4 Ways Sustainable Forestry Supports The Future of Wood Construction


The international Mass Timber Conference brought global experts in the mass timber industry together in Portland, Oregon this week to discuss how we can increase the use of wood in mid-rise and tall buildings around the world. The conference explored the entire supply chain for innovative wood technologies like cross-laminated timber and laminated veneer lumber. One of the main speakers, Jason Metric of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), spoke about four ways responsible forestry supports wood construction.

The speech focused on how forest certification can open up global markets in green building, a highly relevant topic for anyone working in the forestry industry today. For anyone who couldn’t be present at the event, SFI has outlined the four ways in a post on Treehugger.com.

The 4 ways in-depth:

1. Ensure the wood products in your construction project – whether small buildings or tall buildings – come from certified, responsible, and legal sources.

Watch architect Michael Green talk about the future of wooden skyscrapers and the importance of sustainable building materials here:

2. In North America, more than 285 million acres/115 million hectares of forests are certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Forest Management Standard and millions more are positively impacted by SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard.

There’s a simple way you can ensure that our forests remain healthy. Look for the SFI® label on any wood, paper and packaging product you purchase. It’s your assurance that what you buy comes from responsibly managed and legal forests.

3. SFI is recognized by LEED and other top green building rating systems.

On April 5, 2016, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) issued a LEED alternative compliance path (ACP) that recognizes wood and paper from the SFI Program as part of an integrated approach to encouraging environmentally responsible forest management and eliminating illegal wood from the building material’s supply chain.

4. Wood is celebrated by leading architects for its beauty, versatility, and renewability.

The 2017 SFI Certified Wood Award, part of the North American Wood Design and Building Awards program, was presented to Hacker, Portland-based architects. The Black Butte Ranch used Sierra Pacific windows and other wood certified to the SFI Standard.

Innovative Wood Floors Made of Waste Pulp Generate Renewable Energy

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How do you make a renewable, natural, oxygen-producing, CO2-storing material even more sustainable? Make it as close to zero-waste as possible. Wood waste left over after milling lumber already gets put to myriad valuable uses, from paper products to biomass fuel, and a new innovation will actually enable it to produce clean energy. Engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered a way to manufacture wood floors embedded with wood pulp nanofibers that generate electricity when you step on them.

Chemically treated, tiny cellulose fibers within the waste pulp produce an electrical charge when they come in contact with untreated nano fibers. Stepping on wood floors enhanced with these fibers generates electricity, effectively harnessing energy from footsteps without the need for complex equipment.

Published in the journal Nano Energy on September 24th, 2016, the method is ingeniously simple and inexpensive, with the potential to produce electricity that can be harnessed to power lights or charge batteries. The technology can easily be incorporated into virtually every kind of wood flooring that’s already on the market, including Eastern White Pine.

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The functional section of the wood containing the electricity-producing fibers takes up less than a millimeter in thickness, so it doesn’t significantly alter the shape or look of the wood. To produce more energy, manufacturers could simply add more layers.

The technology is currently being tested and optimized on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, with a prototype in development to demonstrate the concept.

“Our initial test in our lab shows that it works for millions of cycles without any problem,” says Xudong Wang, an associate professor of materials science and engineering who’s working on the project. “We haven’t converted those numbers into year of life for a floor yet, but I think with appropriate design it can definitely outlast the floor itself.”

Transparent Wood: What Can’t This Material Do?

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You read that right: there is now a way to make wood transparent, making this timeless natural material even more versatile than it already is and opening up virtually limitless architectural and design capabilities for the future. Though it’s a long way from being commercially available, ‘invisible wood’ is in fact a reality now that scientists at University of Maryland, College Park have developed a special chemical process to remove the lignin that gives wood its color.

Not only is this processed wood as clear as glass, it’s sturdier than traditional wood, too, and could be used in place of less environmentally friendly materials in applications where unbreakable glass is needed. According to Dr. Lianging Bhu of the University’s Department of Material Science and Engineering, the key is chemically removing the lignin and then injecting the empty veins of the wood with epoxy to make it strong and durable. Similar to the cellular structure of bone, the tiny channels that naturally occur in wood are responsible for its strong yet flexible qualities.

Glass has poor thermal isolation, making it a weak point for temperature regulation in most sustainably-designed structures. Since wood is a natural insulator, it could make a dramatic difference in keeping buildings protected from extreme hot and cold.

