Procurement _Design Community Questions

Hi everyone!

I’m going to loop us back to the original question posted on the Procurement_Challenges thread and hope that more of the A/E/C members in this group will jump in. I think it would be helpful as a potential output/solution of this working group or just in general to consolidate the questions that the design community has around forestry and forest products into a list or FAQ (possibly answered in some cases and in others, questions we are missing information needed to answer). So just to create a list of questions:

For the design community (the demand side), what questions do you have about forest management and forest products?

Please respond with any and all questions you may have, no matter how complex or basic they may seem. Some that I’ve pulled from the challenges thread so far (and simplified a bit) are the following, but please feel free to expand any of these questions as you see fit:

  1. What are the benefits and negatives of certifications systems?

  2. How do certification systems compare? How do state regulations compare? (criteria including, but not limited to: carbon storage, resilience, biodiversity, local economy, Indigenous rights and livelihoods)

  3. What is climate-smart forestry?

  4. What are non-certification options for climate-smart wood products?

  5. What are rotation periods? Is it important to increase time between harvest?

  6. What type of wood should be specified for a project?

  7. Can you trace a wood product back to the forest it came from? (Chain of custody)

  8. What are the cost premiums? Where do the cost premiums come from?

  9. Terminology - what does it all mean?

For the foresters and manufacturers in this group, are there questions the design community and demand side should be asking that they’re not?

So we don’t derail this, I’m going to ask that people refrain from answering the questions posted in this thread. This thread is just to create a list of questions. If you’d like to respond to a question posted, please do so in the challenges thread where the majority of the conversation so far is taking place.

An initial comment:

It is clear to me that the topic of Climate Smart Forestry is a forum to address more than just the data of full timber industry impacts around GWP reporting. My targeted question below is not to undermine any of multiple Climate Smart Forestry topics…it is to bring focus on one part, in hopes of making some progress on that one area. I also can’t speak for all of the AEC professionals, but the focused question that I am looking for:

What is a “credible” GWP value to use for lumber (industry average to start, then with better granularity when making purchasing choices between vendors)?
This should include what is reported within the wood A1-A3 industry average softwood EPD today, plus a GWP consequential impacts value tied to forest land practices (over a 100 year timeframe(?)), with granularity to the level of mill and/or vendor specific annualized reporting.

The whole LCA process is compromised until there is closer compatibility of full impact accounting of the data, for all materials. Other materials are needing to adjust/disclose more also to become more comparable with their data reporting. The above is at the heart of timber’s challenge to move toward GWP reporting compatibility.

1 Like

Thanks, Don! That’s a great question to add to the list!

Thanks Don.

One of the very real and complicated aspects to wood is the supply chain. Seeking to buy from specific mills (and regardless of chain of custody) will be exceedingly difficult and may cost environmentally and economically. Hardy has a much better sense of it as a manufacturer of mass timber, but it would also affect other engineered products like LVL, OSL. I can’t speak for the supply chain in the US, but Canadian mills are supplying more detailed information that could be used in future EPDs, but likely on a regional bases given the energy grid profiles we have (hydro, fossil, nuclear sourcing).

Regarding a specified time frame, that varies greatly between regions and species and desired benefit. 100 years is more likely to be found in some of the northern regions of Canada. And from a carbon uptake perspective, there may be a desire to use the faster growing plantation species in engineered wood products where the quality issues associated with the younger trees can be reduced.

One caution — if there is a specific mill that you might like to buy from, it will be difficult to specify that. It isn;t how the supply chain works and the costs ($ and fuel) to get it may outweigh any incremental benefit.

Not making excuses here, but it’s the way things are. It may get better over time as more companies and mills gather the EPD information necessary to narrow the average range of impacts between products and mills. And I think this is the granularity you are referring to.

When I look at the genesis of this summit, I think back to a session at the mass Timber conference in Portland in 2019. The discussion of certified wood and potential impacts on forests from the advancement of Mass Timber products was expressed.

I’d like to think that all of us would agree that the reason we would like to ensure good forest stewardship for wood products is aligned with the desire to see wood products displace other more impactful materials where it makes sense. One of the important things we should also consider is whether the incremental difference between specific mills, regions or certification systems is of greater impact than the difference between using wood and another material. I don’t know what research has been done in that regard. But even the cement industry has acknowledged wood’s lower impact under most plausible scenarios.

Several years ago an architect wanted to build a project in wood but couldn’t find exactly what he wanted (a local FSC-certified glulam using a particular species. The contractor couldn’t find it so used steel beams. I was absolutely gobsmacked. That is not the solution I would like to have seen, obviously, and not the one that I had even considered given the architect’s leadership in green design.

So, I would like to suggest we keep that example in mind — Is the incremental benefit between the ‘ultimate’ climate friendly wood source and the non-evaluated wood (not certified or without EPD) greater or less than the difference between using another material?


Peter Moonen


Hi Peter,

Thank you for this input! However, I’ve asked that this thread be just for posting questions so we can create a comprehensive list of questions that the design community has on this topic, and that people refrain from answering the questions. If you’d like to speak more to this topic, please do so in the Challenges thread!


