Using sustainable plywood and timber for construction

Last edited 8 August 2008 at 1:50pm

Sustainable plywood and timber is available and easy to find

Demand for tropical hardwood plywood in the UK and internationally is one of the main causes of illegal and destructive logging in the rainforests of countries such as Brazil and Indonesia. This deforestation is causing the loss of biodiversity, displacing local communities and contributing to climate change.

There are no laws yet in place to prevent illegal timber from entering Europe. As a result, large quantities of illegally logged timber still make their way into the UK. The construction industry is the biggest consumer of timber in the country which is why it is vital for contractors, architects and builders to source timber from environmentally and socially responsible sources such as those certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

If you are specifying timber for a construction project, you can help prevent rainforest destruction by following simple guidelines that we have outlined below.

What you can do

  • Make sure that you explicitly specify FSC-certified OSB or FSC plywood for use on the site. If you are an architect or a builder, ask your contractors and sub-contractors to use only environmentally and socially responsible materials that are FSC certified.
  • Ask contractors for evidence that the timber used in the construction comes from environmentally and socially responsible sources only. This will mean giving you a paper trail of the supplier's delivery notes and invoices carrying an FSC Chain of Custody (COC) number. Give your contractor enough time to source FSC-certified materials
  • Keep an eye on the quantity of supplied goods that are FSC-certified as you may receive illegal timber bundled alongside. Do not accept supplier assurances that "it's all certified" without checking the paperwork. Some timber suppliers provide documentation that claims timber is sustainable, but unless the specific timber concerned comes with an FSC CoC number, this cannot be guaranteed.
  • Make sure that not only the company supplying goods is FSC certified but also that the materials themselves are. FSC-certified companies can sell FSC products but they often sell non-FSC wood products as well.
  • Be vigilant on site or appoint a person to check all the delivery notes and invoices of materials used to ensure you are using FSC certified products only. Preserve the paper work which is proof of your compliance with the specification.
  • You can even get an FSC certification for your company or any specific project you are working on. FSC project certification means that at least 50 per cent of the timber used on site needs to be FSC certified with the rest coming from FSC controlled wood standard.

Terminology

FSC: The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the only certification scheme on the market that guarantees timber products that come from legal and responsibly managed sources. Wood labelled by the FSC comes from forests or plantations that are well managed according to strict environmentally and socially responsible standards.

OSB: Oriented Strand Board (OSB) is a composite wood product made from layers of wood bonded with wax and resin adhesives. FSC certified OSB is a greener alternative to tropical plywood and is priced competitively. It is no different from plywood in terms of its quality and workability.

FSC certified plywood: Plywood that is certified by the FSC indicates that it is made from sustainable sources and does not come from endangered tropical rainforests or illegal sources. It can be used in places where OSB isn't available or practical.

Read more:

  • How to check whether FSC certificates are genuine?
  • How to get yourself or your project certified?
  • Examples of good practice - Ilford Wharf

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