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									         Recognising Certisource Independently Verified Legal Timber, for Building
                                              “Green award” accreditation schemes.

Report by: Anna Louise Hazlett for Certisource SEA.

Final Year student, Leeds University, UK, (BA Joint Honors) Management & Southeast Asian Studies

This report seeks to explore the key benefits of using responsibly sourced timber for construction
purposes; highlighting timber certification as a tool for ‘conservation’ with the perspective of
                        Timber’s ‘carbon impact,’ in relation to other common building materials.


When analyzing the ‘carbon footprint’ of responsibly sourced timber over alternatives such as
cement and concrete products and steel components, the carbon benefits of timber for construction
purposes are evident. More and more studies highlight the significant advantages using certified
timber products over common building materials; these advantages can be seen as primarily
‘more cost-effective and more environmentally sensitive.’1 To illustrate the latter advantage more
clearly, the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management Ltd (ECCE) undertook a comparative
study on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions arising from the embodied energy of different
building materials that can be used in construction. The study quantifies the potential GHG
benefits of increasing the content of timber in the building materials used. “There could be up to
an 87% reduction in the GHG emissions associated with the embodied energy of building
materials if timber internal and external structural elements and fittings are specified wherever
possible rather than typical practice Scottish building materials.”2 Ultimately, timber provides a
more eco-friendly solution against alternative building materials given its low carbon impact.

Greener decisions & building materials…

There is a need among the industry to meet the requirements of the drive towards buildings with
a lower carbon footprint; offsite and prefabricated methods of construction provide one route to
achieving this. However, it is not only the methods, but also the materials used in the construction
of new buildings that will affect the amount of CO2 they embody. 3


    Warren Dudding of Finnforest explores technical innovations in engineered timber I-Joists.

Materials used in construction have widely varying amounts of greenhouse gases associated with
their extraction, refining, manufacture or processing and delivery. The production of cement and
steel alone account for over 10% of global, annual greenhouse gas emissions. 4 As new buildings
become more energy efficient the emissions associated with materials make up a greater
proportion of their total climate change impact. 5

Planners, developers, architects and builders are becoming more aware of the climate change
impacts of construction materials and are considering the environmental impact of their activities
and how to minimize their carbon footprints. Thus, the selection of materials for building projects
is a critical stage in constructing a building where alternative ‘greener’ products must be identified
to replace other building materials.

Timber is the only renewable building material – where Plastic, Steel, Concrete & Aluminum are
all commonly used as building materials; whilst they can be recycled, they are not renewable.
What’s more, trees act as absorbers of CO2 from the atmosphere whilst storing the CO2
becoming nearly 50 per cent carbon by weight. Significantly, “Trees are the most powerful
concentrators of carbon on Earth.”6 Paradoxical to this, the energy required to produce many of
these other materials, particularly the process of aluminum smelting, significantly adds to the
global carbon emissions problem.7

Addressing Climate Change

‘An Inconvenient Fact,’ a report by Dr. Patrick Moore, (co-founder of Greenpeace and chairman
and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. In Vancouver) highlights, “there are solutions to
the challenges of climate and our forests are among them.” 8 More over, trees are the most
powerful concentrators of carbon thus “managing our forests will be a key to reducing green
house gases.”9 It is this forestry management that generates responsibly sourced timber which
can be used in lieu of other materials. Further to this, the adoption of timber from sustainably
managed forests, as a substitute for non-renewable materials and fuels, is indeed a significant
positive factor influencing the carbon cycle. Moore portrays the following, “To address climate

 (See Appendix 1.1) An Inconvenient Fact,‟ Patrick Moore:
 „(See Appendix 1.1) An Inconvenient Fact,‟ Patrick Moore:

change, we must use more wood, not less. Using wood sends a signal to the marketplace to grow
more trees and to produce more wood. That means we can then use less concrete, steel and
plastic—heavy carbon emitters through their production. Trees are the only abundant,
biodegradable and renewable global resources.” 10 Hence, trees can be used to help solve
sustainability challenges, providing the world with energy and materials which are renewable.
Ultimately industry should promote the growth of more trees and the use of more wood.

Wood – An Eco-friendly option

An active environmental group, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) describes how
wood-efficient home building is a “win-win” opportunity for building industry professionals and the
environment. Building industry professionals can save money and time by building more
efficiently. The environment wins, too, since using wood (efficiently) helps conserve forests;
moreover, using wood as opposed to alternative building materials, creates less carbon impact
emphasizing the fact that wood is a more eco-friendly option. NRDC have initiated a number of
studies which identify “wood-efficient” approaches to design, material selection, and construction;
comparing the costs of these approaches with the costs of common construction methods. The
savings from efficiency and material selection are significant. 11

The selection of environmentally and legally certified wood can, and ought to be, used in lieu of
uncertified wood. Certified wood causes less impact on the environment given the fact that the
wood comes from a responsibly managed source. What’s more, wood which is responsibly
sourced also offers a ‘green’ marketing advantage12 and has proven to be more cost-effective.

