March 26, 2014

Green Hammer Sets the Standard for Sustainable Wood Sourcing


Since its creation in 2002, local design-build firm Green Hammer has truly put its money where its mouth is when it comes to using only the most sustainable lumber and wood products available.

Every Green Hammer project is built with lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Green Hammer was the first contractor in the United States to achieve its own chain-of-custody certification from FSC, and founder Stephen Aiguier is an ardent advocate for the advanced forestry techniques embodied by FSC's auditing system.

FSC is, of course, only one way to measure the sustainability of wood products. Other sources including urban salvage and reclaimed timbers can also provide legitimately green lumber, and Green Hammer regularly employs these sources in its projects.

Back in 2005, before FSC wood was readily available at local lumberyards, Stephen was frustrated by the difficulty in sourcing good wood.  He teamed up with local forester Peter Hayes to establish the Build Local Alliance, a pioneering non-profit that helps connect builders and designers to local sawmills and wood sources.

Sustainable Northwest Wood is a member and supporter of the Build Local Alliance, and much of our wood comes from mills that have achieved continued growth and success thanks to the networking connections enabled by Stephen's early leadership and vision.

These days, due in large part to forward-thinking builders like Green Hammer who insist on their use, FSC lumber and other kinds of uber-local, deep-green wood are readily available to Portland builders through Sustainable Northwest Wood, the Build Local Alliance, and a rich network of salvage and reclaimed operations.

Green Hammer continues to make beautiful use of these wood products in each of its projects, setting an example for other builders while supporting local sawmills and forest restoration projects.

We applaud and thank the folks at Green Hammer for their hard work and continued commitment to sustainable wood.

Photo below: The Doug fir trim shown is this photo is FSC, as are the framing, plywood, and all other structural wood materials that comprise this artful home.

March 10, 2014

Juniper: A True Oregon product


The fabulous deck pictured at right is built out of our Restoration Juniper Decking. The homeowner chose juniper because of its beauty and durability, but also because it's a "true Oregon product," as he put it.

And it is. Juniper is grown in Oregon, and it is "made" in Oregon (harvested and milled), but as this savvy client understands, its value to our state reaches much deeper than that.

Juniper supports Oregon's economy
The communities of central and eastern Oregon have been hit hard by economic recession over the past several years.  Lumber mills that operated for decades have closed up shop, and families have had to make do with far less.

Juniper provides a solid solution to this chronic problem.  As the popularity of this wood grows, the number of individuals employed by its harvest and milling also grows; we estimate that as many as 60 people are now employed by juniper-related businesses east of the Cascades. This is approximately equivalent to 4,200 jobs in the more populous communities west of the Cascades.

Juniper supports Oregon's environment
The scrubby, fragrant juniper is native to Oregon, but in the past 150 years the environmental pressures that used to keep its population in check (specifically, rangeland wildfires) have been virtually eliminated by humans intent on preserving property and grazing livestock.

As a result, juniper's population has boomed from about 1 million acres of coverage at the turn of the 20th century to between 6 and 9 million acres today. This means millions of acres of prime sagebrush habitat are being rapidly transformed into dense woodlands, as shown above, endangering valuable species (PDF) and drying up entire streams and water holes.

The respectful harvest of juniper helps to restore historic flows of groundwater and resurrect the important sage steppe habitat. Many groups are intent on accomplishing this restoration work; Sustainable Northwest Wood is proud to offer the juniper lumber products that are the fruit of this restoration work -- and that provide the economic incentives to keep the restoration projects going.

How to use juniper
Juniper is an ideal wood for many outdoor applications due to its remarkable durability: It lasts 30+ years in ground-contact installations.

  • Garden beds and retaining walls
  • Decks and outdoor living spaces
  • Fences, arbors, and decorative barriers
  • Outdoor benches, tables, and other furniture

Check out our Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers and decking pages and other blog posts for more project ideas.

February 14, 2014

Local businesses put sustainable wood to work in offices and reception rooms


Whether you're designing an office from the studs up or need a quick and easy solution to spruce up your current space, we've got the wood to help.

