By Scott Gibson
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and four environmental advocacy groups in the Pacific Northwest have launched a promotional campaign for forest practices and wood products that help lower carbon emissions.
The Climate-Smart Wood Group says it wants to help builders, architects, and other buyers understand the difference between wood products on the market and make it easier to locate lumber that meets sustainable forestry standards.
In a statement laying out its goals, the group said that growing interest in mass-timber construction underscores the need to choose wood products carefully. Promoters often cite timber as a less carbon-intensive building product than concrete and steel, the group notes, but that’s not necessarily the case.
“All wood is not the same,” the statement says. “Forest management affects carbon storage, human communities, water, and habitat. Climate-smart forestry—which relies on actions such as selective harvesting, longer rotation lengths, and tight restrictions on hazardous chemicals—can store more carbon than commonly practiced forestry.”
Although not without its critics, the FSC manages an international certification program for lumber. In order to qualify and win the right to mark wood with the FSC stamp, forestry companies have to meet certain FSC tests that are designed to minimize damage to the environment and communities where the wood is harvested.
Other groups involved in the Climate-Smart program are Ecotrust, Sustainable Northwest, the Northwest Natural Resource Group, and the Washington Environmental Council. These organizations all are in the Pacific Northwest.
The group notes that in the pulp and paper industry, large companies have influenced forest management and supply chains through their purchasing policies. But the construction sector is not as organized, with many smaller players working independently. The Climate-Smart Wood Group is a way to bring these players together, its opening statement said.
by Chalmers University of Technology
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have succeeded in 3-D printing with a wood-based ink in a way that mimics the unique “ultrastructure” of wood. Their research could revolutionise the manufacturing of green products. Through emulating the natural cellular architecture of wood, they now present the ability to create green products derived from trees, with unique properties—everything from clothes, packaging, and furniture to healthcare and personal care products.
The way in which wood grows is controlled by its genetic code, which gives it unique properties in terms of porosity, toughness and torsional strength. But wood has limitations when it comes to processing. Unlike metals and plastics, it cannot be melted and easily reshaped, and instead must be sawn, planed or curved. Processes which do involve conversion, to make products such as paper, card and textiles, destroy the underlying ultrastructure, or architecture of the wood cells. But the new technology now presented allows wood to be, in effect, grown into exactly the shape desired for the final product, through the medium of 3-D printing.
By previously converting wood pulp into a nanocellulose gel, researchers at Chalmers had already succeeded in creating a type of ink that could be 3-D printed. Now, they present a major progression—successfully interpreting and digitising wood’s genetic code, so that it can instruct a 3-D printer.
It means that now, the arrangement of the cellulose nanofibrils can be precisely controlled during the printing process, to actually replicate the desirable ultrastructure of wood. Being able to manage the orientation and shape means that they can capture those useful properties of natural wood.
“This is a breakthrough in manufacturing technology. It allows us to move beyond the limits of nature, to create new sustainable, green products. It means that those products which today are already forest-based can now be 3-D printed, in a much shorter time. And the metals and plastics currently used in 3-D printing can be replaced with a renewable, sustainable alternative,” says Professor Paul Gatenholm, who has led this research within the Wallenberg Wood Science Centre at Chalmers University of Technology.
A further advance on previous research is the addition of hemicellulose, a natural component of plant cells, to the nanocellulose gel. The hemicellulose acts as a glue, giving the cellulose sufficient strength to be useful, in a similar manner to the natural process of lignification, through which cell walls are built.
By Robert Dalheim
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The research team behind “super wood” is at it again – this time engineering a wood that’s capable of staying 12 degrees cooler than regular wood.
Researchers at the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado hoped to find a passive way for buildings to dump heat sustainably. The solution is wood – it is already used as a building material, and is renewable and sustainable. Using tiny structures found in wood – cellulose nanofibers and the natural chambers that grow to pass water and nutrients up and down inside a living tree – the researchers engineered wood that radiates away heat.
The UMD team soaked basswood in a solution of hydrogen peroxide, which destroys the wood’s lignin. The team then used a hot press to compress the remaining cellulose and hemicellulose components together. To make it water repellent, they added a super hydrophobic compound that helps protect the wood.
