Perhaps more relevant to builders is a realization that certified lumber is ultimately just wood. “Certification does nothing to verify the durability and the strength of the lumber,” says Russell Richardson, director of industrial markets for Kenner, La.–based Southern Pine Council, which has CSA-, FSC-, and SFI-allied members but does not endorse any one certification body. “Don’t forget about the structural attributes and aesthetics of your lumber. You want wood that looks good, is durable, and is environmentally friendly.”

One core argument for certified lumber is that wood, in and of itself, is an environmentally responsible material. Within a full life-cycle assessment, wood is renewable, consumes atmospheric carbon during growth, requires comparatively little energy for harvest and manufacturing than nonorganic building materials, and is biodegradable and recyclable. Bowyer even argues that any wood professionally produced in the U.S. and Canada has already met regulations that put it within the top 5% of environmentally sustainable lumber on a global scale.

But to be sure, and to earn points for green building programs or up-sell the eco-friendliness of your product to your clients, you’ll need the appropriate product labeling.

“Definitely one of the things driving an increase in demand for certified lumber is the ability for builders to highlight its environmentally friendliness to their homeowner customers,” says Paul Novack, a product specialist for Green Depot, a green building products supplier. “With that demand, costs have come down and availability has gone up.”

To get the brand, expect in general to pay a price premium of up to 5%. Additionally, a host of products, from floor joists to replacement windows to flooring and cabinetry, are now manufactured using certified wood. Expect the typical low percentage price premium and the corresponding prevalence of the certification brand on the more wood-heavy products, like flooring.

In some categories, such as windows, you may not pay a premium at all and might even have to search a spec manual to see the certification brand.

One thing is for sure: With The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards, and most independent retailers now carrying a range of certified lumber products, availability should not be an issue. Ultimately, you just have to choose where your brand loyalty lies.

Chris Wood is senior editor for Multifamily Executive and Developer.

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