Blog

November 23, 2020

Sustainable Wood Stories: Women in Sustainable Building

By Lynn Morgan

As part of Sustainable Building Week, Sustainable Northwest Wood presents our next Sustainable Wood Story focused on Women in the Sustainable Building Industry.

Women represent less than 10% of the overall workforce in the construction industry, and only 3.4% in the trades.  In general, women are paid only 81% of the salaries of their male counterparts, but in construction, salaries are much more equal.  Companies are recognizing the benefits of a diverse workforce and the potential for women to have a positive impact in the building industry is tremendous.  Our panel of speakers will feature a variety of perspectives from some incredible female leaders bringing their passion, expertise, and tenacity to a career focused on creating a better world for us all.

Speakers:

Esther Forbyn – Esther Forbyn LLC

Chelsea Acker – Green Hammer Design-Build

Brenda Gaynor – Oregon Tradeswomen


November 02, 2020

Sustainable Wood Stories: Oregon White Oak

By Lynn Morgan

Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana) is an emblematic tree in the Willamette Valley.  With its beautiful furrowed bark and distinct iconic shape, this member of the Beech family has thick, glossy leaves that provide the perfect amount of shade on hot summer days.  Sadly, several human and environmental impacts have reduced the Oregon White Oak range to less than 5% of its historic geographic territory but working forests and restoration efforts are underway to counteract that decline.

Join us for this virtual Sustainable Wood Story where our panel of speakers will provide an overview of Oregon White Oak’s historic range, its place in the ecosystem, the factors leading to its decline, how forest managers and mills apply the “working forest” concept, an Oregon White Oak habitat restoration initiative, and how architects & designers in our region are learning to better utilize this beautiful, local hardwood on future projects.  

October 28, 2020

Western Juniper - Sustaining Oregon Communities

By Lynn Morgan

Western Juniper - Sustaining Oregon Communities

The first in a series of virtual events, Sustainable NW Wood is hosting Sustainable Wood Stories featuring the unique qualities of Pacific NW wood species, their origins, customer projects, local suppliers, environmental challenges facing our society,  and methods our industry is using to address them. 

Western Juniper lumber is gaining a reputation with gardeners, landscape architects and contractors for its natural rot resistance, durability, and rustic beauty. Eastern Oregonians live in the midst of encroaching forests of ‘native-invasive’ Juniper, which has taken over much of the rangeland ecosystems due to decades of fire suppression. In an already arid climate, this thirsty tree has displaced the habitat of the threatened Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). Responsible removal of Juniper is helping restore the grasslands, returning water to important tributary streams, improving habitat for wildlife and humans alike, and simultaneously providing economic opportunities for both rural and urban Oregonians.

Juniper lumber is being harvested by a dozen small, family-owned sawmills in Eastern Oregon and finds its way to our lumberyard in SE Portland by the truckload on a regular basis.  The Sustainable Northwest Wood team is honored to be a bridge between our rural and urban communities,  between ecosystems and the built environment, and to provide a service to those in need of ways to nourish and sustain their families in these challenging times.

Come hear stories from (in order of appearance)

  • Dr Tony Svejcar, Ph.D. -  Rangeland Ecologist, Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center  (1:48 - 13:15)
  • Herb Winters - Gilliam Soil & Water Conservation District  (13:39 - 16:20)
  • Damon Brosnan - USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (16:20-23:15)
  • Chris Gannon -  Crooked River Watershed Council  (23:30 - 29:50)
  • Jim Epley - owner of JNB Sawmill, Wheeler Counter Oregon (30.03 - 33:22)
  • Levi Littrell - owner Levi's Sawmill Services, La Pine, Oregon  (33:29 - 43:00)
  • Jennifer Hake -  homeowner & Juniper enthusiast Beaverton, Oregon (44:00 - 50:43
  • Jim Desmond - The Nature Conservancy - Portland, Oregon  (51:05 - 58:31)
  • Moderator:  Terry Campbell, Sustainable Northwest Wood, Portland OR
October 19, 2020

Portland Audubon Marmot Cabin

By Lynn Morgan

Portland Audubon’s Marmot Cabin is the perfect place for youth to learn about wildlife, healthy ecosystems and natural history through camps, field trips and Outdoor School. Bordering the Bull Run Watershed on 91 acres of the Miller Wildlife Sanctuary, this inspiring educational center was designed by Harka Architecture and is a testament to the Audubon’s commitment to the natural world. 

