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There are a number of factors to be considered when doing a thorough analysis of “sustainability” of timber choices.
Certification has historically been the “go to” for proof of sustainable use - but as a buyer or specifier your research should not stop there.
In an era of climate change Global Warming Potential (GWP) is increasingly important, along with other environmental considerations.
We recommend the following five steps be considered when selecting timbers, in decreasing order of importance.
1. The Logic Test
Think about this particular wood resource. Will there be more or less of this resource for future generations? Faster grown timbers are more appropriate for high volume uses, while slow grown timbers might be appropriate for lower volumes uses and specialty applications.
To be truly sustainable supply must match or exceed demand – consider the fact that global population is increasing and consequently demand is too.
Is the timber certified? Preferably by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) which is recognised as the gold standard in forest certification.
In 1994 FSC was formed by a group of community leaders, environmentalists and businesses to act as an independent market driven organisation to stop deforestation. More than 200 million hectares are currently certified by FSC.
3. Does it Pass the Corruption Test
Does it pass the sniff test for corruption, even if it is certified? Many countries in Central Africa, South East Asia and South American have high levels of corruption and this means that even certified wood could be subject to falsification or bribery.
FSC recognise this and publish Centralized National Risk Assessments (CNRA) covering these kinds of risks.
If you choose timber sourced from countries with high levels of transparency you are more likely to have a legitimately certified timber – Transparency International provide great data on international corruption levels.
4. Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)
All timbers will store carbon, but this will be offset by the carbon emissions emitted during the extraction, processing and shipping process. Some timbers will store more carbon than others, and this should be considered if embodied carbon is a key factor.
Any environmental claims made around embodied carbon need to be supported by an Environmental Production Declaration (EPD) – without this there is no supporting science around claims.
Abodo's Vulcan is New Zealand's first verified carbon negative feature timber - download the Abodo EPD here.
5. What is the Service Life
Most wood products in their final form will store carbon. By ensuring the wood product has a long life, we can be sure that the carbon is not quickly emitted back to the atmosphere at the end of its life.
Follow these five rules, and you will have a good shot at not only choosing the best timber for your project, but doing so in a manner that is protecting future generations.