging in tropical areas. Of course, you don’t want to support deforestation, but would really like to add the rich, dramatic colors of exotic species to your hardwood repertoire. What to do?
Start by asking the right questions. Illegal logging remains a real problem in many countries, but exotic hardwoods can be – and are – grown and managed in a sustainable manner. Knowing the right questions to ask during the selection process can help identify those species, and provide the resources to reassure clients that your firm respects the environment.
Some key questions to consider are:
1. Where did the wood come from?
Knowing where a hardwood product originates is a key step in the selection process. Since credible importers use a range of certifications and due diligence methods to ensure the legal procurement of wood, the manufacturer, supplier or distributor you are working with should be able to provide information on the forest region in which it was grown. If information on the source of origin is not publicly accessible, start looking at other options.
2. Did it come from a third-party certified forest?
Selecting certified wood is crucial to helping ensure use of an exotic hardwood that was grown and harvested in a responsible manner. Two organizations that help verify sustainable forest management of exotic hardwoods are the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). In addition to global standards, each program has regionally targeted certification requirements. For instance, the Brazilian Forest Certification Program (Cerflor) is a regional, PEFC-endorsed program. Wood that receives a Cerflor certification indicates that it is grown and harvested in a responsible manner specific to Brazil’s climate and ecosystem.
3. Is it in compliance with the Lacey Act?
Under 2008 amendments to the U.S. Lacey Act, it is a federal offense to traffic in illegal plants or plant-based products, including exotic hardwoods. To maintain compliance with the act, importers must file a declaration with the U.S. government identifying the species they are bringing in, and where they came from. Since importers aren’t the only ones potentially liable for using illegal wood (suppliers, distributors and even contractors can be held responsible), ask for proof of compliance.
4. What are the product’s other environmental attributes?
Although the Lacey Act prohibits the import of illegally harvested wood and wood products, to help maximize green building benefits it’s important to consider other issues with how exotic hardwoods are grown and harvested. For example, do foresters reserve portions of the land for native species? Is it a fast-growing or slow-growing hardwood, and how does that factor into the wood’s replenishment? In what other ways are foresters protecting important values like water quality and biodiversity?
It’s important to remember that producers of responsibly grown and harvested exotic hardwoods will have nothing to hide. They’ll be ready and willing to assist you throughout the research process.
(Join me Wednesday, September 28, for a live AIA/CEU webinar here at GreenExpo365, "The Beautiful Side of Sustainable Building: Eucalyptus Hardwoods" where we'll talk more about this and other reasons it is ok to use certain kinds of hardwoods in your green building project.)