The 3200 SF cabin is not only a beautiful space for learning about nature, but also serves as a teaching tool for sustainable design.   Thoughtful material selections include an array of FSC Certified wood products and Pacific Madrone flooring from Sustainable NW Wood.  Images provided by Harka Architecture. 

The focal point of the space is an incredible fireplace built by artist Matt Goddard of Poetry in Stone that reflects the geological history of Oregon with stones from across the state landscape.

Image below by Don Morris. 

We are honored to be part of this project that gives young people a chance to make lifelong connections with the natural world.

June 11, 2020

Portland Audubon & Sustainable NW Wood - Together for Nature

By Lynn Morgan

Nestled in 172 acres of protected land adjoining Forest Park in Portland, Oregon, The Audubon Society of Portland is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to wildlife. Their Wildlife Care Center is Oregon's oldest and busiest wildlife rehabilitation facility, treating more than 3,000 injured and orphaned native animals and responding to more than 10,000 wildlife-related inquiries a year.  When planning new and improved structures to house the animals in their care, they turned to Sustainable NW Wood for materials that reflect their long term commitment to conservation.    

Selecting local FSC Certified Western Red Cedar and Western Juniper lumber from restoration projects in Eastern Oregon, general contractor, conservationist and former Audubon employee,  Esther Forbyn created beautiful structures for the Audubon's permanent residents that are not able to be released back into the wild.  With thoughtful planning for the animals'  well-being, safety of the care-takers, and a commitment to quality materials that reflect the values of Portland Audubon, the structures are mostly women-built with all local materials.  These open-air mews allow the animals to feel connected to the surrounding forest, while keeping them safe.  Birds like Ruby the Turkey Vulture,  Julio the Great Horned OwlAristophanes the Raven and Xena the American Kestrel are now permanent residents of the Wildlife Care Center due to injuries and human imprinting that would make it impossible for them to survive in the wild. They are now living as educational ambassadors for their species and Portland Audubon.  The Wildlife Care Center is free and open to the public and a wonderful way to connect with these magical creatures up close and personal. 

April 09, 2020

Project Profile: The Nature Conservancy's Portland headquarters

By Lynn Morgan

The Nature Conservancy is a global environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature can thrive.  When it came time to remodel and expand their Oregon headquarters located in Portland, they were guided every step of the way by their mission to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.  They held strong to their vision to conserve nature for its own sake as well as for its ability to fulfill the needs of their expansion and to enrich the lives of their employees and all who visit the new space. This project is a shining example of partnership, collaboration, flexibility and sustainability.

Housed in what is now called the Oregon Conservation Center Building on SE Belmont in Portland OR, The Nature Conservancy partnered with Lever Architecture to reimagine their inefficient and outdated space.  Sustainable Northwest Wood was instrumental in sourcing FSC certified lumber, connecting with regional fabricators to develop finished goods, integrating Western Juniper and Western Red Cedar products from The Nature Conservancy’s regional conservations sites.

December 05, 2019

A Walk in the Woods: Rain Cloud Tree Farm

By Terry Campbell

A Walk in the Woods: Carbon Farming in the Forest

Some months ago when the weather was warm and the days were longer, The Build Local Alliance hosted a walk in the woods to highlight and discuss the role that small landowners can play in emerging carbon markets.  This event was co-hosted with the Pinchot Institute for Conservation and Ecotrust at the Raincloud Tree Farm in Corbett, OR.  The owners of the Raincloud Tree Farm were gracious enough to allow 30 people to come to their property on a Saturday to learn how their forest can help mitigate our excessive carbon emissions. 

As you might remember from biology class, trees in forests suck-up carbon dioxide (CO2) and expel oxygen (O).  The symbiotic relationship between what we need to breath and what a forest produces has largely been taken for granted as the human species has evolved.  This along with other ecosystems services, such as clean drinking water, climate regulation and others, have been so neglected that in many cases we need to be more concerned about the potential to maintain them. 