Our pre-made butcher block tops are ideal for quick and easy office makeovers. Use them for desk tops, conference tables, and other surfaces.

These tops are available in six different species, all locally sourced and sustainably harvested. We also offer custom sizes and thicknesses for your special project.

For dramatic custom conference tables and reception desks, our live-edge slabs set the standard. Choose the size and species and your woodworker can customize it for you.

Or use our Northwest hardwood lumber in any species for custom cabinetry, desks, tables, millwork and trim.

Photo at top right: Live-edge blue pine makes a memorable conference table
Photos from below left: Pre-made juniper butcher block was a quick and affordable solution for this office's desks and reception area tables; a custom juniper slat wall adds texture and warmth to this West Linn dental office; the Oregon Zoo uses live-edge maple slabs for custom display tables.

February 04, 2014

Our Western Red Cedar Siding: Light on carbon, heavy on sustainable style


A customer on a quest to find the lowest-carbon siding recently stopped by to ask about our cedar.  In our discussion with him, we were pleased to deduce that our FSC 100%, locally harvested Western Red Cedar siding is, from a carbon-mitigation viewpoint, as green as it gets.

During the siding selection process, a few considerations can help determine the most sustainable, lowest carbon materials:

  • The source of raw materials used to produce it 
  • The energy required to produce/manufacture it 
  • Total life cycle (what happens at the end of its lifespan?)
  • The transportation required to get it to you

Some in-vogue options, like fiber cement board, can add insulation and reduce a building's operating energy costs, but the energy required to produce cement products is so high, and so much transportation is required to ferry around the raw materials and then the finished product, that the net effect is high-carbon.  

Wood options generally require much less energy to produce, tipping the scales in favor of forest products. However, some classic wood siding choices are not particularly green. The cedar shingles that clad many older homes demand large diameter (read: old growth) trees to produce; and many well-meaning but mistaken designers often specify "clear vertical grain" cedar products that also require the harvest of old growth trees.

Our locally sourced, FSC 100% Western Red Cedar siding provides the perfect antidote to these design dilemmas.  We work with a local sawmill that buys its logs from nearby forest restoration projects like the Forest Grove watershed restoration project and the Nature Conservancy's Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

These projects are designed to improve the health of the forest, enabling a return to old growth conditions that were lost decades ago after the first clear cut. (This isn't greenwashing; click the links above to learn more about these excellent restoration programs.)

The logs procured from these restoration projects are second- or third-growth, smaller diameter trees that produce Select Tight Knot grade cedar products, a very high grade with much beauty and durability.  

These smaller trees are ideal for tongue-and-groove, bevel, and ship-lap style planks, which require minimal energy resources to mill.     

In spite of its decades-long lifespan, cedar is of course biodegradable, taking care of the end-of-life problems that plague vinyl, cement board, and other manufactured siding products.  

And because all of our cedar is sourced from forests less than 100 miles from Portland, the carbon costs associated with transporting the materials are minimal, relative to other materials.  

Photos below: FSC 100% Western Red Cedar siding, select tight knot
Photo at bottom: Cedar finished with the shou sugi ban charring technique

October 02, 2013

A Story of Salvation: Big Leaf Maple Live-Edge Slabs


Our live-edge maple slabs are remarkable not just for their size and their beautiful grain patterns, but also for the way in which they come to us:

Generally cut and left as collateral damage from agricultural or timber harvest operations, these maple logs are too big to go to a regular lumber mill.  In our post-old growth era, most sawmills have been sized for smaller diameter trees, and logs measuring 20" or more across are simply too big for most mills to bother with. 
Instead, these grand trees end up at pulp yards, where the incredible grain patterns, impressive sizes, and rich history of these trees become fodder for the paper-making process.  Yes, that's right: these mighty old hardwoods are on the path to becoming paper.

Luckily, our sawyer stalks the pulp yards and rescues the biggest and most beautiful logs, then saws them up into unique and beautiful live-edge slabs, diverting this valuable wood from the waste stream. 
These big leaf maple slabs have the warm, rich color for which this species is known, with incredible luster and frequent quilting, curl, and other special grain patterns.