Progressive Companies adopting low carbon footprint solutions

‘Green building,’ has become a major market outlet for certified goods and is expected to grow
exponentially over the next decade. What’s more, a growing number of consumers have a more
favorable image of companies that support environmental causes. Hence strong efforts are being
made by progressive companies to implement ‘practices’ that will reduce their carbon footprint.
To illustrate this more, vast arrays of companies that make up the construction industry adopt
different means to encourage designs and the actual construction of buildings that will ultimately
minimize their carbon footprint. A significant number of studies illustrate that purchasing and

  (See Appendix 1.1) An Inconvenient Fact,‟ Patrick Moore:

manufacturing products that incorporate wooden components can greatly reduce the overall
embedded carbon footprint of the goods and the buildings into which they are employed. Life
Cycle Analysis (LCA) studies show that timber products have a far less harmful ‘footprint’ than
many other materials in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and embodied energy.13 The new
City of Melbourne Council offices can be seen as a ‘progressive project’ in terms of minimizing
the overall carbon impact of the building. The project involves a ten-story development known as
Council House 2 (CH2), which uses 87% less energy and produces 20% of the greenhouse
gases emitted by the old Council House. “The window frames used in CH2 are timber rather than
conventional aluminum which produces a high level
of carbon emissions during manufacture. In all 300
timber-framed windows sourced from sustainable re-
growth forests have been incorporated.”14

Moreover (LCA) researchers15 carried out a
comparative study of three houses within the
building sector; the overall environmental impact of a building was calculated, highlighting that a
predominantly steel house contains 553 GJ of embodied energy, whilst a predominantly concrete
house contains 396 GJ. A predominantly timber house contains just 232 GJ. Similarly, recent
research16 made a comparative assessment of steel, concrete and wood building material and
found that wood had the lowest embodied energy. Also, the higher the embodied energy of the
building, the more air toxins (such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, particulates, nitrogen
oxides and hydrocarbons) were released into the atmosphere. Steel and concrete buildings are
therefore much worse in this respect.17

Timber certification – a Tool for Conservation

Deciding to use the greener option (timber) over alternative common building materials brings
forth the issue of certification. A ‘buyer’ of timber products wants to ensure the supply of timber is
from a legal and verified source throughout the entire supply chain.

     (See Appendix 1.2) ECOS 2006(129) 12 - 13: “Wood- another low carbon footprint solution.”
  (See Appendix 1.3) icon International Construction Review. CIOB International. 03 QUARTER 2007. “Thinking BIG-WIM BAKENS on the state of Global
Construction Research.” John Moreton reports.
     Buchanan AH and Honey BG (1994) ‟Energy & Carbon Dioxide implications of building construction. Energy and
              Building‟ 20, 205-217
     Glover J (2001) „Which is better? Steel, concrete or wood. A comparison of assessments on three building materials in
                the housing sector. Fourth year thesis, Department of Chemical Engineering. University of Sydney.
     (See Appendix 1.2) ECOS 2006(129) 12 - 13: “Wood- another low carbon footprint solution.”

To help put this issue more into context; the first forest certification took place almost two
decades ago, with a teak plantation in Indonesia certified as well managed by SmartWood, 18 a
program of the New York-based Rainforest alliance. In recognizing a growing demand for
independently verified legal timber, there are a myriad of companies researching and developing
timber verification systems. Moreover, huge consumer and government demand has created a
rapidly growing market opportunity for independently certified legal timber.

Why use certified wood in the first place?

Certification provides forest operation owners, suppliers and buyers with:

               Insurance: Independent confirmation by a third-party that their practices meet the high
                environmental and social standards of the wood verification system
               Price Premium: Legally certified timber has the effect of adding value to timber products.
                (Granted from the perceived and actual value of the certified product)
               Market Differentiation: Creates product differentiation that can be a tool for marketing to
               Increased market share: Better access to new markets

- An increasing number of major retailers and other users prefer to buy certified wood

- Legitimacy with the environmental community, the media and the public

Market forces including government trade regulations, consumers and NGO pressure and new
trade financing guidelines are further driving this explosive demand for verified legal timber.
Hence, investors and developers of new verification systems are confident in a growing demand
for legally certified timber, driven by ecological practices, legislation, pressure groups and
consumer awareness.