Society’s continued use of fossil fuels has driven greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to the point where our climate is changing.  Putting aside the debate of whether it was going to change on its own or not, burning fossil fuels is an old technology that for reasons involving air, water and land pollution is something we should be evolving away from. 

To begin to wean us off this old technology some jurisdictions have created ‘cap-and-trade’ systems to ensure that industries don’t continue to release emissions, related to fossil fuel burning, without penalty.  On the West coast the California cap-and-trade program was launched in 2013 to put a cap on the amount of greenhouse gases the state emits.  If emitters of greenhouse gases in California emit more then the state set cap allows then they must purchase offsets for the excess emissions on the California Carbon Market. 

This is where forestland and responsible forest managers come in.  Since forests sequester carbon (rated as the worst greenhouse gas) forest landowners can be paid to manage their forests in a way to sequester more carbon.  In the past this financial opportunity was only available to large landowners, but recently more outreach and methods have been developed for small woodland owners to be involved.  As we walked the forest, presentations from the landowner, Ecotrust, Forest Carbon Works, Sustainable Northwest and others helped to shape my understanding of what goes into inventorying carbon stocks in a forest, how that sequestered carbon stock is registered and how that stock can be sold to an industrial emitter in a different state. 

What resonated with me at the end of the tour is a consistent theme that we share at Sustainable Northwest Wood: if properly motivated, forest landowners can protect ecosystems services that forests provide society while counting on multiple revenue streams outside of just timber. Over the coming decades the Raincloud Tree Farm will harvest about 61 thousand board feet of logs per year with a net annual timber revenue of $18,000 while also earning $4,700 a year as a carbon sink for the state of California. 

I think it's safe to say that the owners of the Raincloud Tree Farm are certainly seeing the forest for more than just the trees.

November 07, 2019

Sustainable Northwest Wood partners with The Oak Accord

By Lynn Morgan

Sustainable Northwest Wood loves Oregon White Oak and so do our customers; but are we "loving" it enough?   Fire suppression, residential development, and conversion of native habitat for agricultural use  have had a devastating effect on Oregon White Oak habitat.  The greatest threat to oak is not the logging of individual trees, but the conversion of the oak habitat to other uses, such as vineyards and orchards. Today, a mere 3% of its historic range remains in the Willamette Valley. Our native oak woodlands and savannas are now considered some of the most threatened ecosystem types in the Pacific Northwest. 

                                                                                                

In response to this, a group of private land owners, led by Willamette Partnership, started The Oak Accord -  a voluntary oak conservation program designed to urgently create awareness of oak habitats importance, to limit or halt its ongoing and rapid loss, and to promote long term stewardship.  The Oak Accord is working to restore 20,000 acres of oak in the Willamette Valley and Sustainable Northwest Wood is committed to help reach this goal. 

As a supplier of locally sourced materials from well-managed forests, we believe that restoration is an essential component of a resilient ecosystem and vibrant economy.  In light of this belief, we pledge our support of The Oak Accord. Our partnership allows us and our customers to get involved in restoring this critical ecosystem.  Sustainable Northwest Wood will be donating 10% of every Oregon White Oak purchase to the Oak Accord.  Through this partnership, your purchases will directly support on-the-ground restoration projects.

             

November 05, 2019

Sustainable Building Week 2019

By Lynn Morgan

Sustainable Building Week 2019 did not feel like an event only in its second year in existence.  With a robust schedule of nearly 30 well-organized, well-attended events in a wide range of topics, this cross-pollination of Portland’s best and brightest design and building professionals came together like a well-oiled machine to inspire, connect and educate.  About 1800 attendees attended events all over the city to focus on a multitude of issues that need to be addressed in an effort to Keep Portland Green.  

Hot topics included Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and discussions around how true sustainability cannot exist without equity and Embodied Carbon and the challenges of measuring and reducing total carbon emissions in the construction industry; and Materials Transparency and how the expectation for transparency in product ingredients is growing in response to the demand for healthier built environments.  The week was rounded out with sustainable building tours, panel discussions, happy hours, dance parties, a hike, a run and a morning of yoga for green professionals. Oh my!

