Archive for July, 2006

Resources: Sustainable hardwoods

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

Links to websites that pertain to sustainable forestry and hardwoods in North America:

Standards

  • Canadian Sustainable Forestry Certification Coalition. The goal of this organization is “to promote the use and acceptance of internationally recognized sustainable forest management certification standards in Canada in order for Canadian producers to continually move towards sustainable forest management, secure a sustainable supply of raw material, and to ensure marketplace acceptance of Canadian forest products.”
  • Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC “sets forth principles, criteria, and standards that span economic, social, and environmental concerns. The FSC standards represent the world’s strongest system for guiding forest management toward sustainable outcomes.” The FSC certifies forests and forest products and has a logo program for identification. For a list of companies in the US with chain-of-custody certificates, click here.
  • Rainforest Alliance‘s SmartWood certification program.
  • Roundtable on Sustainable Forests. “The Roundtable is an open and inclusive process committed to the goal of sustainable forest management (SFM) on public and private lands in the United States.” The Roundtable has implemented criteria and indicators reflecting current forest conditions which are meant to serve as a baseline for assessing future progress toward sustainability.
  • Sustainable Forest Initiative. The SFI “is a comprehensive system of principles, objectives and performance measures developed by professional foresters, conservationists and scientists . . . that combines the perpetual growing and harvesting of trees with the long-term protection of wildlife, plants, soil and water quality.” The SFI creates standards for participation and principals of sustainability, and has a labeling program for participants, retailers, manufacturers, and publishers.
  • US Department of Agriculture Forest Service Sustainable Development whitepaper.

General information

  • Ancient Forest Initiative. The AFI “facilitates landscape-level forest conservation projects in northern California and internationally.”
  • Forest Certification Watch. FCW is an “independent news provider” that is engaged in “providing decision makers with the latest relevant news and helping them navigating through the complexities of all recent developments,” including “sustainable forestry, public and corporate forest policy, forest certification, illegal logging, responsible procurement, corporate social responsibility, carbon forestry, bio-energy and related matters.”
  • Forest Directory contains links to all aspects of the forestry industry, including forest product certification and sustainability links.
  • Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Research, education, publications.
  • GreenBiz. An “information resource on how to align environmental responsibility with business success.” Sustainable forestry section identifies players and provides links.
  • Hardwood Forestry Fund. The Fund is “dedicated to establishing sustainable hardwood forests” through a tree planting program that promotes “hardwood timber growth, management, environmental education, and wise use of our nation’s renewable forest resources.”
  • Institute for Sustainable Forestry. The Institute “promotes forest management that contributes to the long-term ecological and economic well being of forest-based communities” with particular emphasis on “forest and watershed stewardship, community economic development, and sustainable forestry certification support.”
  • Southern Center for Sustainable Forests. SCSF “provides innovative research and practical applications for enhancing sustainable forest management on industrial and nonindustrial private forest land in the South. . . . ranging from sustainable production of wood fiber to extensive management of nonindustrial private forest land to the broad management of forested landscapes for non-market values.”
  • Sustainable Forests Partnership. “The Sustainable Forests Partnership’s mission is to document and promote innovation in sustaining forests and communities and assists others to integrate this innovation into policy and practice.” Consortium of universities provides research, education, and extension services.
  • Sustainable Hardwoods Network. The Sustainable Hardwoods Network “consists of locally-owned wood products manufacturers, contractors, retailers, and non-profit organizations sharing a commitment to ecologically sustainable forest practices that support the long-term social and economic well-being of our north coast communities.” Site contains a business directory.
  • Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, UN General Assembly, Rio de Janeiro, 1992. Sets forth “principles for a global consensus on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.”
  • Virginia Tech, Moving Toward Sustainable Forestry: Strategies for Forest Landowners. Handbook for foresters.
  • World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development. Recent report with recommendations and some maps.

Sources

  • Forest Stewardship Council’s list of companies in the US with chain-of-custody certificates.
  • EcoTimber. “A complete line of ecologically sound flooring.” FSC certified, reclaimed, bamboo.
  • Green Mountain Woodworks (Oregon). “Sustainably produced solid wood flooring.”
  • Natural Home Products. Sustainable flooring imported from Denmark.
  • American Inlays. Eucalyptus flooring.

