Blog

Feb 04 2014

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

By KC

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