The Sustainable NW Wood team divided up and attended as many events as possible, soaking up the opportunities to learn, share ideas, collaborate and connect. Here are our highlights from the week.

From Jake Foster, Inside Sales:  

 As a first time Sustainable Building Week attendee, I found it inspiring to see all the different angles and approaches people are taking in order to use business as a tool to implement a more sustainable society. The Small But Mighty Happy Hour consisted of 6 of the PNW’s finest firms and individuals giving a brief presentation on their work. The presenters ranged from an author, to a landscape architect, to a sustainability focused communications agency. Highlights for me included the work being done by Keith Jones, the director of PDX Green Loop, as well as some of the more impressive passive house designs I’ve ever seen by Michelle Jeresek at Ivon Street Studio. I left feeling comforted and reassured knowing that there are incredibly talented people in our community doing everything they can to make the world a better place.

Passive House 101 was an in-depth presentation of the history and fundamental principles of Passive House, the world’s leading standard for energy efficient construction. Josh Salinger of Birdsmouth and Beth Campbell of Green Hammer, both board members of Passive House Northwest, presented to a packed house at the spectacular office of Ankrom Moisan in downtown Portland. The audience consisted of a well-rounded mix of architects, builders and everyone in between. Highlights included the importance of reducing thermal bridging, use of high-performance windows, and project specific optimization of utilizing solar heat. Due to its project specific customization and proven success in every climate zone around the world, Passive House certainly does seem to be the world’s leading standard for energy efficient construction. With a great turnout of so many talented individuals and organizations, I left feeling confident that construction here in the PNW is heading in the right direction.

From Lynn Morgan, Sales & Marketing Manager:

It’s hard to believe this was only the 2nd Annual Sustainable Building Week. It was so well organized, thought provoking and inspiring!  Debunking Product Transparency for Manufacturers was an informative, educational and in-depth look at how product ingredients are pushing specifications and how transparency around ingredients is transforming business. Led by our own Terry Campbell and krowdsourced  Director of Sustainable Data & Resources, Ren DeCherney, this panel discussion brought together speakers from International Living Future Institute (ILFI), Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) and Healthy Product Declaration (HPD) to de-mystify the process of obtaining 3rd party material certifications and how they help designers, architects and consumers more easily find products for healthier built environments.  

Conversations about Conservation – a tour of the Oregon Conservation Center and headquarters of The Nature Conservancy. Hosted by Sustainable NW Wood and led by president, Ryan Temple, project architect Timothy Cooke with Lever Architecture, and Mitch Maxon with The Nature Conservancy, this tour highlighted some of the beautiful and well-thought design details of this newly remodeled building. The seamless partnerships worked together to create a much more open and collaborative space for their employees and the community.  As part of The Nature Conservancy’s commitment to conservation and sustainable forestry, the project utilized local cedar and juniper products from their own preserves, and nearly 70,000 board feet of Forest Stewardship Council certified lumber, partnering with local manufacturing partners for a building that “walks the talk.” 

From Terry Campbell, Director of Business Development:

Reflecting upon Sustainable Building Week (SBW) 2019 I am left with a positive attitude that many of the issues facing our planet and humanity can be addressed in the built environment.  I condensed my experience during the week into three topics that caught my attention. 

First it is clear that the sustainable building movement has a great opportunity to be a leader in addressing societal issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.  With three events dedicated to this topic I was happy to be a part of the Diversity Game Changer event which provided a platform for seldom heard voices to share their story.  Collaborations for improving city, state, regional and national policies need to benefit all of us. 

Secondly, I got very nerdy with ‘embodied carbon.’  This should be a rising concern for all green building practitioners as the amount of carbon emitted from the full life cycle of products needs to be better understood.  We need to look for methods to eliminate the carbon upfront before its embodied in our products, buildings and atmosphere.  The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) Portland Collaborative and Gensler event, Designing a Carbon-Free Future: for Portland and Beyond, provided some excellent information and in-depth discussion. 

