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Wooden Board


The case for wooden skyscrapers is not barking

THE five-storey pagoda of the Temple of the Flourishing Law in the Nara prefecture of Japan is one of the world’s oldest wooden buildings. It has withstood wind, rain, fire and earthquakes for 1,400 years. Analysis of the rings in the central pillar supporting the 32-metre structure suggests the wood that it is made from was felled in 594, and construction is thought to have taken place soon after. In an age of steel and concrete, the pagoda is a reminder of wood’s long history as a construction material. New techniques mean that wood can now be used for much taller buildings. A handful are already going up in cities around the world. The 14-storey Treet block of flats in Bergen, Norway, is currently the tallest. But Brock Commons, an 18-storey wooden dormitory at the University of British Columbia in Canada, is due to be completed in 2017. That is when construction is expected to begin on the 21-storey Haut building in Amsterdam. Arup, a firm of engineering consultants working on the project, says it will be built using sustainable European pine. Some architects have even started designing wooden skyscrapers, like the proposed Tratoppen (“the treetop” illustrated above), a 40-floor residential tower on the drawing-board in Stockholm. Timber! Wood has many attractions as a construction material, apart from its aesthetic qualities. A wooden building is about a quarter of the weight of an equivalent reinforced-concrete structure, which means foundations can be smaller. Timber is a sustainable material and a natural “sink” for CO2, as trees lock in carbon from the atmosphere. Tall steel-and-concrete buildings tend to have a large carbon footprint, in part because of the amount of material required to support them. Using wood could reduce their carbon footprint by 60-75%, according to some studies. There are two main concerns about using wood to build high. The first is whether wood is strong enough. In recent years there have been big advances in “engineered” wood, such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) made from layers of timber sections glued together with their grains at right angles to one another. In much the same way that aligning carbon-fibre composites creates stronger racing cars, aircraft and golf clubs, CLT imparts greater rigidity and strength to wooden structures. A recent experiment by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, a firm of architects, and Oregon State University, shows how strong engineered wood can be. The researchers used CLT in a hybrid form known as concrete-jointed timber. This featured an 11-metre wide CLT floor section with a thin layer of reinforced concrete spread across the surface. Thicker sections of concrete were added where the floor was supported by pillars. It was put into a giant test rig where a powerful hydraulic press pushed with increasing force onto the surface. The researchers wanted to see how the structure moved under load, but kept pressing in order to find its limits. The floor finally began to crack when the load reached a massive 82,000 pounds (37,200kg), around eight times what it was designed to support. The concrete covering the floor was mainly for sound insulation, but it helps to deal with the second worry: fire. The concrete adds a layer of fire protection between floors. In general, a large mass of wood, such as a CLT floor, is difficult to burn without a sustained heat source—for the same reason that it is hard to light a camp fire when all you have is logs. Once the outside of the timber chars it can prevent the wood inside from igniting. The big urban fires of the past, such as the Great Fire of London, which occurred 350 years ago this month, were mostly fuelled by smaller sections of timber acting as kindling. Prospective tenants would doubtless need lots of reassurance. But with other fire-resistant layers and modern sprinkler systems, tall wooden buildings can exceed existing fire standards, reckons Benton Johnson, a project leader with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. He says the test showed that not only can wood be made strong enough for tall buildings but that “it makes sense to use it”. Although a cubic metre of concrete is cheaper than an equivalent volume of timber, wooden buildings can be built faster. Mr Johnson thinks the appeal of wood, both visually and as a sustainable material, will make it commercially attractive to property developers. What about woodworm and rot? “If you don’t look after it, steel and concrete will fail just as quickly as timber,” says Michael Ramage, head of the Centre for Natural Material Innovation at the University of Cambridge in Britain. Dr Ramage and his colleagues are also testing wooden materials for tall buildings, including for an 80-storey, 300-metre wooden skyscraper (see illustration) presented as a conceptual study to the City of London. Designed with PLP Architecture and Smith and Wallwork, an engineering company, it would, if built, become the second-highest building in London after the Shard. For a busy city such as London, there are yet more advantages to building higher with timber, adds Dr Ramage. For a start, the construction site would be a lot quieter without the heavy plant required to pound deep foundations, pump concrete and install steel supports. There would also be less construction traffic. Dr Ramage calculates that for every lorry delivering timber for a wooden building, five lorries would be needed to deliver concrete and steel. All these things may mean that once the total construction costs are calculated, a wooden building can work out cheaper. Anders Berensson, the Swedish architect who designed Tratoppen, believes engineered wood will become the cheapest way to construct tall buildings in the future. Another benefit of the material, he says, is the ability to carve the wood readily. In his current design the number of each floor is cut into the building’s exterior. One big obstacle to this wooden renaissance is regulation. Building codes vary around the world. In America cities can restrict wooden buildings to five or six storeys (about the height of a fire engine’s ladder). Exemptions can be made, however, and proponents of wood are hoping that as taller timber buildings emerge, city planners will adjust the rules. If they do, an old-fashioned branch of architecture might enjoy a revival.

