Is your lumber associated with the FSC?

Is your lumber associated with the FSC?


FSC stands for the Forest Stewardship Council.  The Council was formed in 1992 following the Earth Summit in Rio due to the fact that no agreement was reached to help with deforestation.  The current headquarters are located in Bonn, Germany and operate in 80 countries around the world.  The US chapter is located in Minneapolis. Membership on the council is comprised of both individuals and organizations. According to the FSC website the mission and vision of the organization is to “promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests. Our vision is that we can meet our current needs for forest products without compromising the health of the world’s forests for future generations.”

The main function of the FSC is the certification of forests.  The FSC uses 10 principals and 57 criteria when certifying a particular forest.  These principals focus on compliance with laws and treaties of the country where the forest is located, rights of indigenous peoples, environmental impact, forest management, and monitoring and assessment.  There are two types of certifications that can be obtained from the FSC.  Forest Management certification is given to forest managers that meet certain criteria set up by the FSC.  Chain of Custody certification is given to manufacturers, processors and traders of FSC certified products to ensure that FSC certified materials are tracked from the forest through the supply chain and kept separate from non-FSC certified products.  As of Sept. 2012, 3,581 companies are certified in the US.  Over 34 million acres of forest are FSC certified.  States with the largest number of acres certified are Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  FSC certified materials can be found in the building industry as well as paper and printing products.

There are other entities that do similar work as the FSC but are not as well known.  Those would include the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and the Canadian Standards Association’s Sustainable Forest Management Standard.

As component designers/manufacturers we come across FSC lumber called out in specs on LEED projects.  FSC has been the only recognized forest certification standard by LEED.

“…FSC-certified wood was found to be the most specified green-building product in McGraw-Hill’s database of 60,000 project specifications collected annually, surpassing even EnergyStar.”

Working with FSC lumber does add some additional variables to the design process for a truss or panel project. Depending on the part of the country you are located; FSC lumber may only be available in certain grades and species.  Check with your lumber suppliers for availability and lead time. Additionally, the cost for FSC lumber is typically higher than “standard” lumber you would use on a project.  In this competitive market, it is important that your quotes point out that FSC lumber is being quoted.

The FSC continues to grow and in turn the demand for FSC certified products around the world.  As the building industry begins to recover – it will be interesting to see what role these products will play in the future.

Bill Hoover

GouldDesign, Inc.

3 thoughts on “Is your lumber associated with the FSC?

  1. Here in California I see it more and more being called out on jobs specs. However in the last 3yrs. we have yet to use fsc lumber. Most framers will find a way out of it and build without it. Since this has been the case we are no longer paying for the certification and will no longer do estimates with an fsc option.