Certified Wood Products (CWP) believes that responsible forest products should be an important
component of a ‘green’ building, and the LEED19 system firmly supports what CWP values.20 “All
of our products are certified by the FSC which is recognized as environmentally responsible by
the LEED Green Building Rating System.”21 FSC is recognized as the ‘gold standard,’ however


  LEED® Defined
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System was created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to
establish a "common standard of measurement" for "green" buildings. LEED® attempts to define a term that is often considered indefinable—sustainability.
USGBC members determine those elements that contribute to the sustainability of a building and promote LEED® products and resources as a path to meet
sustainable building goals.

there are significant entry level schemes which Certisource can be identified as. Sam Lawson
carried out an Independent Assessment on ‘Certisource DNA Legality Assurance System,’
highlighting the core strengths of this system in comparison to existing verification systems. The
study depicts Certisource as a unique pathway to generating ‘acceptable sources of timber;’ a
system which is recognized and supported by the WWF GFTN. Significantly, Certisource’s
system of legality verification is built around the WWF GFTN’s guidelines, which provide baseline
requirements that need to be met for timber to be identified as ‘Verified Legal.’ Lawson describes
the process of ‘Verification of Legality’ where Certisource, in addition to confirmation of the
concessionaire’s legal right to harvest, also assesses the legality of the harvesting process,
involving the payment of relevant taxes, completion of cruising reports and confirmation (through
analysis of log numbers) that tree felling, log extraction and logistics have been conducted
according to legally authorized harvesting and management plans. Moreover, audits include field
inspections as well as examination of documentation and checks on transportation and chain of

Lawson goes on to compare Certisource’s Timber Tracking Technology with other systems in
place; where “most such systems are barcode labeling or RFID labels, coupled with computer
databases…these methods are still open to abuse.”23 Certisource has developed a unique
system of DNA matching which serves as a robust means of wood tracking in the chain of
custody. While with DNA the identity of a piece of raw timber is contained with it, is transported
with it, and cannot be tampered with; a system which can also incorporate RFID or barcode
technology further enhancing the overall credibility of the timber tracking system.

Sustainable Procurement

As the world faces climate change, there is a growing awareness for planet Earth and its lush
ecosystems. Companies are learning new ways to minimize their ‘environmental impact,’
consumers are taking incremental steps to reduce their personal ‘carbon-footprint,’ and industry
faces pressure to ‘clean-up their act,’ or face being left behind. Those of us who choose to think
‘greener’ and adopt ‘green practices’ are progressive by nature. We cannot keep losing sight of
some indisputable facts that, “managing our forests will be a key to reducing green house
gases.”24 Thus, to address climate change we ought to use more wood, grow more wood and
switch to using more wood in lieu of alternative materials (where viable.) Wood serves as an eco-
friendly option given its lower carbon impact compared to common building materials (concrete,

  (See Appendix 1.4) „Certisource DNA Legality Assurance System,‟ Independent Assessment, Summary Report September 2007 (Sam Lawson)
  (See Appendix 1.1) An Inconvenient Fact,‟ Patrick Moore:

steel, aluminum.) Trees are the only abundant, biodegradable and renewable global resource.
With this fact, wood needs to be promoted in the construction of building projects, providing a
sustainable solution. This brings forth the issue of responsibly sourced timber where timber from
sustainably managed forests should be used as a substitute for non-renewable materials and
fuels and also importantly, should be used over non-certified wood.


1.1      ‘An Inconvenient Fact,‟ (Patrick Moore)

1.2      ECOS 2006, “Wood- another low carbon footprint solution.”

1.3 icon- International Construction Review. CIOB International. 03
QUARTER 2007. “Thinking BIG-WIM BAKENS on the state of Global
Construction Research.” (John Moreton) reports. Melbourne, Council
House 2 (CH2).    

1.4 „Certisource DNA Legality Assurance System,‟ Independent
Assessment, Summary Report September 2007 (Sam Lawson)

                                     Appendix 1.1

                          ‘An Inconvenient Fact,’ Patrick Moore:

                                     Appendix 1.2
          ECOS 2006(129) 12 - 13: “Wood- another low carbon footprint solution.”

                                     Appendix 1.3
  (INSERT**) icon International Construction Review. CIOB International. 03
     QUARTER 2007. “Thinking BIG-WIM BAKENS on the state of Global
     Construction Research.” John Moreton reports.

                                     Appendix 1.4

(INSERT**) „Certisource DNA Legality Assurance System,‟ Independent Assessment,
                 Summary Report September 2007 (Sam Lawson)


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