The Ethics of Forest Certification: When Unintended Consequences Result

"One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions and not by their results." — Dr. Milton Friedman The free market has long been recognized as one of the best methods for consumers to get a wide variety of choices, while at the same time the competition for the consumer dollar incentivizes producers and sellers to offer the best possible value for the price. Free market advocates have demonstrated that, all too often, interventions in the market such as tariffs, regulations, taxes, and so forth - imposed with the best of intentions - not only rob the consumer of choice but increase the ultimate cost of goods and services. As Milton Friedman liked to point out, such interventions frequently resulted in outcomes exactly the opposite of what was intended by those advocating the interventions. In short, the law of unintended consequences operates to frustrate those who seek to impose their own subjective values on the free market. This is becoming the case in the huge market for forest products from paper to furniture to building supplies. The battle lines are forming over competing forest certification standards. Such certifications are evidence to consumers that the forest product they may be purchasing has been certified to meet certain environmental standards. The well-intended purpose is to help stop a variety of abusive forestry practices. Products that met the standards were stamped with the forest certification logo of whichever group's standards were met. As an added measure, the standards were to be ensured by third-party inspectors. As the practice started out to be entirely voluntary and the groups tended to be non-profit organizations, nothing in the arrangement violated the principles of free market enterprise. Consumers who preferred one system over another or no system at all were all free to use such certifications as a useful way to make informed decisions. Approximately 90% of the world's forests have no certification of any kind. Internationally, more than 30 different such certification systems exist. In North America, there are four forest certification programs: The Sustainable Forestry Initiative Program (SFI) This is the most widely used certification standard in the U.S. with 196 million acres certified as of the end of 2011. The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) ATFS is the system used by some 83,000 small family forest landowners who have about 26 million acres of certified forests. SFI recognizes the ATFS standard and forest products are tracked using the SFI chain of custody standard. The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) This standard is used in Canada. Forest products are tracked using the SFI chain of custody standard. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) This standard is international with a mixture of some 28 regional and national standards. The FSC is based in Germany and about 90% of its certifications are outside the U.S. The various competing standards are remarkably similar with each one emphasizing its own best qualities in order to persuade the marketplace to become loyal to their particular brand. Those organizations which closely follow the issue have made this observation. For example, the National Association of State Foresters passed a forest certification statement resolution in 2008 stating: While in different manners, the ATFS (American Tree Farm System), FSC(Forest Stewardship Council), and SFI systems include the fundamental elements of credibility and make positive contributions to forest sustainability...No certification program can credibly claim to be 'best', and no certification program that promotes itself as the only certification option can maintain credibility. The collegiality of the certification programs should have been further improved by their shared views on sustainability and sound forestry practices and also by the fact that 90% of the world's forests were not certified at all. This was not to be. Advocates of FSC soon found ways to gain advantages over their competition. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a private environmental group, developed a system called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) in 2000. LEED uses a point-based rating system for buildings that only recognizes forests certified by FSC. In practice, this bias means that most of North America's certified forests are severely disadvantaged since FSC certifies only about one-quarter of North America's certified forests. The other three-quarters of certified forests - certified by SFI, CSA, and ATFS - are shut out of the competition, despite standards which are quite similar to those of FSC, and in some cases significantly better than the FSC standards. To make the anti-competitive nature of the LEED system worse, advocates of the FSC standard have sought to get government involved in promoting the LEED standard using taxpayer dollars to favor one private program over another. A textbook example of this is the U.S. General Services Administration, which is one of the largest building owners and managers in the nation. As cited in the GSA LEED Cost Study Final Report: GSA requires all new construction, and major renovation and modernization projects to be certified through the LEED program, with project teams strongly encouraged to achieve LEED 'Silver' ratings. The Essence of Hypocrisy: Hardline Activists Who Demand That FSC Be the Only Allowable Certification System Ignore FSC's Major Flaws hy·poc·ri·sy n. 1: a feigning to be what one is not Those who advocate that no other forest certification system than FSC should be allowed have one thing in common: they roundly condemn alternate certification systems while ignoring the voluminous evidence that FSC's flaws are often far worse. That is the essence of hypocrisy. Among the facts usually overlooked by those pushing for FSC to be the monopoly forest certification system: (1) Most FSC certified wood products come from outside the U.S. meaning there are more transportation costs - not exactly a selling point for environmentalists. (2) There is no one FSC standard since the standards vary greatly depending on the place of origin, thus undercutting any certainty to the consumer of exactly what standards apply to the product being purchased. (3) Many of the perceived "abuses" - such as clearcutting and harvesting of old growth trees - can occur even if a wood product is FSC certified. Whenever the more strident activists are campaigning against alternate certification systems to FSC, their trump card is the claim that FSC is the superior system for those who value the environment. This line of argument all too often is associated with efforts to either denigrate corporations which chose these alternate systems or to promote anti-competitive arrangements like the LEED system. The net result of a monopoly FSC certification system is higher economic costs on the wood products industry which means higher prices for consumers. Ironically, this anti-consumer effort would not be possible without a textbook example of hypocrisy: misrepresenting a very flawed forest certification system to be a reliable environmental standard when the facts show clearly that it is not. If the Webster's definition of "hypocrisy" is feigning to be what one is not, the marketing of FSC certification as the only allowable environmental standard is based substantially on hypocrisy. And the Law of Unintended Consequences Kicks In: Energy Costs to Transport FSC Certified Products Since 90% of FSC certifications are from outside the U.S. and about 75% of the certified forests in the U.S. in North America are certified using certifications other than FSC, that means that the non-recognition of the other systems by LEED and therefore GSA, the U.S. government is paying a much larger amount in transportation costs when it has to import a product from overseas when a similar product is readily available here. Since the environmental movement is largely opposed to the use of fossil fuels generally, while favoring strict conservation, one has to wonder how they believe these FSC forest products are transported to the U.S. Even FSC knows that the limitation on FSC certified products often results in having to transport forest products from a foreign country. FSC's 2010 Business Value and Growth market survey stated: Nearly half of respondents have sought out an alternative supplier in another country when FSC certified timber or products were not available in their own country. In a May 21, 2012 letter to the U.S. Green Building Council, a bi-partisan group of Congressmen protested that organization's discrimination against the use of most certified forest products from the U.S. in their LEED system: ...FSC certified products from Brazil, China, or Russia can earn this credit, yet domestic products from forests certified to SFI and ATFS cannot