Green building is a hot topic in the construction world these days. Increasing the demand for natural lumber and new manufactured products, such as those by NuCedar Mills, the LEED certification program by the Green Building Council aims at awarding certification based on a carefully constructed points system.
Just like many people are misguided about how buying imported lumber impacts the environment, a high percentage misunderstand the value of using FSC certified lumber. Unfortunately, the way FSC certified lumber currently relates to LEED certification adds to the confusion.
LEED certification is a major motivating factor and could easily increase the demand for FSC lumber. However, the fact that using FSC wood products offers only 1 of the 110 possible points toward LEED certification makes it a poor motivation — especially when you consider the cost involved in attaining FSC lumber. Most homeowners are willing to pay only 5% more in order to make their home meet “green” standards, making cost a significant factor.
The remaining 109 points available for obtaining LEED certification can be accrued easily, making FSC lumber — and, by extension, the use of sustainable materials at all — less attractive. (There is no reward, according to LEED standards, for using any sustainable materials that are not FSC approved.) As with any product, the low demand for FSC lumber has led to limited supply — along with rising costs and heightened delays. In fact, the costs of FSC lumber certification have recently doubled, making it even less attainable.
Instead of being purchased and used, FSC lumber sits in lumber yards, becoming weathered and losing value. As the value of FSC lumber continues to depreciate, lumber suppliers and builders will be forced to stop buying it altogether. Similar to how bans on lumber exporting can actually impact forests negatively, the LEED requirements of FSC lumber can actually work to decrease the incentive for builders to use sustainably harvested lumber at all. In the end, retaining the higher standard will hurt forests, while allowing for certification schemes less stringent than FSC would increase the chances of builders going for that single LEED point.
Let’s face it: Even though it earns you only a single LEED point, using sustainably harvested, “green” lumber is a hallmark of the Green Building movement. It’s the most obvious, most visual, most significant. From siding to flooring, the materials used on those major surfaces of a home symbolically represent the heart of environmental consciousness.
We find that our customers want to use “green” lumber, whether or not they get points for it. We predict that as people continue to lean toward green building materials, the Green Building Council will continue to be pressured to admit wood products that are not FSC certified. Whether or not they cave to that pressure is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, we can be glad that it’s virtually a non-issue due to the low point value they attach to it.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.
Photo credits: Top & 2nd © auremar/Fotolia; 3rd © Volker Kreinacke/Fotolia; Bottom © J Gibson McIlvain