We stock 10/4 live-edge maple slabs in a variety of widths and lengths, each with its own one-of-a-kind grain pattern and edge detail.  We can also provide custom sizes for special projects.

Visit our warehouse today and pick out the slab for your special project!

Photo above left: This giant hardwood log is saved from destruction at a pulp yard in the Willamette Valley.

Photo above right: A 36" diameter big leaf maple log awaits the saw and kiln after its rescue from the pulp mill. Many of our slabs still have their moss clinging to the live edges.

Above: Big leaf maple slabs are used extensively throughout the new Danner Boot store at Union Way in Portland.

Above: This one-of-a-kind coffee table by Portland woodworker and carpenter Paul Johnson shows off the exceptional grain patterns for which maple is known.

Above: A transparent stain adds depth and sophistication to this conference table, built by Windfall Lumber.

September 30, 2013

Juniper Butcher Block: Organic Style for Rustic and Modern Interiors


From fences to planter boxes, juniper is a versatile species that can be used in many applications.  We enjoy using this sustainable wood in new ways and helping promote its harvest in Central and Eastern Oregon.

With this in mind, let us introduce our new Juniper Butcher Block!  We're stocking these pre-made butcher block panels in a variety of lengths and can customize them to suit your unique projects.  

Plus, this butcher block option is quite affordable!

Here are the specifications:
Kiln-dried juniper from restoration projects in Central Oregon
Stocked sizes 1 1/2" x 26 1/2" x lengths up to 8'
Custom sizes up to 48" x 16'
Unfinished, with square edges
Sanded to 120-grit finish

September 03, 2013

Juniper restoration becomes an Oregon Solutions project


Last month, Governor Kitzhaber officially designated the Western Juniper Utilization Group as an Oregon Solutions project.

This means that state funding will be designated to help "unlock the potential of rangeland restoration and juniper harvested from public and private lands," according to Oregon Solutions.

The goal is to spur landscape restoration and economic development in rural communities.

Sustainable Northwest Wood is proud to participate with this group, which will be active in 13 juniper-afflicted Oregon counties.

Members of the group will work with a variety of private businesses, environmental groups, and government agencies to seek solutions to the problem of juniper's spread. They will also develop a statewide marketing plan to help support landscape restoration efforts and make this beautiful, durable wood more widely available.

Click here to read media coverage about the group and its plan of action, and visit Oregon Solution's Western Juniper Utilization Group webpage here.

August 29, 2013

One-of-a-kind lumber yard only stocks wood that meets FSC rules


From the Portland Tribune, August 15, 2013
By Steve Law

Here's a link to the original article.

There’s no need to scrutinize the fine print to assure you’re buying sustainably cut timber at the inner Southeast Portland lumber yard run by Ryan Temple.

Every piece sold at Sustainable Northwest Wood must meet or exceed the standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the world’s most respected “green seal” for wood products. Half the wood comes from Oregon, and Temple enjoys telling personal stories about the origin of his inventory, much as restaurateurs do when serving local meat and produce.

Shoppers at the 7,500-square-foot lumber yard a few blocks south of OMSI might find cedar cut from a Girl Scout property in Stevenson, Wash., a Nature Conservancy site in Willapa Bay, Wash. or from the city of Forest Grove’s watershed.

None of the plywood contains urea formaldehyde, so it won’t release carcinogenic fumes.

The bulk of the inventory was cut by major Oregon timber companies such as Roseburg Forest Products or Collins Companies, in forests and mills where they've committed to meet or exceed FSC standards. Some comes from small operations like family-run Zena Forest Products west of Salem.

Sustainable Northwest Wood offers butcher block tables, landscape timbers and other products made from juniper, which has grown out of control in Eastern Oregon and needs to be pared back to enable environmental restoration. Temple is part of a concerted campaign to create a market for juniper products.

