On Manufactured Wood
Today, we cut timber to produce furniture, flooring, paper, packaging and lumber for housing. As needs increase, we use up trees faster than they can reproduce naturally. The result is forests worldwide are disappearing at an alarming rate.
Consequently, a host of “alternative” building materials have sprung up to meet the increasing demands of the American builder and consumer and, at the same time, diminish the demand on our natural resources. These alternative materials include manufactured wood “sheet goods” such as Waferboard (WB), Oriented Strandboard (OSB), Particleboard and Hardboard.
Waferboard and oriented strandboard belong to the subset of reconstituted wood panel products called flakeboards. They are structural panels made from wood wafers specially produced from logs at the plant. When Waferboard was developed in the 1950’s, the wafers were not intentionally oriented. However, by 1989 most Waferboard plants were producing oriented Waferboard (OWB). Oriented strandboard originated in the early 1980’s. The relatively long and narrow flakes (strands) are blended with resin and formed into a 3- or 5-layered mat. Aligning the strands in each layer perpendicular to adjacent layers gives OSB flexural properties superior to those of randomly oriented Waferboard. Oriented Waferboard and OSB are suitable for the same markets and uses as softwood plywood including sheathing, single-layer flooring, and underlayment in light-frame construction.
In addition to the manufactured sheet goods, there is a significant rise in alternative light frame construction material – joist, studs, headers and beams called Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL). Laminated Veneer Lumber is an engineered wood product that is created by layering dried and graded wood veneers with waterproof adhesive into blocks of material called billets. The rain of each layer of veneer runs in the same direction, in contrast to OSB, OWB and plywood. As a result, the parallel-laminated lumber out-performs conventional lumber and it is stronger and stiffer than the sum of its parts. Best of all, it is virtually free from warping and splitting. LVL is available in various thicknesses and can be cut, nailed, screwed and sanded just like dimension timber.
Some years ago, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was created to help turn the tide; to monitor and certify companies that only use wood from “managed” forests where trees are replenished and replaced and ecosystems and wildlife habitats are faithfully maintained.
Today, more than 290 companies in 48 countries participate in the program worldwide — making wood products only from managed forests. When you see the FSC label, know that it ensures that trees and forests will be here for many generations to come due to high environmental standards and socially responsible forestry at all levels. The FSC label and saving trees is a good thing. So, look for the label when you shop — and hug a tree when you’re out in the woods.
What does certification mean to consumers? Simple, by tracking wood from forest to final product, certification enables consumers to support responsible forestry and provides forest owners with an incentive to maintain and improve forest management practices.
The forest products industry is a complex web of interrelationships between producers, suppliers, manufacturers, wholesalers and customers. Beyond their direct customers and suppliers, companies rarely know where their wood comes from, or where it ends up. This complex web does not provide a mechanism to trace a product from the forest to the final product of vice versa. Nor does it provide a mechanism for consumers to reward forest stewardship practices. Certification provides a mechanism for linking consumers and producers in the marketplace.
There are a variety of labels on forest products. Forest product labels may include information on the company’s brand name, the origin of the product, the species, grade, strength and price.
Recently, labels are also appearing that make claims about the sustainability of the wood product by comparing wood to steel or plastic, and by describing the quality of the resource management.
There are a range of approaches in describing the quality of the forest resource management. Many of these labels are misleading and superficial. Claims such as “we replant twice as many trees as we harvest,” “rescued from fallen trees,” and simply calling a brand name “certified” tell us little about the quality of the resource management.
Other second party claims, such as “Our members commit to following sustainable forestry practices,” may be well-intentioned, but without third-party verification, consumers cannot be sure of the credibility of these claims.
The Forest Stewardship Council provides an independent guarantee of credibility. The FSC provides a credible and consistent approach to certifying forest products.
This certification system ensures an independent evaluation of a forest company’s practices, according to rigorous, publicly available forest management standards. The Forest Stewardship Council is the only system that verifies claims from the forest all the way to the final product, a process known as “chain of custody” monitoring.
The result is that when consumers see an FSC logo on a forest product, they can be sure that their purchase supports forestry that meets the highest standards for environmentally and socially responsible forestry.
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