earn these same credits. There are over 86 million acres certified to SFI and ATFS across the United States. These forests are responsibly managed, protect biodiversity and water quality and generate products that would be excellent components of what is categorized as a green building. Other Costs From the beginning, the economic thinking behind forest certification was that consumers would pay more for certified forest products because they endorse the accountability represented by the certification process. To some degree that is true when the premium costs are not too high and when real competition between competing certification systems keeps those added costs modest. As any student of monopolies knows, the attraction of a monopoly to the monopolist is to gouge the consumer on prices when the consumer has no alternative in the marketplace. That explains why the FSC advocates, who are trying to shut out competing certification systems, are ultimately hurting the consumer. While cost comparisons in a marketplace as huge and diverse as that for forest products can sometimes be difficult, abundant evidence suggests that the FSC certification does not compete as well on price. Aside from the cost of transportation already noted, those who are most involved in the forest products marketplace have noted the increased cost factor. The GSA LEED Cost Study Final Report already cited found a cost premium to build according to the LEED system which accepts only the FSC certification on wood products. A Washington Post article, "Why green-certified products may not always be the best choice" by Katherine Salant on April 30, 2012 cites a good example of when the FSC certification adds nothing but a significant cost increase: Several architects said that some certifications add to a product's cost and the certification can be unnecessary. For example, Tom Shiner, an architect and furniture maker based in Bethesda, said using wood with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) stamp to make his furniture adds a significant cost. Shiner acknowledged that the FSC stamp is important if you don't know where the wood is from because it indicates that the wood was harvested using sustainable practices, but in his case he uses locally harvested poplar and oak, and he knows the person who cut the trees. When is a Standard not a Standard? For a brand or even a brand's logo to mean anything at all, it implies that the product or service of that brand meets certain uniform standards. The strong implication is that the FSC certification means certain uniform standards of forestry practices have been met. But that is not the case with FSC. In reality the FSC certification can mean all sorts of different standards - and there is virtually no way to know by looking at the label. The reason for this is that the FSC certification is actually a hodgepodge of different standards since they vary from country to country and region to region. The issues raised regarding this odd mixture of different standards all covered by one FSC label were described nicely in a 2009 letter by Steptoe & Johnson attorney Tom Collier to the Federal Trade Commission in which he also addressed anti-competiveness in the area of forest certification: The variance of national and regional standards promulgated by FSC, coupled with the fact that FSC labels do not disclose under which FSC standard a wood product may have been certified, makes it extremely difficult to substantiate any meaningful FSC-related product claims. FSC operates under a system of dozens of varying regional and national standards across the United States and around the world. In North America alone, there are 13 regional standards with nine of those in the United States. Mr. Collier went on to show wide disparities, such as a land set aside of 5% in Sweden as compared to 15% in the United Kingdom. In one place the standards are strict, while elsewhere lenient. Even more incredible, Mr. Collier documented how in countries without an accepted national standard, the FSC permits certification bodies to certify according to their own "interim" standards, which do not meet either International Organization of Standardization (ISO) or International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labeling (ISEAL) Alliance requirements. As Mr. Collier summed up, "The result is that while consumers are informed that a product bearing a FSC label is FSC-certified, consumers have no way of knowing under what conditions the wood may have been grown or harvested." What's Wrong with a Monopoly Forest Certification Program? Another major unintended consequence of the more strident environmental groups trying to make FSC the only government-approved forest certification is that monopolies traditionally are insensitive to the wishes of those who have no choice but to use them. In the case of forest certification there has been an increasing outcry from environmentalists about how FSC is less than true to its mission. One of the Founder Members of FSC, Simon Counsell, has set up a web site to monitor FSC: FSC-Watch's motto is "because transparency matters." The web site appears to be regularly updated with well-researched news of problems regarding FSC operations: It's official: the FSC is now setting out to use its grotesque Controlled (sic) Wood Policy in order to 'launder' wood from areas experiencing recent deforestation into the FSC certified wood supply chain." (May 25, 2012) The myth of sustainable FSC certified logging in Sweden is explored in a new article, 'Sweden's Green Veneer Hides Unsustainable Logging Practices'... The article describes the growing consensus that the "Swedish model' of forestry is failing to protect biodiversity, and old growth forests continue to be clear-cut, including those with FSC certification." (December 2, 2011) One doesn't have to be a total cynic to ask: if the FSC certification can be stamped on wood products obtained by clear-cutting old growth forests and destroying biodiversity, then what exactly does FSC's brand of forest certification mean? For those who are interested in the account of FSC certified forest operations in Sweden clear-cutting old growth forest, German investigative journalism video is on YouTube under the title "FSC Certified Clearcuts in Sweden." The six-and-a-half-minute video shows a machine capable of taking down 900 trees a day, including centuries-old trees, in an FSC certified forestry operation. The video is shown to a forest ecology professor, who roundly condemns the actions. The video of the abusive practices is then used to confront an FSC official who does his best not to be embarrassed by the video and the reporter's questions. The sharp contrast between the FSC's public relations spin and the reality of the practices it allows should give pause to any activist who wants to force the FSC standard on the government, corporations and on all consumers. Despite the many demonstrated environmental and economic issues undercutting the FSC claims, it has attracted the support of some of the more radical environmental activists. One activist group, ForestEthics, makes no bones about its sometimes confrontational tactics against companies which do not get on the FSC bandwagon. As its web page states: Sometimes companies need a little encouragement. When companies refuse to change their harmful practices, ForestEthics holds them publicly accountable. We get creative with online and offline actions, including protests, websites, email campaigns, and national advertisements. No corporation can afford to have its brand be synonymous with environmental destruction. That implicit threat to denigrate the brand of companies who do not toe the ForestEthics line on forest certification speaks volumes as to how this group operates. While the group uses its pressure tactics to criticize the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, what about the voluminous evidence of abusive forestry practices associated with the Forest Stewardship Council? The clear-cutting of old growth forests in Sweden? The destruction of biodiversity by FSC-approved operations? Or even the many criticisms of FSC as carefully documented by fsc-watch? Lots of luck finding anything critical of FSC - or anything balanced about SFI, ATFS, or CSA. Unlike many of the people and organizations with expertise in forestry issues who have put forth balanced and careful statements about the pros and cons of the various certification methods, the approach of ForestEthics and some other activist groups is starkly one-sided. You are either with them - or maybe they need to make your "brand be synonymous with environmental destruction." When it comes to granting monopoly status to the FSC forest certification policy, Milton Friedman's observation that policies should be judged by their results and not their intentions is a compelling reason to reject those who would force a deeply flawed policy on the public.