A documentary about the burning of wood at an industrial scale for energy, “BURNED: Are Trees the New Coal?” tells the little-known story of the accelerating destruction of our forests for fuel, and probes the policy loopholes, huge subsidies, and blatant greenwashing of the burgeoning biomass power industry.
By independent filmmakers Marlboro Films, LLC: Alan Dater, Lisa Merton, and Chris Hardee.
BY MARY PEREZ
Largest wood pellet manufacturer in the U.S. is proposing to build the world’s largest wood pellet mill in Lucedale, Mississippi in George County. Some residents are for it, others question environmental impact.
Residents of Lucedale who showed up in force to a public hearing Tuesday already made up their minds about the largest wood pellet mill in the country locating in their town.
They wore stickers announcing their position. And they weren’t swayed by speakers who came mostly from outside the area, arguing that while Enviva might be good for the bottom line, it might not be good for the health of the community.
The company proposes building a $140 million pellet plant in the George County Industrial Park in Lucedale and a $60 million shipping terminal in Pascagoula. The state Legislature appropriated more than $2 million to fix the rail spur between the two.
The pellets will be made mostly from pine trees in and around George County and shipped overseas to supply fuel for power plants in the United Kingdom, Asia and other countries.
Tuesday’s meeting was the last step in the review process before the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality decides whether to approve the pollution control equipment so the plant can operate within the legal limits of Mississippi. The decision could come as early as the June 11 meeting of the MDEQ review board, which meets the second Tuesday of each month.
By Molly Priddy
The U.S. timber industry scored a win on April 9 in the decades-long battle with Canada over softwood lumber, after the World Trade Organization ruled in its favor.
On April 9, the WTO decided that the United States Department of Commerce had done the correct calculations when it determined anti-dumping duties on Canadian softwood lumber.
“It’s a victory for the United States and the forest products industry,” said Chuck Roady, general manager of F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber, as well as the president of the Montana Wood Products Association. “It was great to see an excellent decision on our part, because the U.S. rarely prevails in the WTO.”
Softwood lumber has been the subject of an enduring trade dispute between the two countries, and the most recent Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) lapsed in 2016 after 10 years.
The roots of the dispute come down to two different forms of government having two different methods of lumber harvest. Canada’s provincial government owns the majority of timberlands that provide trees to Canadian producers, charging an administered fee. In the U.S., the timberlands are typically privately owned, and the market determines the price of those logs through public sales.
“Both systems work until you sell the lumber in the United States,” Roady said.
In November 2017, the U.S. Commerce Department determined that Canadian exporters had sold lumber in the U.S. for 3.2 percent to 8.9 percent under fair market value, and that Canada is subsidizing softwood lumber producers at rates of 3.34 percent to 18.19 percent. The department determined that Canadian lumber producers should then pay a combined tariff of 20.83 percent.
In its mixed ruling on April 9, the WTO determined that the U.S. use of “zeroing” to calculate the anti-dumping duties is not prohibited. In the past, the organization had ruled against the methodology.
The ruling also determined that the U.S. had violated international trade rules when it calculated the tariffs on softwood lumber imports, which Canada applauded.
Wood may seem more at home in log cabins than modern architecture, but a specially treated type of timber could be tomorrow’s trendy building material. Today, scientists report a new kind of transparent wood that not only transmits light, but also absorbs and releases heat, potentially saving on energy costs. The material can bear heavy loads and is biodegradable, opening the door for its eventual use in eco-friendly homes and other buildings.
“Back in 2016, we showed that transparent wood has excellent thermal-insulating properties compared with glass, combined with high optical transmittance,” says Céline Montanari, a Ph.D. student who is presenting the research at the meeting. “In this work, we tried to reduce the building energy consumption even more by incorporating a material that can absorb, store and release heat.”
As economic development progresses worldwide, energy consumption has soared. Much of this energy is used to light, heat and cool homes, offices and other buildings. Glass windows can transmit light, helping to brighten and heat homes, but they don’t store energy for use when the sun goes down.
