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Sustainable Wood for Green Building

Sustainable Wood and Green Design for sustainable wood and green design certification programs

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Sustainable Wood and Green Design

Wood is a renewable resource and healthy forests are being used and researched as carbon sequestration reservoirs. We use wood in many aspects of our buildings and inside furnishings and as such, will benefit from careful management of our forest and wood supplies. Forest and wood certification are part of the palette of wood conservation and forestry management that makes our global forest ecosystems viable and self-restoring. Here are some of the organizations working to balance sustainable use of wood for human purposes and the biodiverse approach that nature uses to keep forests viable.


Metafore / Forest Certification Resource Center

Metafore, which offers a comprehensive guide to forest certification information, and then describes the four most pervasive forest certification schemes in North America. Web site: or
Metafore is NOT a wood certification group, but W&WP included it here because it is an organization that provides a great deal of information about wood certification and wood certification organizations. In addition to the organization's Global Wood Initiative, a program designed to disseminate information to global buyers and sellers of forest products, Metafore also offers Wood for Building Green--A Practical Guide, which is a tool designed for architects, designers, developers and builders interested "in building forests by building green."

Forest Stewardship Council

Web site: (U.S.) and (international)
Home Base: Bonn, Germany, and Washington, DC
Membership includes Loggers, foresters, environmentalists and sociologists with national offices in more than 40 countries.

The FSC is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to encourage responsible management of the world's forests. It says it does this by setting principles, criteria and standards meant to ensure forestry is practiced "in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable way."

Sustainable Forestry Initiative

Web site:
Home Base: Washington, DC
The SFI program is administered by the American Forest & Paper Association. The AF&PA developed the SFI program "to document the commitment of their members and the program's licensees to keep forests healthy and practice the highest level of sustainable forestry." Participation in the SFI program is a condition of membership in the AF&PA, which has dismissed 17 of its members for failing to meet that standard.

American Tree Farm System

Web site:
Home Base: Washington, DC
Membership of 51,000 family forest owners.

ATFS's certification program requires, "Tree farmers share a unique commitment to protect wildlife habitat and watersheds, to conserve soil and to provide recreation for their communities while producing wood for America."

Certification of tree farms under the ATFS is overseen by the American Forest Foundation, which requires farms to meet its Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification to become a Certified Tree Farm. Like previously mentioned certification programs, ATFS certification is voluntary. Unlike FSC and SFI, its inspectors are not from a third-party group. Instead, ATFS "established minimum education and experience requirements for certifying foresters and forest technicians, and it developed a national standardized training curriculum for its inspectors." Farms are re-inspected every five years.

Canadian Standards Association

Web site: Home Base: Toronto, ON
CSA's Forest Products Marking program identifies products based on both forest management and chain-of-custody standards. The CSA mark is recognized throughout Canada, the U.S. and other countries. The CSA conducts annual surveillance audits, as well as unannounced audits, to assure on-going conformance with its requirements.


Organizations like FSC and SFI develop forest certification standards that require third-party auditing groups to assess whether operations comply with those standards.

Scientific Certification Systems

Web site:
Home Base: Emeryville, CA
An accredited certification body for the FSC. It has certified more than 14 million acres in the last 12 years on land ranging from small 100-hectare parcels to 2.5-million-hectare forests. SCS also offers chain-of-custody certification and has audited and certified more than 500 manufacturers, distributors and retailers who make or carry certified wood products. These chain-of-custody certifications span 29 countries on five continents. The organization also certifies environmentally preferable products.


Web site:
Home Base: Richmond, VT
Inception: 1989
SmartWood claims to be the first independent forestry certifier, and it helped establish the FSC in 1993. A part of the Rainforest ALliance, SmartWood says it has certified more than 69 million acres in more than 50 countries. Products made from SmartWood-certified operations include Lumber, paper, furniture, flooring, musical instruments and non-timber forest products such as maple syrup and Brazil nuts. SmartWood says none of its certificates have ever been appealed formally.

SGS Systems and Services Certification Inc.

Web site:
Home Base: Rutherford, NJ
SGS has an international structure with more than a dozen offices around the globe. SGS is an accredited auditor with FSC, SFI, CSA and a European certifier called Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes, according to Metafore. SGS's Web site says its FSC-accredited Qualifor program has issued more than 1,000 chain-of-custody and more than 190 forest management certificates in more than 60 countries.


Several wood-related North American trade associations have played an active role in developing green programs, including the two described below.

Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Assn.
International's "Sustainability Guidelines"

Web site:
Home Base: Grand Rapids, MI

More than 260 office and contract furniture manufacturers and suppliers.

BIFMA released its voluntary guideLines, designed by its Sustainability Subcommittee, earlier this year. According to the association, the guidelines are meant as a "roadmap for any office furniture [company] desiring to become ... more sustainable" and "as an add-on to a company's existing environmental management system."

In addition to these guidelines, the association is developing a standard and testing procedure for VOC and formaldehyde emissions from furniture. BIFMA hopes the USGBC will incorporate its furniture emissions standard within the LEED certification program.

Composite Panel Assn.'s
"Environmentallv Preferable Product" Program

Web site:
Home Base: Gaithersburg, MD, and Montreal, QUE
Inception: 2003
Membership: AvailabLe to members and non-members of the CPA.

FYI: The phrase "environmentaLLy preferable products" was defined by the federal government in 2002 as "products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared to other products and services that serve the same purpose." The CPA adopted this voluntary specification and certifies products to the federal standard through its Grademark Program.

The Grademark Program is an independent branch of the CPA that functions much like third-party auditors for forest certification schemes. It may certify all grades of particleboard and MDF engineered and produced for all applications as EPP certified.

SOURCE: Check for updates.

Edited by Carolyn Allen
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