Understanding Wood Resources

Source: FDM Asia Article

Wood has emerged as the most important raw material to mankind since time immemorial. Despite its extensive and intimate use among humans, the full potential of wood resources remains a mystery as research into the nature and properties of wood is continuously explored even till today. Nevertheless, wood remains one of the most cherished raw material and its beauty and splendor makes it very desirable for almost all applications. Amidst the global environmental concern, wood has once again emerged as the material of choice by virtue of it's renewability and environmentally friendly status. In fact, wood is a carbon sink, which if managed properly, can serve as a strong mitigating factor against global warming, a phenomenon that threatens the very existence of mankind. Against this background, it would be interesting to review the wood resources of the world and provide an overview of its diversity and applications.  NATURE OF WOOD Wood is derived from trees, especially the xylem part of the trunk. In fact, the growth of trees in terms of its girth is attributed to the addition of cells, or rather, building blocks by the woody tissues. Hence, growth in trees takes place layer after layer, each indicating a growth season. The mechanism of wood formations is similar for all trees, but he wood can be differentiated into two types. Hardwoods comes from deciduous trees: that is, trees with leaves that are shed in winter while the tree goes dormant till spring. Softwoods are conifers, which have needles and are evergreens. In general, hardwood comes from deciduous trees that lose their leaves annually, and softwood comes from a conifer, which remains evergreen throughout the year. Hardwoods tend to be slower growing and are usually denser and heavier. Softwood usually grows in huge tracts of trees which may spread for miles, while hardwoods is found mixed with a variety of other species, except in some European and North American regions where large stands of hardwood trees can extend across entire states. TYPES OF TREES Softwood comes from a type of tree known as a gymnosperm. Gymnosperms reproduce by forming cones, which emit pollen to be spread by wind to other trees. Pollinated trees form naked seeds which are dropped to the ground or borne along the wind so that new trees can grow elsewhere. Some examples of softwood include pine, redwood, fir, cedar and larch. A hardwood is an angiosperm, which means that it makes enclosed seeds or fruits. Angiosperms usually form flowers to reproduce. Birds and insects attracted to the flowers carry the pollen to other trees, and when fertilized, the trees form fruits such as apples or nuts and seeds like acorns and walnuts. Hardwoods include maple, balsa, oak, elm, mahogany, meranti, nyatoh, sepetir, balau, and rubberwood. As a matter of fact, most of the wood resources available in the Asian region are hardwoods, making up almost 97 percent of the wood resource, while a few softwoods are available, but in small quantities. STRUCTURE OF WOOD Generally, hardwoods have a more complex structure compared to softwoods. Inevitably, it is often perceived that hardwoods must be harder than softwoods, but this is not always the case. The complexity of the hardwoods structure suggests a higher degree of growth differentiations at the cellular level, which explains the much slower growth rates observed in such trees. On the other hand, the softwoods have a much simpler structure, and hence its growth is also much faster. A comparison of the hardwoods and softwoods from many perspectives will provide the readers with a better understanding of the wood resources. APPLICATIONS Wood is used extensively for many purposes throughout the world. Wooden construction is increasingly popular in the western world due to the good insulation properties of wood and its environmentally friendly status. Although previously thought of as being unsafe, multi-storied constructions in wood are also being erected in central Europe and Scandinavian countries, as all the engineering and design aspects have been taken into consideration to ensure a safe and reliable structure. In the tropics however, wooden construction is very much at its infancy stage, due to the concerns against potent threats of the harsh weather and biodegradation agents such as termites, fungi and insects. In terms of wood products, wood materials continue to be used extensively for furniture manufacturing, wood based panels, mouldings and joinery, among others. These products have become part and parcel of human lifestyle, and they continue to evolve to suit the demands of discerning customers throughout the world. In recent years, however, the use of wood waste as an admixture with plastics and other compounds to produce composites has also been explored. Wood-plastic composites (WPC) have also seen an increase in production throughout the world, and are being applied to conditions that are too harsh for natural wood materials. Inevitably, with the greater use of wood, its benefits as a green and renewable material will be realized, and serve as a strong point to enhance its value as a mitigating agent for the global warming challenges faced throughout the world. Against the background, it is apparent that wood resources will continue to be the predominant raw material to mankind for man more years to come.

Wood Makes a Comback As Fuel

A century ago, rural homes in the United States and Europe commonly relied on wood for heating. Now wood is making a comeback, thanks largely to pellet technology. The energy-dense pellets, which resemble dry dog kibble and are mostly made from mill residue like sawdust and wood shavings, can be used to generate heat or electricity — or both at the same time. Demand is strong in Europe, where high prices for heating oil and clean-energy requirements have fostered interest in alternatives, but analysts say that over the long term, markets in Asia and North America could grow rapidly, too. Modern pellet furnaces for homes are a “very convenient way of heating,” said Christian Rakos, president of the European Pellet Council, an industry group. “The only thing you have to do is empty an ash box once a year.” Europe accounted for close to 85 percent of the global pellet demand in 2010, according to a report issued in December by an international group called IEA Bioenergy Task 40. Although many pellets used in Europe are manufactured on the Continent, the rising demand has caused an increase in new export-oriented pellet plants in Canada, Russia and especially the United States, whose mills already make more pellets than any other country. In the heavily wooded American South, nine huge industrial pellet plants are under development, according to Forisk Consulting, a timber research group in Georgia. Pellet production worldwide more than doubled between 2006 and 2010, according to the IEA Bioenergy report. Because pellets are small and compact, they are easier to transport in bulk than other forms of biomass, like wood chips. The price of pellets has been rising. Hakan Ekstrom, the president of Wood Resources International, a consulting firm in Seattle, said a delivery of industrial pellets from North America to Rotterdam, a major port, costs about €135, or $180, per ton, nearly 10 percent more than it cost a year ago. “Some are buying pellets even if in some cases it would be cheaper to use coal or natural gas or oil, because they are going to switch over to renewables,” Mr. Ekstrom said. European Union countries aim to get 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, and analysts say a crucial source of demand is coal-fired power plants switching to “co-firing” with pellets — using them jointly with coal. Britain is being particularly aggressive in its efforts to replace some coal power production with pellets; Mr. Rakos predicted that in a few years it would be the largest pellet market in Europe, overtaking Sweden. Utilities are moving in this direction. E.ON, the German energy company, has sought to add pellet-burning capabilities to a coal-fired power plant in Shropshire, England. It received local approval last month to move ahead in its planning process. Still, the markets remain tiny, relative to other energy sources like coal and natural gas. In the Netherlands, for example, less than 3 percent of electricity was generated using pellets in 2010, according to calculations by Martin Junginger, an assistant professor at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University. However, that figure “could easily double” by 2020, he said. Mr. Rakos said that in Austria, pellets accounted for about 4 percent of the energy used for heating. Heating with pellets has also become “hugely popular” in Italy, he said. Companies in both countries have found an economic niche manufacturing pellet boilers and stoves. But the growing use of pellets has alarmed environmentalists. They worry that pellet producers are no longer limiting themselves to making pellets from logging leftovers, like sawdust and wood shavings. “Now what we see is entire forests being dedicated for pellet production,” said Nicolas Mainville, a forest campaigner for Greenpeace Canada and author of a critical report last year on the biomass industry. That makes the greenhouse gas effects problematic, he said. Biomass counts as essentially “carbon-neutral” for purposes of European goals to reduce greenhouse gases, but a number of environmental groups, including Greenpeace, want that changed. Analysts say they expect the European Commission to issue sustainability guidelines for biomass this year. Mr. Rakos said pellet producers were aware of the environmentalists’ concerns, which could pose a threat to their business, and were taking steps to ensure that the material was produced sustainably. In addition, he said, “if you do not burn coal but you burn biomass, that coal has not been used. So that carbon savings is a fact.” Meanwhile, interest in pellets is growing around the world. Mr. Junginger of the Copernicus Institute predicts a strong increase in demand from Asia over the next several years. South Korea in particular has set ambitious renewable-energy goals, along with a target for greenhouse gas reductions, he said. Japan is showing interest, too, and China is a “big wildcard,” Mr. Junginger said — poised to become, potentially, either a large producer or a large consumer of pellets, or both. In Canada, most of its pellets, especially from British Columbia, are exported to Europe, but its domestic market could grow. Bryan Pelkey, an alternative energy specialist with the government of the Northwest Territories, said that some businesses in Yellowknife, the capital and the region’s biggest city, have begun using pellets manufactured in the neighboring province of Alberta. “You can heat for half the cost of oil,” Mr. Pelkey said.