The nonprofit Sustainable Northwest opened the lumber yard four and a half years ago at the peak of the Great Recession. Temple says it was quite a risk, as it’s the only exclusively green lumber yard of its kind in the country that he knows. Sustainably harvested wood generally costs about 10 percent more, he says.

The five-employee business is now turning a profit, with $1.5 million in sales for 2012-13, up 25 percent from the prior fiscal year.

Temple estimates 10 percent of the wood sold in Oregon is now FSC-certified. “If you asked me the same question five years ago, the answer would have been 1 percent.”

August 29, 2013

Pulp fiction? Some eco-labels for wood less green than they appear


From the Portland Tribune, August 15, 2013
By Steve Law

Here's a link to the original article.

Want to buy sustainably produced lumber for your new deck or house?

It’s not as simple as you’d think.

For years, a debate has raged among supporters of two competing programs that certify wood products were harvested and milled in a sustainable manner.

The Forest Stewardship Council formed in the early 1990s, when environmentalists alarmed by deforestation of tropical forests teamed with industry leaders in Europe to set ecological standards for the cutting and milling of timber. They created the FSC product label to assure consumers those standards were met.

In response, big timber companies in the American Forest and Paper Association created a more lenient certification system, enabling their products to be stamped with the rival Sustainable Forestry Initiative or SFI label.

Many environmentalists, especially the advocacy group ForestEthics, denounce the SFI as greenwashing — giving a green veneer to timber-cutting practices that degrade forests. ForestEthics pressures retail chains to stop carrying SFI-certified wood and paper products.

The fight has ensnared the U.S. Green Building Council and its widely used LEED rating system.

Developers only earn LEED credits for using sustainably harvested wood if it meets or beats FSC standards. Big timber companies, partly shut out of the green building market, have lobbied the Green Building Council — in vain — to accept SFI certification. Turning up the political heat, timber companies have prodded Congress and some states to dump the use of LEED rating systems altogether for government buildings.

Some politicians, such as U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, say the green building exclusion for SFI could punish Oregon’s timber industry, because it’s the predominant certification system here, with 3.2 million acres compared to 566,929 acres for FSC.

Many academics and government foresters are avoiding the fight, arguing that both certification systems improve forest practices and can reasonably claim to promote forest sustainability.

But the two camps have decidedly different notions of forest sustainability.

The FSC uses a more robust conservation-based approach to preserving forest ecosystems, says Bob Van Dyk, forest policy manager for the Wild Salmon Center in Portland.

FSC’s national board includes leaders of the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy, and it’s endorsed by the Sierra Club and Greenpeace.  

In contrast, the SFI is tailored to support the ongoing use of forests to produce timber. Supporters argue that if forests produce ongoing jobs in the woods and revenues from timber-cutting, that thwarts pressure to convert forest lands into subdivisions or other developments.

“The key to this whole thing is we have generations of wood coming up for our kids,” says Bob Luoto, an SFI board member from McMinnville who runs a logging and trucking company.

Though both certification systems arguably help preserve forests, the differences between the two are large enough to drive a log truck through.

Differences are clear cut

The FSC, as it applies in Oregon, generally restricts clear-cuts to 6 acres, says Mike Cloughesy, forestry director for the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, a Portland agency created by the Legislature that’s funded by the timber industry and designed to nurture it.

SFI allows clear-cuts that can average up to 120 acres — which can mean one clear-cut of 2 acres plus another of 238 acres — says Ryan Temple, president of Sustainable Northwest Wood, a Southeast Portland lumber yard that only sells wood that meets or exceeds FSC standards.

Cloughesy points out that clear-cuts larger than 120 acres are not allowed in Oregon under the state's forest practices rules, though larger clear-cuts are allowed in SFI-certified forests in Washington and some other states.

FSC bans persistent and hazardous pesticides and herbicides, Temple says, while some are permitted under SFI. Atrazine, an herbicide banned in Europe and by the FSC, is sprayed by helicopter in Oregon forests certified under SFI, he says.

“That herbicide ends up in a stream,” says Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild in Portland. “That may be a salmon-bearing stream. It’s probably a stream that drains into somebody’s water supply.”