“Potentially, the wood could be made to match or even exceed the strength of steel per weight, with the added benefit that wood could be lighter in weight,” says Hu. “It’s exciting. And because the material has been used for a long time, there’s already a lot of know-how and manufacturing infrastructure in the wood industry so the field will develop very quickly.”

This breakthrough comes on the heels of a major renaissance of large-scale wooden architecture picking up speed around the world, as government officials approve building projects on wooden skyscrapers towering higher than ever. All of these advancements point to a looming resurgence in demand for wood, boosting the industry on virtually all levels.

Wood Innovations: Beautiful Uses for Textile-Like Timber Skin

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What would you create with a flexible wooden material that can be wrapped around objects or manipulated into shape like a piece of fabric? The faceted panels of ‘wood skin,’ a composite material that’s redefining the possibilities of wood, enable it to bend and fold in extraordinary ways. Applied to a textile backing, the geometric pieces of wood in various shapes and sizes hinge at desired points for virtually limitless applications.

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Created by a design team in Milan using specially-created software, the revolutionary material creates a high-end modern aesthetic, whether it’s applied to surfaces or bunched up into sculptural ceiling installations or freestanding structures. The design enables vertical and horizontal 3D surfaces, volumes and panels.

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The multi-toned walls at Dubai’s Reign Restaurant are particularly stunning, showing the material in action as partition walls, curtains and cladding. There’s also an acoustic version called ‘sound-skin’, shown here at the On-House Home Theatre in Milan.

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Want to play around with it yourself? You can order sample packs at the Wood Skin website.

Molding as Modern Decor: More Creative Uses for Pine Products

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Got a bunch of scraps of pine molding laying around that are too short to use? Don’t toss them away – they have the potential to be all sorts of things, from pendant lamps to pencil holders, as proven by the ‘Molding Plan’ project by designer Chialing Chang. The natural contours of these products make for surprisingly elegant decorative objects when they’re cut apart and glued back together in unexpected ways.

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The Taipei-based designer noticed that the arc and beveled edge on a piece of molding, designed to conceal its mounting, have a contemporary value outside of their original intended purpose. Chang used three different kinds of molding to produce containers, hanging lamps and desktop organizers.

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The containers are made of molding pieces cut into 45- and 60-degree angled segments and then reassembled to create stackable vessels. Ogee molding adds a visual flair to pendant lamps that’s simultaneously traditional and modern, and is also hollowed out and stacked to any height desired for corralling small items like pens, tape and rulers.

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Not only can innovative adaptive reuse projects like this one inspire individual homeowners and woodworkers to approach timber products from a fresh perspective, it can also be a boost to the entire industry.

“The whole series are manufactured by wood craftsmen in Ningxia Road in Taipei City, Taiwan,” says Chang. “The street, where the wood industry and resources gather, has gradually declined under the impact of international economic downturn. Huge accumulated stocks of moldings are kept in local lumber shops. Molding Plan utilizes plentiful resources of an age-old place in Taipei City as well as gathering people’s attentions to the traditional woodworking industry.”

Wooden Version of the Empire State Building Proves the Possibilities of Wood

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Dubbing it “the symbol of a new age,” Metsä Wood has teamed up with architect Michael Green to design a sustainable wood version of the Empire State Building, showing off the virtually limitless heights to which wood construction may reach. The Finnish wood products producer presents ‘Plan B’, a series reimagining architectural wonders of the world to show how they could be built from wood instead of their original materials.

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“While many things have changed in 85 years, architects still strive to give form to new ideas about structure, energy consumption, climate change and the list goes on,” says architect Michael Green. “For these reasons the most iconic building of the modern age – the Empire State Building – was chosen for Plan B case. We designed a skyscraper using Metsä Wood’s Kerto LVL engineered wood as the main material from floors to column spacing.”

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The first Plan B project reimagined the Colosseum in Rome, and the third will give the German parliament building known as the Reichstag a timber makeover.

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“Wood construction is the ideal way to both battle climate change and house a growing urban population,” says Metsä Wood’s Andreas Rutschmann. “As a large part of the German Parliament’s work is about environmental legislation, it really makes sense that its home is as sustainable as possible. It was great to hear that Plan B will be presented to the parliament’s department of Energy policy.”