9Wood offers designers access to wood for their ceiling designs from sustainably harvested forests, certified by two competing organizations. Both programs offer certified lumber that qualify toward LEED credits.
Two Certification Sources
Certified lumber connects the building’s wood products back to healthy forests. Certification means that an independent, third party organization has verified that 9Wood’s lumber truly comes from these well-managed forests. Certification organizations use transparent, globally accepted forestry standards. FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council®) is our primary certification. PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) is 9Wood’s second source of certified wood. Both programs have their detractors as well as their advocates.
Our History using Certified Wood
In the mid-1990s we worked on a project for the Packard Foundation (founded by David Packard of HP). Hawley Peterson Snyder Architecture (Sunnyvale, California) wanted FSC certified wood in their project. We didn’t know anything about certified wood nor the Forest Stewardship Council. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) did not exist at the time. But encouraged by the Packard Foundation and the design team, we dove into well-managed forestry and Chain-of-Custody certification. We were intrigued. And after some hard work, we qualified for FSC Chain-of-Custody certification. We partnered with Collins Pine using FSC lumber harvested from their ‘well-managed’ timberlands in the Mt. Lassen area of Northern California. We built a beautiful FSC White Fir grille for the project’s ceiling.
A year later in 1998, the US Green Building Council launched the LEED green building rating system. Use of FSC lumber offered designers 1 credit on their project. This propelled our sustainable journey still further. In future years, we hired Louis Leatherman, a sustainability expert, to help guide our journey. Staff members become GA (Green Associated) accredited. We also began participating in the Living Building Challenge, which requires FSC-certified lumber. We enlisted many suppliers to the cause with FSC Outsource agreements. We were firmly committed to FSC Chain-of-Custody.
But a problem was developing. Unfortunately, our FSC softwood supply from Canada became increasingly unpredictable and in short supply. At the same time, 9Wood’s Fast>TrackTM guaranteed on-time shipping program was growing in popularity. Fast>Track needs predictable, short lead-time certified Hemlock if we’re going to honor our guarantee. After all, with a 5% payout for each business day we ship late, we must have a rock-solid supply chain.
Up until 2016, LEED recognized FSC certified wood as the sole certification organization worthy of the Material Resource (MR) credit. Then on April 5, 2016, the USGBC released a pilot Alternative Credit Path (ACP) for MR credits that included other certification organizations besides FSC. This remains somewhat controversial, particularly as one of the approved alternates, SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative), retains a “black hat” image in the environmental community.
Then our FSC softwood supply from Canada became truly unavailable, endangering our Fast>Track inventory as well as other projects. We felt compelled to expand our search for alternative certification programs. With encouragement from the new LEED alternative credit path we settled on adding PEFC certified lumber as another option. As it turns out, PEFC is the largest certification program in the world, certifying large amounts of Canadian forests, particularly in British Columbia where its acreage vastly outnumbers FSC.
- PEFC certified British Columbia forests covers 196,000 square miles (50.6 million hectares)
- FSC certified British Columbia forests covers 5,400 square miles (1.4 million hectares)
It has always been in response to our customer’s requests for certified wood that guided our work with certification and Chain-of-Custody. This doesn’t mean sustainable forestry and green building construction doesn’t match our values. They do. The environment is one of our company’s stakeholders. But our immersion in certified wood has been market driven. This doesn’t make 9Wood mercenary. Quite the contrary. It validates the heart of global certification initiatives since the 1992 UN Rio Earth Summit: market forces must play a role, along with social and environment concerns, if the world is going to embrace sustainable forestry.
How does 9Wood supply certified wood for projects?
It starts in the forests. Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) is defined by the UN as:
The stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfill, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems.
With a growing international consensus on the key principles behind sustainable forestry you need organizations to certify that forests apply ‘well-managed’ forestry practices. There are more than 50 certification programs worldwide addressing many types of forests and contexts. The most respected use third-party, consensus-developed standards for sustainable forest management. They rely on independent auditors to inspect and certify that forest operators comply with those standards. The two largest international forest certification programs are:
Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC)
Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
Once a forest is certified ‘sustainably managed’, you next need to ensure the wood harvested from that forest, with its valuable pedigree, gets to the end customer. That process is called a Chain-of-Custody (COC) program.
Between the forest and the final user, lumber undergoes many stages of processing, manufacturing and distribution. Chain-of-Custody certification traces the path of products from forests through the supply chain, verifying that certified wood is identified and quarantined away from non-certified wood.
Any company in this supply chain, including harvesters, processors, manufacturers, distributors, printers, even retailers—anyone taking ownership of the forest product before the end user—needs to be Chain-of-Custody certified. Only a Chain-of-Custody accredited company can use a certification eco-label. 9Wood is a Chain-of-Custody FSC certificate holder since 2004 and PEFC since 2018.
Our perspective has evolved over the years. We’ve moved from an exclusive to an inclusive view of certified wood. It was a conversion requiring visits to PEFC headquarters in Geneva, discussions with FSC and other sustainable experts. This fact weighed heavily: only 10% of the world’s forests are certified and world-wide certification is slowing down. This does not mean 90% of the planet’s forests are in crisis. But many are, especially tropical forests. We have come to believe three, no doubt controversial, principles:
1) Supporting the expansion of forest certification is more important than supporting one over another competing certification programs; and
2) The criteria used by competing programs like FSC and PEFC have converged significantly over the past 15 years to the point where, for the purpose of expanding certification, they are essentially interchangeable.
3) 9Wood exists to reliably serve our customers. To the extent LEED and other green building programs gather a following in the design community, we want to offer enough certified options so that their wood ceiling designs, budgets, and schedules are met.