Volume 9, Issue 7 - July-August 2008
A Look at the Certification Options Available for Green Wood
by Penny Stacy
With a rise in green building programs that recognize independent environmental stewardship certifications, wood door and window manufacturers may be wondering if they should participate in any such program, and if so, what to expect from the process. In addition, many are wondering if the time and money involved in this process is worth the benefits.
On page 29, you’ll find the simple steps required for achieving certification chain-of-custody from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Chain-of-custody certification is a certification that tracks the wood in a product from the time it is grown to its use in a product. In addition, DWM has interviewed several manufacturer representatives who have chosen to achieve these certifications—and some who haven’t—regarding the benefits from each.
“With the growing demands of green building, FSC [certification] is a must-have,” says Jon Sawatzky, product marketing manager for Loewen Windows in Steinbach, Manitoba. “It’s the only certified wood that is recognized in the LEED green building rating systems.”
For that reason, the company has not yet chosen to pursue SFI certification.
“We have and will continue to purchase SFI wood, but we are not chain-of-custody-certified in the SFI program,” Sawatzky adds. “We feel that SFI offers a good chain-of-custody program, but it’s not as strong as or as recognized as FSC …” Sawatsky declined to comment on what percentage of its work is derived from the FSC certification, citing confidentiality issues.
For Huber Engineered Wood Products in Charlotte, N.C., in general, achieving an SFI certification was the most convenient route for the company—and the fact that the NAHB program recognizes it was just an added bonus.
“[SFI] is more realistic for us,” he says. One particular issue Bob Potter, an engineer for the company, has with the FSC certification is the rotation age of trees required, which is 10 years. “That’s not realistic for our industry,” he adds.
Colonial Craft by Homeshield in Mounds View, Minn., has had FSC chain of custody certification for more than 15 years—since 1994—but has yet to certify with SFI.
“We do deal with softwoods and a lot of the softwoods are SFI-certified, but so far we have not [certified],” says Melissa Monchilovich, promotional manager. “We do have some customers that are looking for [SFI-certified] products, and we can say, ‘we can get SFI-certified products, but we’re not chain-of-custody-certified,’ and that’s usually sufficient.”
Leslie Holsapple, marketing coordinator for Windsor Windows and Doors in West Des Moines, Iowa, says the company has placed a major emphasis on making sure the majority of the wood it uses is environmentally friendly.
“More than 90 percent of the wood that Windsor uses comes from a sustainable site, and more than 70 percent is FSC-certified,” she says.
The company has seen an increase in demand from “green” builders in recent months—and that is part of the reason the company decided to achieve FSC chain of custody certification.
“Certain builders are considered to be green builders, so sometimes the demand is coming from [them],” she says, “and sometimes the homeowners.”
As for consumers looking to go green with certified wood products, Holsapple says the demand often depends on the area of the country in which they reside.
“It depends on their demographics,” she says. “People on the West Coast and in the Southeast are asking for [FSC certification] a little bit more.”
Holsapple noted that Windsor doesn’t track the percentage of its customers that request FSC-certified products.
Brian Hedlund, product marketing manager for JELD-WEN, which recently achieved SFI certification, has found the recent emphasis on green products to make this certification an asset to the company and its customers.
“Achieving certification is a major benefit for our customers because they are looking for sustainable options,” says Hedlund.
FSC Certification in Five Steps
Five Steps to SFI COC Certification
The Deciding Factor
“The majority of Windsor’s wood comes from Brazil or New Zealand, which makes us more suited for the FSC program, while SFI is more targeted toward [wood originating in] the United States and Canada,” Holsapple adds.
Point 5 Windows in Fort Collins, Colo., is on the fence—utilizing products from both certifications in its business, according to president Dave Lundahl.
“The majority of our products use SFI frame components,” says Lundahl, “and we use FSC products when they’re called for.” Lundahl specified that about 30 to 40 percent of his windows’ frames are composed of SFI-certified products.
To date, the company hasn’t sought chain-of-custody certification for either.
“Quite honestly, it wouldn’t be a large enough percentage of our products to justify it,” he says. “I would say [our decision not to certify] is most certainly related to the cumbersomeness of it. There’s a tremendous amount of administrative effort that will lead to very little marketing gain. That’s been our perception, at least.”
Though customers do sometimes seek this certification from their suppliers, he says it’s a rare occasion in his particular market.
“The markets we supply, although they have an interest in [the certifications], it wouldn’t be their deciding factor,” he says.
Loewen Windows found the FSC chain-of-custody certification process for its Douglas Fir products to be quite smooth.
“Because Loewen has always been a leader in sustainability and environmental practices, we had few difficulties in becoming FSC-certified,” says Sawatzky. “FSC certification was a natural fit—we didn’t have to revamp our business practices or modify our processes. The review and audit process took time, but it was a necessary step.”
For Colonial Craft by Homeshield, which has been certified with FSC specifically for many years, the re-audit process does not impact its operations a great deal—if at all.
“The auditor comes here once a year and meets with our buyer, who’s our main contact for FSC, and … it is not a really big, drawn-out process,” Monchilovich says. She adds that while LEED builders certainly do seek the points from contracting companies that are FSC-certified, in general, having this certification has added to its customer base.
“It just opens up a bigger market for you,” she says.
What Others Are Doing
A search for “window” on the SFI products website comes back with one supplier that has achieved chain-of-custody certification: JELD-WEN. A search for wood doors on SFI’s website returns a list of five manufacturers.
The FSC product availability page returns more than 200 window manufacturers that have achieved some type of FSC certification, though the majority of these are located outside the United States. A search for wood doors with FSC certification returns almost 600 results.
To learn more about what each of these certification options entails, see sidebars on page 29.yyä www.fsc.org or www.aboutsfi.org
Penny Stacey is the assistant editor of DWM magazine.