FSC bars the use of genetically modified organisms, which are allowed by SFI.

FSC also forbids converting a forest from a diverse ecosystem into one planted with a single species such as Douglas fir, which is permitted by SFI.

Critics say SFI merely sets standards that timber operations in Oregon already must meet under the Oregon Forest Practices Act.

“It’s just a straight-out agricultural model and not a biological or ecological model,” Van Dyk says.

Initially at least, SFI was “straight greenwashing” designed to give the timber industry “green cover,” Van Dyk says. “As I look at lands that are managed in Oregon under the SFI brand, I’m not comforted that there are strong conservation standards.”

However, he acknowledges the system has improved over the years in response to criticism.

Pedery says SFI may bring “marginal improvements” to forest management in some cases, but he thinks the greenwashing label is fair. “The impression given to the consumer is they bought a sustainably produced piece of wood for their home,” he says. “I don’t think anyone should look at it as a green seal.”

Industry view

SFI supporters say environmentalists don’t get that timber companies must earn profits to keep the industry thriving here. For timber companies to be competitive in Western Oregon forests, Luoto and other SFI supporters say, they need to rely on clear-cutting and herbicides.

Clear-cutting is a cheaper way to harvest timber. Spraying herbicides on the cleared land allows companies to replant with Douglas firs that grow without competition from other trees and shrubs. Douglas firs won’t regrow if they don’t get sunlight, Luoto says.

“In Western Oregon, especially in the Coast Range, it’s really hard to manage for production without any use of herbicides,” Cloughesy says. “When the industry manages (forest land) under SFI, they manage it as a plantation.”

Without clear-cutting and herbicides, he says, Oregon companies couldn’t compete with their counterparts in New Zealand, Chile and China.

When a consumer sees an SFI-certified product at a store, they are assured the timber company met Oregon’s strict laws to protect wildlife, streams and other environmental assets, Luoto says. While that may mean they didn’t exceed Oregon standards, he says, Idaho, Georgia and other states have more lax environmental laws. Since SFI has one national standard, that means lumber sold at a local Home Depot, produced by Portland-based Stimson Lumber Co. from Idaho timber land, met Oregon’s higher standards, Luoto says.

SFI also requires independent audits of forest practices, something not required by Oregon to assure its laws are followed, Luoto says. SFI also requires loggers and foresters to undergo 32 hours of training, including sessions on state environmental requirements, Luoto says.

SFI also undergoes periodic reviews of its standards, and will come out with revisions in 2015, Luoto says.

Temple says the SFI label and its lower standards creates “market confusion” for consumers, but he doesn’t view it as greenwashing. “It’s more the notion of ‘we’ll replant; we want to make sure that there’s always trees there,’ ” he says.

“SFI is a step in the right direction,” Temple says, while FSC might be three steps in the right direction. “There’s room for continuous improvement in any system like this.”

August 05, 2013

Beyond Beautiful: Introducing new salvaged walnut architectural panels


"Exquisite" is the word a local designer used to describe these plywood panels when he was privy to a sneak peek last week.  

We're happy to introduce them to you this month and share the amazing story behind them:

The walnut veneers used in these panels are from a single large tree that was salvaged in Douglas County, Oregon.  This antique tree was brought to Oregon by some of our state's first settlers, who hoped to recreate the familiar landscape of the East Coast and reap an annual bounty of nuts.  More than a century later, the walnut tree succumbed to old age and had to be removed from the property before it caused damage or injury.

This one special log yielded beautiful veneers that we pressed onto FSC Certified, NAUF cores (also manufactured in Oregon).

Certification: FSC Certified, NAUF
Available thicknesses: 1/4", 1/2", and 3/4" (1/4" on MDF, 1/2" and 3/4" on plywood)
Panel size: 4' x 8'
Veneers: 1/40" thick
Grade: Both sides with "A" grade veneers: Book-matched planks with vertical grain on one side, random-matched planks on other side

Please contact us for pricing and samples.