Three years ago, lead investigator Lars Berglund, Ph.D., and colleagues at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, reported an optically transparent wood in the ACS journal Biomacromolecules. The researchers made the material by removing a light-absorbing component called lignin from the cell walls of balsa wood. To reduce light scattering, they incorporated acrylic into the porous wood scaffold. The team could see through the material, yet it was hazy enough to provide privacy if used as a major building material. The transparent wood also had favorable mechanical properties, enabling it to bear heavy loads.
Building on this work, Montanari and Berglund added a polymer called polyethylene glycol (PEG) to the de-lignified wood. “We chose PEG because of its ability to store heat, but also because of its high affinity for wood,” Montanari says. “In Stockholm, there’s a really old ship called Vasa, and the scientists used PEG to stabilize the wood. So we knew that PEG can go really deep into the wood cells.”
Known as a “phase-change material,” PEG is a solid that melts at a temperature of 80 F, storing energy in the process. The melting temperature can be adjusted by using different types of PEGs. “During a sunny day, the material will absorb heat before it reaches the indoor space, and the indoors will be cooler than outside,” Montanari explains. “And at night, the reverse occurs — the PEG becomes solid and releases heat indoors so that you can maintain a constant temperature in the house.”
By Ian Randall
A fire-retardant structural material can be made by chemically softening and compressing wood to remove the spaces between cell walls. When burnt, the resulting material forms a protective char layer on its outside which helps preserve its internal strength.
The use of wood in structural applications is limited by both its inherent flammability and susceptibility to rapid collapse on burning. Wood can be made more fire-proof by chemical treatments – such as through injections of halogenated flame retardants, or coatings of inorganic nanoparticles – but these approaches are typically either prohibitively expensive, fail environmental and health standards, or result in insufficient structural strength.
Liangbing Hu and colleagues of the University of Maryland in the US show that their process to create bullet-proof wood through densification also confers fire-resistant properties without recourse to potentially toxic or environmentally-unfriendly materials.
The densified material – which Hu dubs ‘super wood’ – is created by first chemically treating timber with sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite to partially remove its lignin, the organic polymer which makes cell walls rigid. Subsequent hot pressing creates a dense, laminated material free of lumina – the tiny channels that create a porous structure, supplying oxygen and increasing flammability.
AN has mapped the schools, organizations, and manufacturers across the U.S. and Canada that are powering the domestic timber boom.
The timber industry has long thrived on its small-scale, local nature due to the sourcing of its materials as well as the limits on project size set by the building code. With this has come a good deal of fragmentation and disorganization, so we decided to map out the different schools, organizations, and manufacturers that are leading the way in the research and development of mass timber across the United States and Canada.
Is wood pellet-based electricity less carbon-intensive than coal-based electricity? It depends on perspectives, baselines, feedstocks, and forest management practices
P Dwivedi, M Khanna, and Madisen Fuller
Some studies suggest that the carbon intensity of electricity generated in the United Kingdom by using imported wood pellets from the southern United States is higher than that of coal-based electricity, whereas other studies suggest that the use of wood pellet-based electricity reduces carbon emissions significantly, relative to coal-based electricity. We developed the Forest Bioenergy Carbon Accounting Model (ForBioCAM 1.0) to analyze factors that influence the carbon intensity of wood pellet-based electricity, using a common set of assumptions and the same system boundary. We show that widely differing assessments of the carbon intensity of wood pellet-based electricity depend on the choice of forest management perspectives (landscape or stand), baselines (no harvest, or harvesting for the manufacture of traditional finished wood products), feedstocks (whole trees, pulpwood, or logging residues), forest management practices (change in rotation age), and the duration of the analysis itself. Unlike with a stand perspective, we demonstrate conditions under which a landscape perspective results in carbon savings net of avoided emissions from coal-based electricity. Our results also suggest that the two perspectives of forest management converge in their assessment of the positive carbon effects of various feedstock types used to manufacture wood pellets relative to a no-harvest baseline, and that the use of whole trees for wood pellets results in net carbon savings after a break-even period of about three years relative to a no-harvest scenario. The results of this study can guide future policy deliberations on the use of wood pellets as a renewable energy source worldwide.