Other countries have similar organizations. See the comment to my post on sustainable retailers for one.

A new business model

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

I’m reading Thomas L. Friedman‘s The World is Flat, in which he discusses the “flattening” of the world of business by the immense political and technological changes of the last few decades. He argues that because technology allows us to commmunicate seamlessly and instantaneously, much of the work previously done in-house will be increasingly outsourced to countries around the globe where workers can do it faster, cheaper, and often better. Companies that manage to adapt to these changing realities will succeed while those that do not will fall behind.

Friedman also talks about the “Business Web” – using the Web to gain access to standardized Web-delivered business tools to keep track of inventory, stay in touch with customers, schedule, budget, word process, store data, and so forth, through online subscription services. Because companies using these services no longer need to buy and update software or maintain cutting edge hardware and need fewer employees to do these tasks, they are able to realize significant savings in operating costs.

Because so much work will be outsourced, successful companies won’t be able to distinguish themselves simply by their ability to develop and use sophisticated technological systems. Rather, Friedman avers, what will separate successful firms from the pack will be their ability to “create a tailored solution” for their clients. In other words, just being technologically savvy won’t be enough – if one company can access technology, so can its competitors. What will enable a firm to capture the market will be its ability to provide personalized service and solutions that uniquely serve each client. Well, Mom-and-Pop stores have traditionally done just this, so it’s interesting to me to hear a modern business guru claiming that this is the wave of the future.

Nevertheless, Friedman’s predictions make sense, so the next question is how will design firms respond? Clearly, firms can benefit from the cost savings associated with the Business Web. Accounting, personnel, word processing, number crunching, and drawing/rendering applications could all be accessed online and the vast amounts of data generated for an AEC project could be stored off-site. Certain core tasks could be outsourced as well – CAD drawing, presentation drawings and booklets, reports, models, and code checking, to name a few. Even some aspects of project management could take place remotely. After all, establishing a schedule and making phone calls can be done from anywhere and the technology for video conferencing is readily available.

The key for design firms is to determine what can not be outsourced – and become the best at that. This, clearly, is personalized client-centric on-site work: face-to-face client interaction, discovering client needs, visually understanding the physical space, brainstorming a unique design, and on-site inspections, for example.

My sense, therefore, is that the design profession will see a shift in fee allocation with greater resources going into the client-contact side of the process and fewer into the actual production of project documents. Firms can save by outsourcing back-office tasks, computer-dependent jobs, and production work that doesn’t require physical presence at the client’s office or the project site. The most valuable workers will be those who interact well with clients and those who have the creative ideas for achieving unique solutions to the clients’ requirements.

Deck and yard

Thursday, July 13th, 2006

About five years ago, I realized that my 20 year-old deck was less than safe, so I designed a new one. The next year, to solve some water problems in the basement, I walled in and roofed over my walk-out basement door, tying it into the deck with a large planter. Both projects turned out well, and here are a couple of pictures.

Just for good measure, here is my yard with the newly-configured flower bed (see earlier post regarding this bed).

Brigid’s Paradigm

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

Sheryl Stringer, an ASID partner in Texas, in a comment to my post on designing with waste, pointed me toward her blog, Brigid’s Paradigm. Brigid’s Paradigm is a low-income housing project sponsored by Brigid’s Place, a Texas non-profit that has various programs for women. The project was developed in conjunction with builders Dan and Marsha Phillips and their company, The Phoenix Commotion.

The Phoenix Commotion builds houses for low-income individuals and families using free, salvaged, and recycled materials. The company finds the materials, creates a unified house design, employs and trains a crew of unskilled laborers to do the work, and arranges for financing for low-income buyers. The houses are small and funky, but their occupants own them for monthly payments of less than or equal to what they were previously paying out in rent. Everyone wins: the company is for-profit so Dan and Marsha earn a living, low-income families who would never be able to buy a traditional home can now do so, previously unskilled laborers gain skills that enable them to move on to higher-paying jobs, and materials that would otherwise be trashed find new life.

Brigid’s Paradigm combines Dan and Marsha’s approach with the Habitat for Humanity notion of owner-supplied labor to enable homeless or low-income women to build their own houses. The women do the work under Dan’s guidance and end up with small, but highly livable homes of their own.

We need a lot more projects like this.

June ‘06 index

Sunday, July 2nd, 2006