Lastly, Solar Oregon’s Electrify Everything event was utterly compelling.  From the small renovations one can do to their dwelling, to the benefits that can be realized from electric cars, the panel made a very electrifying case for switching off the tap to all fossil fuels.

With these issues not going away, I look forward to developing some great collaborations with people I met and working towards Keeping Portland Green!

                And that’s a wrap.  One incredible week of connection, collaboration and learning with like-minded people dedicated to a better, more sustainable future.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  We’re looking forward to being part of Sustainable Building Week for many years to come and  hope to see you there next year!  For more info or to get involved http://sustainablebuildingweek.com/

July 22, 2019

Mill Visits in Juniper Country: Levi's Sawmill Services

By Lynn Morgan

Tucked away near the Deschutes National Forest, just south of Bend, Oregon is the sweet little community of La Pine. This is home to Levi’s Sawmill Services.

Levi Littrell owns one of several rural sawmills that we purchase Western Juniper to sell through our Portland lumberyard.  These mills are turning an invasive “weed tree” into beautiful lumber, as part of grassland and watershed restoration work in central-eastern Oregon.  To read about some of the other rural mills we support, check out earlier blogs of mill visits to In the Sticks Juniper Sawmill and Southfork Gardens.  

The Sustainable NW Wood team popped in to visit Levi’s mill on a perfect spring day.  The mill was a lively scene, with saws buzzing,    sawdust flying, sawyers hustling like worker bees in a hive.  Levi stopped production for a bit to greet us warmly and show us around his operation.   He specializes in cutting juniper from the restoration projects and beetle killed blue stained Ponderosa pine salvaged from fire damaged and hazard logs.  We find ourselves surrounded by organized piles of logs, sorted by size and species, along with stacks and stacks of stickered lumber, drying in the afternoon sun.  For a small mill, he has the systems in place of a much larger operation, with eyes on the future. 

With a population of just under 1,900, La Pine is a metropolis compared to towns some of the other juniper mills that we work with are located - like Fossil (population 450) and Dayville (population 150).  Even though it is a somewhat isolated community with sweeping views of the Cascade Mountain Range, it’s a short drive from Bend and much of Levi’s success comes from the proximity to that thriving metropolitan area.  While other mills struggle to find good employees, Levi has been able to pull from the larger community to build a great team of sawyers that operate the mill in two shifts and keeps the sawdust flying 12 hours a day.  
Levi produces consistently high-quality lumber, has a reputation of having a fierce work ethic, provides great customer service, and has an active presence on social media, all of which contribute to his business success.   He sold his first stick of lumber in 2014 and has been going strong ever since. When I asked him how he got started in the lumber cutting business, he said “I really didn’t mean to,” which made me laugh out loud.  He lamented that he had a long list of home improvement projects and hated buying wood at a lumberyard when he had plenty on his own property.  For career options in La Pine, it was either become a lineman or start a sawmill.  We’re glad he chose the latter. 

Like most of the sawyers I’ve spoken with, Levi confirms that cutting juniper is unlike any other lumber.  “With juniper, you have to read every single log.”   It’s a gnarly and twisted tree, and the lumber is very dense with a wild, swirling grain pattern that has frustrated and baffled even the most seasoned sawyer.  Levi changes saw blades at least 5 times a shift.

Harvesting the trees presents a whole different set of problems.  Juniper trees have numerous, large and flexible limbs with very prickly needles.  A considerable amount of time must be spent just delimbing the trees.   The work is slow, dangerous and fatiguing. Traditional logging methods do not work with this tree, so finding loggers who actually want to cut this rebellious timber is becoming increasingly challenging. It takes significantly more time to harvest each tree, compared to other logging, and in this business, time is money. You can geek out on the study OSU did on the harvesting of juniper HERE.   Levi has orders he is struggling to fill because the loggers are not providing logs in the volumes promised.  As the demand for juniper lumber increases, this harvesting issue will need to be addressed if mills like his expect to survive.  Juniper  is still a largely unexplored product and most of the mills we work with are grappling with how to make a successful business from this unruly commodity.  With a mill that is set up and geared toward scalability, Levi Littrell seems to be the closest to finding the sweet spot.