How Forests Thrive After Fires and Volcanoes

Forests hammered by windstorms, avalanches and wildfires may appear blighted, but a Washington State University researcher says such disturbances can be key to maximizing an area's biological diversity. In fact, says Mark Swanson, land managers can alter their practices to enhance such diversity, creating areas with a wide variety of species, including rare and endangered plants and animals. "The 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens, for example, has created very diverse post-eruption conditions, and has some of the highest plant and animal diversity in the western Cascades range," says Mark Swanson, an assistant professor of landscape ecology and silviculture in Washington State University's School of the Environment. Swanson, who has studied disturbed areas on Mount St. Helens and around western North America, presents his findings this week at the national convention of the Ecological Society of America in Portland. His findings run counter to a widely held perception that most, if not all rare species tend to require older forests, not younger. In fact, he says, a substantial proportion of Washington's state-protected forest plants and animals spend some or all of their life cycle in areas rebounding from a major disturbance. That's because such habitats often include woody debris and snags, varied landscape patterns, and a rich diversity of plants that can be exploited for food and shelter. "Severe fire in the northern Rockies creates conditions for some rare birds that depend on abundant dead trees, like the black-backed woodpecker," says Swanson. "It can benefit a host of other organisms, too, like elk, deer, bighorn sheep, some frog species, and many more." Forest disturbances can be natural events, says Swanson, but they can also be the product of carefully designed forest harvests. In either case, he says, forest managers can help maximize biological diversity with practices that extend the time it takes the forest to return to a climax state with a closed canopy. Clearcutting often leaves too little behind to provide habitat for a diversity of species, Swanson says. Also, clearcut areas are often reforested too quickly to allow open conditions and a diverse herb and shrub community to persist. By the same token, post-disturbance logging can hurt diversity by removing structures favored by plants and animals. However, where maintaining biodiversity is an objective, like on federal lands, timber harvests can be designed to mimic natural disturbance and create habitat for some species that depend on a forest's recovery, or succession, says Swanson. Afterwards, he says, managers should avoid dense "recovery" plantings that can so shorten a forest's succession that they give short shrift to the ecological role its early stages.

Diseased trees may be major cause of global warming

By: The Petri Dish News

A newly released study finds that diseased trees in forests may be a significant new source of methane that causes climate change, according to researchers at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies inGeophysical Research Letters. The study finds that the estimatedemission rate from an upland site at the Yale forest is roughly equivalent to burning 40 gallons of gasoline per acre per year. The team noted that diseased treesin northeastern Connecticut contain concentrations of methane that were as high as 80,000 times ambient levels. These are flammable concentrations, said Kristofer Covey, the studys lead author and a Ph.D. candidate at Yale. Because the conditions thought to be driving this process are common throughout the worlds forests, we believe we have found a globally significant new source of this potent greenhouse gas. The findings could shift attention to combating methane levels released by forests. Researchers say that study is the first to examine the relationship between diseased trees and global warming, and the results are likely to receive additional attention and analysis in the coming months. If we extrapolate these findings to forests globally, the methane produced in trees represents 10 percent of global emissions, said Xuhui Lee, a co-author of the study and Sara Shallenberger Brown Professor of Meteorology at Yale. We didnt know this pathway existed. The trees producing methane are olderbetween 80 and 100 years oldand diseased, said researchers. While they are mainly outwardly healthy, they are being hollowed out by a common fungal infection that slowly eats through the trunk. The process allows for methane-producing microorganisms called methanogens. The study comes as a series of recently released studies from NASA suggest that global warming continues to wreak havoc on the U.S.James Hansen of NASAs Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York and colleagues examined the role of global warming in recent high profile heat waves, such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in the summer of 2011 and in Moscow in 2010. In a piece published on Monday, Mr. Hansen, who has blamed global warming on carbon emissions, said thatpreviouscalculations failed to predict the increasingly prominent role highertemperatures play in feeding extreme weather. In a new analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures, which will be published Monday, my colleagues and I have revealed a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers, with deeply troubling ramifications for not only our future but also for our present, wrote Mr. Hansen.

Tropical Forests: Can forest conservation and logging be reconciled?

by: Jerry Vanclay & Douglas Sheil Source:

