Plain Green TTEC -
Local Wood or Trophy Wood?
About half of the land within an hour’s drive of Plain Wisconsin is covered with timber. The vast majority of that forest is not well managed due to poor market prices and low demand from industrial corporations. The oak, walnut, cherry, maple, elm, pine, etc. trees actually can produce some of the most beautiful and valuable wood products in the world. Connecting this vast but underutilized natural resource to the local/regional demand for manufactured wood products could create thousands of new “green” jobs in this area.
A demonstration of this could be to produce the 10,000 square feet of ceiling decking for the Green TTEC building from the River Valley School Forest, just 10 miles away.
Currently, the architects’ specification calls for Select grade Douglas Fir/Larch – from 2,000 miles away. By requiring the lowest bid, it is most likely that these boards would come from a Canadian government-subsidized clear cutting harvest and be processed through one of the last ‘mega mills’ in the Pacific Northwest. Small local business and local workers would produce the boards from the School Forest. Select grade (clear boards) would require the use of just the very best boards from the very best trees – possibly from some of the last remaining old growth timber in British Columbia. School Forest wood would use the whole tree and feature the natural beauty of “knotty” boards. School Forest wood would utilize planted red pine trees that are not natural to the location and are dying off at an accelerating rate. The amount is about 1 ½ trees per acre on the average. That is less than one year’s growth in the RVSF, and less than what died this summer from the insect and fungal attacks that are spreading.
Pacific Northwest harvesting is typically done with the biggest possible equipment on mountain side locations. School Forest logging would be done with the smallest possible equipment on flat land. Douglas Fir is mostly clear cut to be efficient for the industry – the School Forest work would selectively salvage dying timber and encourage a more natural timber type for the future.
Douglas Fir would be kiln dried with fossil fuel to the specified 15% moisture content that is not dry enough for our indoor humidity levels in the winter. School Forest lumber would be kiln dried with solar heated kilns to 6-8% MC to be at the proper moisture level for our climate in Plain. Douglas Fir would be hauled over 2,000miles. School Forest lumber would be moved about 10 miles. Douglas Fir boards would never be touched by human hands – Local Red Pine would be handled by dozens of local workers. The value of the wood can be exported to the PNW or all the money could be kept in the local economy, creating new jobs.
Structurally, both products are excellent decking. Visually - and the message they send - are strikingly different. Select grade decking is actually anti ‘green’ and defies the very foundation of FSC certification. Taking just the best of the best boards is not sustainable, no matter what some distant certifier may want you to think. A wise person today sees immediately that this is “trophy wood” – showcasing a now rare material from a distant land. Using the natural knotty character boards that utilize the whole tree, a discerning person sees immediately that common sense is being used here.
The people of SW Wisconsin would choose to use local natural wood, rather than trophy wood from Canada. The people of SW Wisconsin would want the money and jobs to support their local economy, not a huge corporation in the Pacific Northwest. This Green TTEC building sends a message to everyone who will see it or hear about it. Is Plain Green TTEC following its own mission in the building of their own facility??
Is it reasonable to expect small local business to match the low bid price for wood from huge corporations in the PNW? The big corporations in Canada are awarded a “license” to clear cut a forest, with insignificant payments for the trees. Here, landowners including the RVSF expect to be paid for their trees – benefiting the local community. The big corporations are geared with the largest possible equipment to move the biggest volumes of wood off of mountainside forests. Every operation is fully mechanized, few employees are needed for the volume produced. Small local business use small equipment and employ many employees to do the work.
This demonstration project could hire and train several people to learn the ‘forest to finished wood’ business that could re-invigorate our regional economy.
A major emphasis of the mission of Green TTEC is to train High School students for green jobs. This project could fulfill that purpose with actual hands on training opportunities. River Valley students seeing wood from their forest would appreciate the building more throughout the future.
There is no business in place to produce decking from the RVSF today. Several members of the local Green Squared Building Association have advocated using local wood in this building for a year now, and are ready to take this project on. A commitment to using local wood for the decking, plus cabinets, furniture, paneling, etc. is needed quickly to allow time for the work to be accomplished. Each of these projects could provide hands on training for good green jobs, starting immediately. Requiring a local business to match a low bid from a distant huge corporation would penalize the local business for trying to do the right thing to support the local economy.
Bioenergy is another huge opportunity for the Green TTEC program. All the waste wood from these projects could be processed into the wood pellets that will be needed to help heat this building. The money that would be used to buy pellets could be used to get the equipment to make pellets and hire local people to produce the fuel.
Going for the lowest bidder in the timber industry will likely mean:
The standing timber was not paid for fairly
Large volume clear-cutting is used to minimize costs
Just the good big trees are utilized
The local community received very little benefit from the harvest
Long term environmental damage was done during the harvest
Little if any money went for reforestation or soil protection of the area
Contractors were not insured, everyone is cutting corners on costs
Quality of the wood will be at the minimum of the standard
You don’t know what you get until it is delivered
Bidding construction jobs in a recession:
Cheap imported materials are flooding the market
Cheap labor (often illegal labor) undercuts professionals
Distant companies bid jobs with no local commitment
Big Corporations cut costs to drive out small business
Government regulations and paperwork costs keep going up
Business costs, insurance, supplies all keep going up
Desperate consumers buy cheap stuff instead of quality values – living for the moment
Buy Local means supporting local businesses and investing in the local economy.
There is a very high price for buying cheap lumber
There is a very high price for buying cheap gasoline