FSC certified wood products in Colombia

Contrary to common belief FSC certified wood is not a mandatory LEED for Homes requirement under the Materials and Resources (MR) section, except for tropical woods (see MR 2.1). The standard offers rewards for FSC wood use in MR 2.2, since it is considered an Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP).

Although I feel strongly about preserving the world’s fast disappearing forests, setting a goal to use exclusively FSC certified wood products in Casa Agua Clara implies some tradeoffs:

  • FSC plywood is not locally produced in Colombia. What is preferable: import PEFC (cheap, but not recognized by USGBC) certified plywood from Chile or FSC certified (very expensive) marine plywood from Ecuador? At least, both options are E1 certified (low VOC) as well.
  • FSC certified MDF isn’t available in Colombia. For the kitchen cabinets, should I buy locally produced lower durability, FSC certified, particle board or invest in high quality, E1 certified, MDF manufactured locally from wood of untraceable source?

It’s essential to set some clear documentation standards: some multi-national companies may claim FSC certification, except for products that aren’t sold in Colombia.

Wood products sold in Colombia could be locally produced or imported from other South American countries, like Ecuador and Chile in particular. The list below shows the South American countries with a local FSC presence:

A simple selection criterion could be that any wood product must meet the following requirements, prioritized arbitrarily to reflect our goals and values:

  • Low emission: mandatory E1 or E0 certification (e.g. phenolic plywood)
  • EPP: FSC preferably or PEFC certified wood at a minimum
  • Local production: made in Colombia in preference to foreign imports

Armed with the above list, we spent months investigating suppliers to finally settle on shortlist of products we feel demonstrate exceptional environmental qualities:

  • Gluelam beams: from Refocosta, an FSC certified Colombian company
  • Plywood (option 1):from CMPC, a PEFC certified manufacturer from Chile. Their Selex plywood has an E1 certification. Their products are distributed in Colombia by Madecentro. This product is also suitable for manufacturing the interior doors of the house.
  • Plywood (option 2):from Arauco, another PEFC certified manufacturer from Chile. Plywood with an E1 certification. Their products are distributed in Colombia by Districondor.
  • Plywood (option 3): from Endesa/Botrosa, an FSC certified company from Ecuador. Their marine plywood has an E1 certification. Their products are distributed in Colombia by Madecentro.
  • MDF: from Masisa, a Chilean company selling FSC certified MDF throughout South America, except for Colombia! Their products are E1 certified, hopefully in Colombia as well.
  • Bamboo flooring: from Moso, a European company represented by Vinikol in Colombia. Their Elite Density bamboo floor boards are extremely durable and E1 certified. Bamboo is a sustainable resource that can be harvested with much higher frequency than wood.
  • Bamboo veneer: from Moso as well. Their bamboo veneer would give a more polished look to the plywood walls and ceilings, with the added benefit of being E1 certified.
  • Bamboo deck: from Moso. Their bamboo x-treme deck is virtually indestructible (10 years guarantee), natural (as opposed to WPC) and E1 certified (not that it matters so much for outdoor use).

Anyone considering plywood as the finished material for walls, ceilings or furniture, must select a product with the appropriate grade. Plywood manufactured with phenolic glue is also much more likely to be E1 certified.

For the pine wood siding, we need to find a local supplier who can sell untreated, raw, planks that we can prepare for a channel rustic installation on the exterior walls of the house. This technique is recommended in regions where the humidity factor can change drastically, causing dimensional changes in the wood siding. We also need to determine the exact wood treatment that will be applied to the siding for rot, fungus, etc. protection.

Originally published at casaleed.org on December 11, 2013

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