Is there a role for logging in ensuring the future of the worlds tropical forests and their rich diversity of plants and animals? For many this idea is absurd, because timber production achieving conservation goals have long been viewed as incompatible opposites. Loggers were tarred as planet plunderers, greenies were branded ignorant idealists, while researchers found themselves caught between warring factions with little interest in data from outside their own views and experiences. Sadly, this myopic and highly polarised view of preservation versus production rarely helps save vulnerable landscapes. Fortunately these views are changing. Finding outcomes that offer real improvements for conservation gains depend on recognising some myths and acknowledging the dynamic nature of forests. Many people, especially in Australia, generally imagine all logging as broad-scale clear-felling. However, timber harvesting takes many forms, and large-scale clear-felling is at one end of a broad spectrum. In well-managed forests, foresters seek to harvest in an ecologically-appropriate way. Generally, clear-felling is appropriate only in forests that are naturally adapted to major disturbances (such as Australias wildfires). At the other end of the harvesting spectrum, single-tree selection is appropriate in forests that evolved with small-scale disturbance (such as many species-rich where most trees die standing and finally collapse from decay), and where seedlings tolerate heavy shade. In most tropical forests managed for sustainable timber production, harvesting is selective. Between two and 20 stems are removed from each hectare of forest, once every few decades. When done carefully this leaves over 90% of the trees in place. Thus a logged, rich, tropical forest is still a rich tropical forest and stems regrow to replace those removed. Many of the technical arguments against timber production in tropical rainforests relate to species loss or to the increased likelihood of forest conversion (i.e. that the forest will then be converted to some other non-forest use). There is ample evidence from various sites that logged forests lack many of the species especially the larger animal species found in more pristine forests. There are also many cases where forests that have been selectively logged for timber have subsequently been converted to pasture, oil palm, or other intensive uses. But, we now realise, the implied cause-and-effect relationships are not necessarily inevitable. Lets deal with these issues one at a time. First, how does timber harvest affect the biological value of tropical forests? Our recent study summarised over 100 scientific papers from a range of sites and concluded that 85% to 100% of the forest biodiversity was maintained in forests that have been logged once. Other studies of forests harvested repeatedly have found similar results. This doesnt mean that other older observations were wrong just that they didnt distinguish the cause of the species declines they observed. Areas that are accessible for timber harvest are often accessible for hunting, pet-trade collecting, gold panning, and so on. Certainly, new logging roads often provide access into once inaccessible areas, and can exacerbate and facilitate other harmful activities, but whether they are the cause is a matter of semantics. High levels of hunting can and do occur in strictly protected forests, too but no-one would argue that that is a valid reason not to have strictly protected forests. In both cases, logged or protected forests, the answer is the same stronger incentives and controls are required to favour the desired conservation outcome. The question then is how to provide these incentives and controls. On the ground, control of activities like hunting is often more practical in actively-managed production forest than in national parks starved of staff and resources. The need to control, and in some cases prohibit, hunting is now a common element of good practice in forest management and is implemented in many concessions (in Sarawak, Congo, and other concessions accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council). Secondly, what are the implications of a timber harvest for sustainable forest cover? Experience shows that logged forests have at different times, been cleared, maintained for subsequent harvests, and elevated to national parks. Clearly the fate of a logged forest depends on many things, including the external pressures on land and the degree to which we are willing and able to value and protect both logged and unlogged forests. But studies of concessions in several parts of the world where law enforcement in protected areas is weak reveal instructive cases where logged forests have been found to resist conversion better than unlogged forests (e.g. in Sumatra and Borneo). These cases, as with the elimination of hunting mentioned in the previous example, show the potential benefits of having local caretakers with the ability, motivation, and support to support forest conservation. The chief question is how to achieve the best results. Even if we forget the demand for timber and consider only conservation benefits, and draw on the examples given above, it is apparent that logged forests bring options and opportunities. No-one suggests that all forests should be logged. As far as we are aware everyone agrees that some forests should be set aside and protected. Ideally these areas should be as big and as well-connected as we can manage. Low-density, wide-ranging forest-dependent species such as Borneos clouded leopards will depend on these large areas. But, given other demands on land and resources, such strictly protected areas are unlikely to ever make up more than a minority of the landscape. This appears especially true in poorer regions of the world where people live on the land and there are massive pressures to generate the funds they need for development from high value crops like soya and oil palm. In such regions we are unlikely to find the money necessary to protect and manage large reserved areas and meet the aspirations of the people. However, timber production provides one way in which forest lands can provide income and employment while retaining forest: in simple terms, the forest can pay for its own protection. From a non-negotiable starting point with islands of strictly-protected forests, we can choose the fate of the rest of the landscape: we can strive for a landscape dominated by non-forests (e.g., agriculture) with little connecting forest, or we can seek to maintain productive working forests that provide valuable habitats for most forest species, provide connectivity among populations, and allow the landscape to sustain many wide-ranging forest species. Even better, these forests can be supervised and managed by people who care about them and can combat alien species, check fires, and confront hunters and other threats. While there are risks, many researchers believe that this latter option comprising a matrix of managed production-forest remains one way to ensure the survival of the worlds tropical forests and their rich diversity. Conservation is seldom simple to achieve and there will be challenges. Nonetheless, in our view well managed production forestry, as part of a larger forest-landscape guided by science, offers a vision where once conflicting interests will benefit by working together.

