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A Living Future for FSC-Certified, Decorative PureBond® Hardwood Plywood Panels

A Living Future for FSC-Certified, Decorative PureBond® Hardwood Plywood Panels

  • June 4, 2015
  • by Columbia Forest Products

“Imagine a Building as a Flower”

shutterstock_132487946That message is brought to you courtesy of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), a group intent on developing the “built environment’s most rigorous performance standard.”

Paul Davis, a marketing manager at Columbia Forest Products, predicted the ILFI will exert an increasingly greater influence on the building products industry in the years to come. In April of 2015, Davis and several of his Columbia Forest Products colleagues participated at the ILFI’s annual Living Future “unconference” in Seattle, WA.

At the heart of the three-day event’s presentations and discussions was the Living Building Challenge [LBC] 3.0. According to the ILFI website:

“The Living Building Challenge is a building certification program, advocacy tool and philosophy that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to rapidly diminish the gap between current limits and the end-game positive solutions we seek.”

Invoking a flower as a metaphor, in ILFI’s view, it is not enough for buildings to have a net zero impact on the environment. Instead, ILFI advocates “creating a pathway and vision for a truly sustainable, regenerative future. Nature doesn’t do zero – it is net positive in energy, food, flows” and beauty which is where naturally beautiful decorative wood products come in.

While the event did not specifically ­target attendance by woodworkers, Davis believed manufacturers of cabinets, case goods and other wood products should get acquainted with the ILFI, its mission and the LBC.

“It is important to know what is going on in this space because their architect and design customers are likely to draw them into the conversation at some point and we want fabricators to be prepared to capture the business this new program spins off.”

A Return to Simple Ideas
Columbia Forest Products has been a “Visionary” sponsor of the ILFI for the last couple of years and also exhibited at the event featuring Columbia PureBond® MPX decorative hardwood plywood panels certified to FSC® standards for responsible forestry. “Columbia is attracted to what ILFI aspires to do here,” Davis said. “the LBC 3.0 stipulated no-added urea formaldehyde in decorative panels and required as a prerequisite FSC certified wood. These are attributes which have been lost or buried in the new revision of LEED V4 but remain important in the context of market transformation which initially attracted Columbia to green building in the first place.”

A ‘Nutrition Label’ for Cabinets

res3An important component of the Living Building Challenge is Declare®, ILFI’s version of a “nutrition label” for building materials. Declare provides a platform for manufacturers to precisely disclose the intentionally added ingredients of products assemblies they sell.

“People are paying more and more attention to the ingredients in building products in part due to studies which demonstrate that even newborns coming into this world have an external introduced burden of chemistry in their blood, some of which is believed to originate from building materials,” For cabinet fabricators to participate in some of these cutting edge markets, they’ll have to be prepared to declare cabinet assembly ingredients as architects and designers develop their approach to chemistry due care. With hundreds of thousands of panel combinations, we have a ways to go to efficiently provide this data, but we are headed in the right direction and committed to the task.”

An ‘Ah Ha’ Moment

“We work to declare our product ingredients and participate in some of these transparency platforms to help our fabricator customers as well as architects and designers,” Davis said. “At the unConference it was stated by a presenter that the estimated research time for a new product to be vetted by materials librarians is between three and four hours of billable architect time. That was a big ah ha moment for us. We thought, ‘If Columbia can participate in transparency platforms in ways that knock down the time it takes for an architect’s office to clear us and credential its product appropriately, then this is something we should be very focused on. It is about empathy, in part for design professionals.’”

“The key thing,” Davis said, “is that Columbia is working now to engage these stakeholder groups, cutting its teeth on Declare, HPDs and certain reporting platforms to express panel ingredients in an understandable, accessible format… And our team here will support with ingredient data any fabricator who wants to do the same thing or faces this documentation challenge as a result of working on a Living Building Challenge project. The future we see includes ingredient reporting and we are looking forward to helping our downstream meet this new market driver.”

Additional Resources:
Living Building Challenge – http://living-future.org/lbc

Declare Product Labeling – http://declareproducts.com/