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Local & Urban Wood

Synergies: Species Selection; Reuse and Long Life, Strategic Geography

Local & Urban Wood (LUW) prioritizes wood sourced from inner and nearby forests. When the trees growing in cities must be removed, they generate an enormous amount of wood that is often treated as waste due to difficulties in processing. In NYC, for example, an average of 30,000 tons of wood “waste” is generated every year that is mostly converted to wood chips. Forests growing nearby cities (~200 km) also produce wood that may be available through local sawmills and suppliers. There is currently a renaissance in small sawmill operations that are releasing this wood to be used by public and private entities at a variety of scales.

Local & Urban Wood Selection Examples

See Epilogue Lumber in Portland, SawmillSid in Toronto, Baltimore Wood Project in Baltimore, Angel City Lumber in Los Angeles, City Bench in New Haven, Bois Public and the CVBU in Montreal.

Sustainability Benefits

When LUW is used for long term infrastructure, like buildings or furniture, it generates direct carbon savings in avoided emissions from decomposition. Local wood also has a smaller production and transportation footprint, and it produces local employment and training opportunities. This type of small business and skilled hands-on labor can play an important part in local innovation ecosystems. Other sustainability benefits include:

  • Using LUW  decreases the volume of “waste” wood being chipped or landfilled leading to direct avoidance of GHG emissions.

  • LUW helps conserve faraway forests by shifting some demand to nearby sources.

  • Better managed forests in or nearby cities can also provide benefits for urban residents such as reduced urban heat island effect or stormwater runoff.

  • Unique high-value wood components, including high end aesthetics, and “whole tree” structural elements open up new design opportunities otherwise unavailable and dramatically increase exposure and potential benefits.

Challenges

  • Limited availability of various species, dimensions, and grades.

  • Costs may be greater than conventional sources.

  • Grading for some structural uses may require additional engineering.

  • Overcoming the impression that local wood is more expensive and lower quality.

Verification

  • Due to the local focus of this pathway, it is well positioned to be verified by the buyer (2nd party verification). (See Verification Matrix)

How to Evaluate?

  • Level One: Tendering/request for proposal (RFP) includes specification language for LUW, and . wood products are sourced from LUW supplier(s)/producer(s). Alternatively, calamity wood that is directly salvaged for a project from a local/urban area will qualify for this level.

  • Level Two: Use the project as a case study in a report and promote its LUW wood choices in public facing communications pieces to draw attention to the benefits of using LUW in new developments.

  • Level Three: Project experience with LUW results in the development and adoption of a medium/long term plan to integrate LUW sourcing and design practices into broader institutional/organizational programs and policies.

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Example: Montreal's ash reuse program engages local actors like Bois Public to take urban calamity wood and transform it into high-value items for many local projects.

Actions to Include Pathway 

  1. Create a Wood Needs Report that outlines the anticipated demands of the project.

  2. Create a matrix of local wood sources with availabile species, quantities, anticipated price, etc. Use the Local & Urban Wood Sourcing resources (Urban Wood Mills list) to start the process. Allow LUW to influence species options (See Species & Grade Selection).

  3. Draft specification criteria to ensure that the desired source is integrated into the project planning.

Use in Policy Making

  1. Implement programs to examine the potential of city-managed trees and forests to be diverted from short-lived products (i.e. wood chips) to long-life products (LLP) considering costs, carbon emissions, and other direct and indirect benefits.

  2. Create policy(ies) requiring the diversion of wood waste from city-managed areas to LLP.

  3. Encourage procurement of LUW from low-carbon forest and wood product enterprises.

  4. Establish incentives to promote the use of local wood LLPs in public and private practice.

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