Wood: The Alpha Material

Woodworkers who deal with customers interested in sustainable building, especially architects and designers, often find themselves on the defensive, having to combat misconceptions about wood as a sustainable material. Yet, with a clear understanding about what wood is and what it does, such design pros should recognize that wood is a great material for the environment. To help spell out woods advantages for any customers who need convincing, Margaret Fisher shares some of the information she has gleaned from her research, as a follow-up to her column last month about the USGBC LEED program. Fisher, Market Development Manager of Saunders Wood Specialties in Park Walls, WI, is the AWI (Architectural Woodwork Institute) liaison to USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council). Its no secret that the reason we have the wood we have today is because of the great sustainable forestry practices that have been in place in this country for more than 100 years. We have about 25% more forest than we had even 45 years ago. As a grower of trees for paper production and dimensional lumber, and as a careful steward of the land and forests that provide our hardwoods, North America is doing just fine. In fact, this is something that we are gaining on. Those of us in the industry have been singing this song for four decades and, on the popular front, we are having more success in getting society at large to sing along with us, to a certain extent. In the 1970s, people were alarmed when they saw trees harvested. But over time, we have become a more insightful and well-reasoned society. We realize that we rely heavily upon sustainable forestry to provide material for the 3 million-plus products we get from trees (the vast majority of which is paper) and that harvesting is a necessary step in the process. Part of that realization is recognizing that carbon dioxide generation is what we really need to be concerned about, not whether or not we should use trees. Carbon dioxide and the release of greenhouse gases are playing the greatest role in changing our climate. The real questions are: Where does carbon dioxide come from? Where does it go? Can wood be carbon negative? What is the wood products industrys role in this? Lets Talk Carbon: Decades worth of data has been compiled regarding the energy that is consumed and the carbon that is generated by the manufacture of building materials, including wood. Here is how it stacks up: Wood is from trees, which are produced naturally by solar power (the sun) and irrigated naturally (by rain). In addition, trees are often tolerant or resistant to pesticides, so they are rarely used during their growth. The land which provides the trees is replanted with more trees. In many sustainable forest management programs, thinning is done in 30 and then 60 years, and even more carbon is stored in those trees. Unlike rapidly renewable crops with a life cycle shorter than 10 years, decades will go by before any power equipment will have to burn a fossil fuel to go back to that place to harvest more trees. Harvesting is quick and efficient a tree is selected, cut, sectioned and stacked in just a couple of minutes. Most important to remember is that trees and wood store carbon. The science we all learned in grade school hasnt changed. Like other plants, trees take in carbon dioxide from the air as they grow and give us pure oxygen in return. No fossil fuels need to be drilled for, transported, sold, barreled or processed for this natural process to occur, creating a material that has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than steel. Put wood up against concrete, aluminum, steel, iron, plastic, glass or even brick and, hands-down, the embodied energy of wood is lower than any of those non-renewable materials by a vast margin. Meanwhile, the carbon dioxide stays locked in the wood until the wood totally decomposes. So while there are still some people who think that using wood in construction is bad, in fact, the opposite is true. Compared to other materials, like metals, concrete, gypsum or even brick, lumber also takes relatively little energy to produce in its desired sizes. In addition, if energy is needed to power up a wood production facility, only a small amount comes from fossil fuels. Bioenergy accounts for more than half (60%) of the energy consumed while producing secondary and primary wood products in the United States bark, sawdust, broken twigs, etc., can all be used to generate power. It is not unusual to find facilities from furniture companies and architectural millwork firms, to lumber mills and veneer plants that use the waste of trees to fuel their plants. Because of this, it has been suggested that wood products are not just carbon neutral, but carbon negative. If you combine the facts of high energy efficiency in creating the material, low or no fossil fuel consumption to process it, and that carbon accounts for half of woods dry weight, you find that no other building material can boast such a great environmental story. A Lot of Carbon Out There: If we talk about wood construction products in general, knowing about how much wood has already been used in construction and how much debris potentially was taken to landfills, it is estimated that approximately 3.5 billion metric tons of carbon are standing in construction projects, with a fraction of that as landfill waste. When it comes to the forests, the carbon in that wood (some of it standing; some of it fallen; some of it returned to the soil) stays there until it is removed. Since we know how much forest we have, we can figure out that there is about 170 million metric tons annually, or a total of 26 billion metric tons standing or laying on the forest floor, plus nearly 29 billion metric tons already back in the soil. We can do a life cycle assessment of various building materials from the viewpoint of, How many kilograms of carbon emissions are generated to create one metric ton of the material? Then we can start making comparisons. When we include everything from preparing for and gathering up the material; processing the raw material; engaging in primary and secondary processing, and adding in the transportation required to move it all around from start to finish, wood comes out on top. Here are the figures: One metric ton of framing lumber generates only 33 kilograms of carbon emissions (or about 72 pounds). One metric ton of MDF, which requires a little more facility processing, generates 60 kg of carbon (about 132 pounds). Contrast this with steel, 649 kg; concrete, 265 kg; brick, 88 kg, and aluminum, 4,532 kg of carbon (or about 9,970 pounds) per metric ton. The results are even more favorable if you include the carbon storage factor in considering the net carbon emissions from lumber and MDF. Framing lumber is -457 kg and MDF is -382 kg. That is negative carbon. As woodworkers, it can be frustrating to hear customers talk about reducing our carbon footprint and to see steel and concrete commonly suggested as better alternative materials to wood by some Environmental Building Standards and Building Rating systems. There is no apparent logic here. (It is even more frustrating to wonder why other building materials are not required to comply with a certification program like wood.) I dont think anyone should think twice about using wood of any kind, whether certified or not, in a sustainable construction project. The big discussion is about carbon, not forest certification. If society and the construction and design industries are going to get serious about real sustainable building and real environmental impact, the discussion has to include carbon comparisons of building materials, including sequestered carbon. This is the point we need to emphasize whenever we participate in discussions about LEED or sustainability. When more people focus on carbon, it is going to change the way we talk about wood products, trees and forestry resources.

The Truth About Logging
This is an excerpt from Trees Are the Answer by Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace. Printed with permission and thanks to Greenspirit Strategies Ltda. and Beatty Street Publishing.

Forests are home to the majority of living species; not the oceans, nor the grasslands, nor the alpine areas, but ecosystems that are dominated by trees. There is a fairly simple reason for this. The living bodies of the trees themselves create a new environment that would not be there in their absence. Now the canopy above is home to millions of birds and insects where there was once only thin air. And beneath the canopy, in the interior of the forest, the environment is now protected from frost and sun and wind. This, in combination with the food provided by the leaves, fruits and even the wood of the trees, creates thousands of new habitats into which new species can evolve, species that could never have existed if it were not for the presence of the living trees This gives rise to the obvious concern that if the trees are cut down the habitats or homes will be lost and the species that live in them will die. Indeed, in 1996 the World Wildlife Fund, at a media conference in Geneva, announced that 50,000 species are going extinct each year due to human activity. And the main cause of these 50,000 extinctions, they said, is commercial logging. The story was carried around the world by Associated Press and other media and hundreds of millions of people came to believe that forestry is the main cause of species extinction. During the past three years I have asked the World Wildlife Fund on many occasions to please provide me with a list of some of the species that have supposedly become extinct due to logging. They have not offered up a single example as evidence. In fact, to the best of our scientific knowledge, no species has become extinct in North America due to forestry Where are these 50,000 species that are said to be going extinct each year? They are in a computer model in Edward O. Wilson's laboratory at Harvard University. They are electrons on a hard drive, they have no Latin names, and they are in no way related to any direct field observations in any forest. It's not as if humans have never caused the extinction of species; they have and the list is quite long. There are three main ways by which humans cause species extinction. First, and perhaps most effective, is simply killing them all, with spears, clubs, and rifles. The passenger pigeon, the dodo bird, the Carolinian parakeet, and back in time, the mammoths and mastodons, are all examples of species that were simply wiped out either for food or because they were pests. Secondly, the vast clearance of native forests for agriculture. There may have been an orchid in that valley bottom that was found nowhere else. If all the forest is cleared away, burned, plowed, and planted with corn the orchid may disappear forever. Third, and actually the major cause of species extinction by humans during the past 200 years is the introduction of exotic predators and diseases. In particular, when Europeans colonized Australia, New Zealand, and the other Pacific Islands, including Hawaii, they brought with them rats, cats, foxes, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens and cows, and all the other domestic animals and plants, including their diseases. This resulted in the extinction of hundreds of ground dwelling marsupials and flightless birds, as well as many other species. We have long lists of species that have become extinct due to these three types of human activity but we do not know of a single species that has become extinct due to forestry. The spotted owl is one of the many species that was never threatened with extinction due to forestry, and yet in the early 1990's, 30,000 loggers were thrown out of work in the US Pacific Northwest due to concern that logging in the National Forests would cause the owls extinction. Since that time, in just a few short years, it has been shown by actual field observations that there are more than twice as many spotted owls in the public forests of Washington state than were thought to be theoretically possible when those loggers lost their jobs. More importantly, it is now evident that spotted owls are capable of living and breeding in landscapes that are dominated by second growth forests. Over 1000 spotted owls have been documented on Simpson Timber's half million acre second growth redwood forests in northern California. And yet, in reporting on the settlement of the Headwaters redwood forests nearby, the New York Times described the spotted owl as a "nearly extinct species" despite the fact that there are tens of thousands of them thriving in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. So the general public is being given the impression, by supposedly reputable sources such as the New York Times and National Geographic that forestry is a major cause of species extinction when there is actually no evidence to support that position. There is a reason why forestry seldom, if ever, causes species to become extinct.

