Using Tropical Forest Woods for Your Green Remodel and Eco Housing Projects

by Linda Lenore on January 11, 2012



I love to blend Feng Shui design along with a green remodel and eco housing project since they energetically compliment each other. As part of a project, whether it is a Feng Shui decorating project or an environmental architecture project, learning about and incorporating eco-friendly products is essential to create the best energy. Wood flooring is one feature we often consider.

I love wood. I think I always have. I love to touch it, feeling the grain or smoothness it possesses. I love wood carving. I will buy a piece of furniture because it has been carved. Craftsmanship is important to me.

I love to see the different colorations, even within the same types of wood. I remember falling in love with Birdseye Maple when I was about 8 years old. Maybe this love has something to do with traveling through the Gigantic Sequoia Redwood forests as a child and learning about the ability to count the rings of the tree to figure out how old the tree was.

In any case, I am hooked on the character of wood. Walking through an antique showroom looking at each piece of wood used in the design and construction of the furniture delights me.

It's the same with wood floors. I'll sit in a restaurant staring at the floor boards. I think about what might have happened to the tree in order for it to have produced such a unique growth pattern. Is the darker or lighter section older, younger or did it get more or less rain as it was growing? What caused it to be different?

These are questions I ask internally. Yet when a wood is specified by a designer for a project, usually all parties involved with the project are expecting a uniform color for it to be aesthetically pleasing.

Therein lies a problem for the tropical forestry products. Sometimes its lack of uniformity means a designer may not specify it.

Tropical Rainforest

Tropical Rainforest

Another challenge for tropical forestry products could be it isn't "FSC-certified" for any number of reasons. FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. An FSC-certified product is one that has been watched and documented as having followed sustainable Chain-of-Command (CoC) guidelines. This is to ensure the forest management for timber products meets criteria for LEED credits.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a standard for measuring the "green" or "sustainability" properties of a product. The LEED program was started under the USGBC (United States Green Building Council).

The USGBC and their LEED points program are often the standard of practice used by designers, architects and other building industry professionals to gain a level of achievement. A few f the levels are Silver, Gold and Platinum. The more "points" accumulated for a project, the higher the LEED certification.

Henceforth, some designers and projects "go for the Gold" point-wise. This sometimes eliminates tropical wood forestry products that are beautiful in their own right, but they don't meet the narrow aesthetic values required to obtain FSC-certification.

I must admit I have been an FSC-certified snob. We have used them in our home. Yet a recent article, The Design Community's Impact on Tropical Forestry, in the December 2011 issue of NFT National Floor Trends got me thinking.

Apparently, according to this article, as a result of these specifications by the design community, "... companies and communities in tropical regions that are pursuing sustainable forest management and higher value for their forests are being excluded from a large portion of the U.S. market."

Pre-felling tree discussion from TFF website:

Pre-felling tree discussion from TFF website:

The article continues -

"The tropical ecosystem and international trade are dynamic and complex, impacted by social and economic issues and a maze of international, national and regional regulations. Despite thee complexities, there are three consistent challenges that suppliers face when delivering specified product to the U.S. market: Cost of certification, lack of demand for product, and natural variations in wood.

"These challenges impact tropical timber suppliers' ability to ensure their own financial success, maintain the economic viability of the forests and, in turn, protect the long-term sustainability of their concessions," said Art Klassen, project director at TFF-Indonesia, and affiliate of the Tropical Forest foundation(TFF).

Bottom line from my point of view, the world in which we live has beautiful woods created by natural circumstances. I personally am concerned about the way we treat our planet and all that lives on it. Our consumerism creates demands beyond what our planet can handle. We need to change our way of thinking.

Is it really necessary to "go for the Gold" - the extra LEED points - to obtain a higher level of certification on a building by refusing a beautiful natural creation just because each piece doesn't match "perfectly?" I agree there needs to be a CoC process to make sure sustainable principles are being met, but I think we are losing sight of the bigger picture.

"More points" is another form of consumerism. Maybe we should re-think the way we design and build. What is the real meaning behind our design? Isn't it to create a beautiful environment that is healthy for the occupants? Isn't it to maximize our natural resources with minimum impact on our environment and planet?

The variations of tropical forest wood products is just one way we can embrace our natural resources. Let's celebrate this uniqueness. Let's use them in our green remodel and eco housing projects.

The premise of Feng Shui design is to create environments in which the human spirit, not just survives, but thrives. What better way to thrive than to live with natural beauty - beauty created by nature - with all its perfect "imperfections" reflected in the magnificence of how it came into existence. Blending Feng Shui design, green remodel and eco housing is a way to "have it all" since everyone benefits from the combination and collaboration of man with nature.

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