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Sourcing Wood Sustainably — And Responsibly

Updated: Jan 17, 2019


Photo credit: Jay Mantri

Along with brick and concrete, wood plays an essential role in the structural integrity of The Joinery.


While all three have their different applications, our lumber suppliers Dan and Diane Haugen would argue that wood is the perfect building material.


“If you think about it, what other building material do you know of that’s naturally renewable and biodegradable and sequesters carbon?” Dan said in a recent phone conversation.


Not just any wood can be used for The Joinery, however.


The Living Building Challenge requires that it must be certified by the U.S. Forest Stewardship Council, which ensures the wood has been sourced from "responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits."


As of December 2018, 168.1 million acres were certified in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Council.


The Haugens serve as the connection between those forests and builders around the world. The couple started Certified Wood Products in Maple Lake, Minnesota, in 2001. Since then, the company has provided FSC-certified lumber for thousands of LEED projects and several Living Building projects throughout North America.


“When we look at the FSC, some people may say, ‘Well, it’s similar to the organic section of a food store,’ Diane said. “Yes and no. It goes beyond."


Diane said growers and harvesters in FSC-certified forests have to protect water quality, avoid highly hazardous chemicals, and observe the rights of indigenous people and local communities. The principles outlined by the FSC allow Certified Wood Products and their customers to be sustainable and responsible, Dan added.


“We really like those principles because they show respect for not only the lumber but respect for people, respect for the land,” Diane said.

Douglas Fir and pine was delivered to the site on Jan. 8, 2019.

Before choosing to work with Certified Wood Products, our team struggled to find and commit to an Oklahoma-based lumber supplier, in part, because demand for FSC-certified wood is low in the state.


“All we have to do is just create demand, and industry will respond to demand,” Dan said. “That’s why we like the Forest Stewardship Council, because it’s market based.


"Creating value is really what it’s about," he continued. "You are going to steward what you value.”


That “S” word, as Dan called it, anchors the Haugens’ deep passion for forest products and the environment.


We called Dan and Diane last week to discuss the lumber industry, the stewardship of creation, and the difference between sustainability and responsibility.


Read highlights from the Jan. 4, 2019 interview below. Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.


Certified Wood Products started supplying FSC-certified lumber in 2002. That’s relatively early on in the history of the U.S. chapter of the Forest Stewardship Council. It became official in 1995 — and it’s based in Minneapolis.


How did you get involved with the FSC?


Dan: It was a value-based decision. We wanted to be sure that we could reward responsible forest management. We didn’t know how to do that. And so when we discovered the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program and the Forest Stewardship Council’s Principles and Criteria for Forest Management, we saw the match. But there was nobody to get the forest products from the forest to the end user, so we tried to be that conduit.


Diane: We’ve been in wholesale lumber distribution for over 30 years. Our passion is forest products. They really are a perfect building material...The Life Cycle Assessment proves they outperform most other building materials. On top of that, we really want to leave a legacy of good forest management, so that kids and grandkids and everybody will have forests forever.

On your website you describe stewardship as being more than “growing enough wood.” It’s a “solution” that’s part of a larger environmental effort. What does stewardship mean to you?


Dan: Diane and I are creationists, so we believe all of creation needs to be stewarded and taken care of and managed properly. Sustainability is kind of a first step, and responsibility is the next step. There’s a difference, because you could be sustainable and still not be responsible. When we look at the word “stewardship,” if you look that word up, it means you’re just taking a personal responsibility for taking care of things that don’t belong to us...We believe that God has created the earth and we need to be taking this stewardship mandate to heart.


Diane: We value the wood. We value forest products...We want to take care of them...We want to be part of the solution. We don’t want to be part of the problem. And we want our customers to be part of the solution, too, because if they buy FSC-certified wood, they are part of the solution.


Dan: We just find it frustrating that there aren’t more people that would share the stewardship ethic. And we also find it frustrating that the channels of distribution of forest products have been resistant to what we’re trying to do. We encounter a lot of pushback in the traditional channels, like the people who just build homes as inexpensively as they can. There’s a lot of myth out there that "FSC-certified forest products are very, very expensive." "You can’t find them." We have a whole warehouse full of them out here. We can ship them in two days.


On your website you say, "The work of the FSC® changes the wrong question of, 'Should we harvest trees?' to the right question of, 'How do we harvest trees so we have them forever and for everyone?'" Can you explain?


Dan: Back in the ‘80s, the narrative was you’d have environmental groups tying up timber sales in the judiciary system of government. They didn’t have to win the case in court, all they had to do was just tie it up, and eventually saw mills went out of business. In Oregon, there was whole small towns that just folded.


That’s what got my attention way back when before the FSC was even formed. I thought, “This isn’t right. It’s how you harvest, not if you harvest.” And the Forest Stewardship Council did a good job of bringing three chambers together...the environmental chamber and the social chamber and the economic chamber. And that’s what makes it palatable. That’s what makes it work. It’s market driven. We like that. People can choose. They can choose to do the right thing.


Diane: We said it’s the right question of how, but it’s also a question of what’s left behind after. The FSC comes into play, too, with watching the clear cuts, deforestation...what’s left behind is as important as what’s removed.


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The Joinery is a project of Restoration Collective, Inc. and supported by 9b.

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