Logging in tropical forests: not all is lost

Source Unknown

As tropical forests give way to cities, roads and soybean fields, whats left behind is a collage of forest remnants and secondary forests that regrow after agricultural lands are abandoned. While protecting primary forests will always be essential for tropical conservation, these mosaic landscapes do retain a substantial proportion of forest species, even where forest products are extracted. Researching the impacts of timber harvesting on tropical forest plants and animals has kept ecologists busy over the past three decades. The question of just how much selectively logged forests contribute to global biodiversity conservation remains poorly analysed, and essentially, unanswered. But two recent meta-analyses of previously published research provide fresh evidence that selective logging, if carefully done, has relatively benign impacts. In an article appearing in the journal Conservation Letters, Putz et al. (2012) found that, across a sample of 109 studies, the impacts of selective logging on the number of bird, mammal, insect and plant species were very modest overall. And good harvesting practices were not employed in most of the analysed cases, suggesting that their results are conservative. On the basis of 35 studies, the article by Gibson et al. (2011) in the journal Nature similarly reports that the impacts of selective logging on primary forest biodiversity are relatively small. Gibson and colleagues reinforced these conclusions by eliminating the drawer effect, i.e. the tendency to publish only when significant results are obtained. There are some obvious flaws in the analyses: although meta-analyses are well-known statistical tools used to elucidate trends among a disparate set of studies with different experimental approaches and methods, the results are inevitably a caricature of reality. Studies from African forests are largely underrepresented in both articles. The number of trees harvested (the logging intensity) also varied considerably amongst published studies, as did logging techniques. And most of the published studies were of short duration, making it impossible for these metaanalyses to comment on long-term consequences. Despite these shortcomings, both articles provide compelling evidence that selectively logged tropical forests across the globe are critical for conserving the full spectrum of biodiversity from beetles to orangutans. The question is whether or not the long-term persistence of forests can be guaranteed solely on the basis of profits from timber, so that sustainable forest management is competitive compared with other market forces like agro-industrial expansion. The results of the article by Putz and colleagues (2012) seem to indicate not; timber yields are expected to decrease over time because the 2040 year logging intervals currently applied across the tropics cannot guarantee a constant supply of wood with attractive financial returns. To help counter this trend, Putz et al. (2012) suggest a mixed strategy. One essential step is further promotion of sustainable timber harvesting practices, as these are directly linked to more forest carbon being retained, for which financial compensation might be available through REDD+ incentives. They also recommend increased recognition of locally based approaches to multiple-use forest management under clear land tenure arrangements. Other viable options include enhancing the financial benefits from forest certification, and making assurance of legality a prerequisite for international market access. The key to success is achieving the right balance across these approaches, so that climate, biodiversity and people all benefit, and the multiple demands for tropical forest resources are satisfied. With nearly 400 million hectares of tropical forest officially designated for production purposes worldwide, one could say that there is plenty of room to play.

Wood is Greener than many other common building materials, USDA Report Says

Michael A. Ritter, Kenneth Skog, Richard Bergman

WASHINGTON -- The findings of a new U.S. Forest Service study indicate that wood should factor as a primary building material in green building, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week. The authors of Science Supporting the Economic and Environmental Benefits of Using Wood and Wood Products in Green Building Construction reviewed the scientific literature and found that using wood in building products yields fewer greenhouse gases than using other common materials. "This study confirms what many environmental scientists have been saying for years," said Vilsack. "Wood should be a major component of American building and energy design. The use of wood provides substantial environmental benefits, provides incentives for private landowners to maintain forest land, and provides a critical source of jobs in rural America." The Forest Service report also points out that greater use of life cycle analysis in building codes and standards would improve the scientific underpinning of building codes and standards and thereby benefit the environment. A combination of scientific advancement in the areas of life cycle analysis and the development of new technologies for improved and extended wood utilization are needed to continue to advance wood as a green construction material. Sustainability of forest products can be verified using any credible third-party rating system, such as Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Forest Stewardship Council or American Tree Farm System certification. "The argument that somehow non-wood construction materials are ultimately better for carbon emissions than wood products is not supported by our research," said David Cleaves, the U.S. Forest Service Climate Change Advisor. "Trees removed in an environmentally responsible way allow forests to continue to sequester carbon through new forest growth. Wood products continue to benefit the environment by storing carbon long after the building has been constructed." The use of forest products in the United States currently supports more than one million direct jobs, particularly in rural areas, and contributes more than $100 billion to the country's gross domestic product.

The Limits of Scientific Wood Identification

Alex C. Wiedemhoeft, Botanist

Scientific wood identification (SWI) by light microscopic analysis (often called microanalysis) can play a critical role in establishing the value of personal or cultural property by determining definitively the material from which the property is made, and, based on that material, suggesting the likely provenance of the item. The heady allure of such power often results in people approaching wood microanalysis with unrealistic expectations.

Fire Rating of Hardwoods

Robert H. White

In this era of performance-based building codes, there is an increased need for models and data pertaining to the fire safety of building materials. In addition to data for the prescriptive regulatory fire tests, material property data are needed to optimize the advantages of the performance-based building codes that are being introduced worldwide. In this review of our research on the fire performance characteristics and fire safety engineering of wood products, we will present results on the fire performance of hardwood species. Two broad areas of fire safety engineering of materials are 1) Fire initiation and growth, and 2) Fire containment.

Wood-Plastic Composite Lumber vs. Wood Decking

Dr. Jim Bower
Katherine Fernholz
Dr. Jeff Howe
Dr. Steve Bratkovich

The major selling points for composite lumber are that it is free of potentially hazardous chemicals, and made largely from long-lasting, low-maintenance, recycled materials. It is, thus, often promoted as an environmentally preferable or "green" alternative to other decking materials. In this paper we examine the performance of wood-plastic composite (WPC) decking and its environmental properties. We also highlight a recently completed life cycle analysis (LCA) and comparison of WPC decking and western red cedar decking. The recent third-party LCA study considered a number of environmental performance measures.

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