Thanks Lindsay. There are a couple of questions in there, but I’ll post the other thoughts elsewhere

Peter Moonen

National Sustainability Manager
Canadian Wood Council
Ph: 604.886.0033
Cell: 604.399.9990

Thanks, Lindsay, for teeing up this discussion. I think posing the questions is a great place to start.

From the forestry and manufacturing side, here are topics that I often find myself being spun around (or spinning around on my own!) and offer them as suggestions for where I wish we could start:

  1. What is the difference between embodied carbon vs “embedded” carbon?
  2. How do forest land managers choose/select harvest plans, harvest areas and silvicultural and harvest practices?
  3. What are the activities that account for greenhouse gas emissions associated with harvesting and transporting of logs? What improvements can be made?
  4. What are the activities that account for greenhouse gas emissions during the manufacturing of wood products? What improvements can be made?
  5. What is the flow of wood in a supply area (woodshed) to the mill and then from the mill to the distribution channel? Where are there opportunities for efficiency?
  6. What’s the difference – and connection – between carbon in the forest and carbon in wood products? When is it appropriate to look at one or both?
  7. What is included - and not included - in an EPD and where are there improvements to what could be included?
  8. When is it appropriate to do a whole building lifecycle assessment?
  9. What is the global flow of wood products?
  10. What does forest “protection” mean, where are some forests protected, and where are there opportunities to strengthen forest protection?
  11. How is the forest products sector structured?
  12. How are forest land owners/managers able to increase carbon in their forests while ensuring “leakage” doesn’t negate that increase?
  13. Why did the wood products industry originally create industry-wide EPDs and what improvements can be made?
  14. Why do facility-specific EPDs, in some cases, make sense for different materials and how do we understand the potential issues if that is the only direction we go?
  15. What is the difference between forest management certification, fiber sourcing or controlled wood certification, and chain-of-custody certification?

Great comments and requests, Don and Ara. I find the specificity really helpful. As an architects, we sometimes believe we can learn anything we need to know in a short period of time. But humility can be learned…:)) It is our job to collaborate with people to do know and learn from them.

It is not my job to understand Structural Engineering, LCA science, or become a national expert in ICC Codes, or in Forestry Practices, or Global Slave Labor laws, or…
…but it is my job to ask hard questions from the best people possible in these areas as possible and discern the best answers and directions as best as possible and then ask more questions and demand more studies.

Collaboration with others is key. Our work at atelierjones with these incredible LCA scientists on our big Nature Conservancy LCA study, (as yet unreleased), my work with ICC code experts on interpreting crucial life safety fire tests with the best fire scientists in the world, or atelierjones’ work to understand how and what forest management really means, in different North American regions, how power and transportation systems in all of them impact sustainable performance, or how end of life/disasembly assumptions can impact those LCA studies, which then gets us into soil science and landfill methane capture, has been incredibly humbling. We need ALL of these things.

It helps me tremendously to stay focused on learning and answers, guided by a broad set of values, that are informed by science and analysis.

We took this very difficult approach in our ICC Tall Wood Building Code work, amongst a similarly divided and contentious group of 18 people representing vastly different interest groups, from concrete and steel to wood to architects and engineers to the highly emotional fire community. We let science - real life testing - be the guide, and a deep respect for the code itself.

We could translate that here, to a deep respect for the laws that exist (at least in North America and the EU) to govern forestry. Our work was to change the code. The AEC community demanded it, and the Code officials were being blindsided because they had no guidance. The codes had to evolve to adopt to new demands. We accomplished that in two years time.

We could see our effort here as a similar one. If the current Forest Practices Acts (I think this is what I mean, correct me if I am wrong folks…:)) are not robust enough for this group and do not provide the answers we need, they need to be rewritten or reregulated. I am now getting in over my head, but there are surely legal experts in Forestry who could help us here collaborate across current boundaries.

This is an exciting period of time as we see Mass Timber being an agent of deep disruption. The collision of multiple overlapping interests - from deep environmental crises, to AEC environmental and market demands, to new generations of forestry managers embracing technology and the environment in different ways than ever before demands broad national leadership. And if that is not enough, demands for equity and fair labor practices are fast emerging in the AEC community in how we understand and source our global supply chain as well. We will need to define our geographic and jurisdictional boundaries to be effective.

May the coolest heads prevail.

Susan Jones, FAIA
architect, owner and founder
atelierjones LLC

911 Pine Street
Floor Two
Seattle, WA 98101

Thank you, Susan, for this comment. Point well-taken. Be specific. Be clear.

One follow-up to your post: Where forest practices (different rules are in place in different places, so not one specific regulation or act or program exists right now) need to be strengthened, let’s work on that together. First, we need to understand what those practices are today, where improvements can be made and then identify the opportunities where those changes can be influenced and/or implemented. We’ve had great success as a collective community focusing on a shared set of values (not everything, but where we can share) and then focusing on the solutions to best meet those values. That’s the goal of countless habitat conservation plans, forest practice laws, certification standards, shared stewardship agreements, conservation easements, and so much more.