Promoting the Use of Lesser-Known Timber Species

Tropical Rainforest Thailand --- Image by © Corbis

Tropical Rainforest Thailand — Image by © Corbis

Yesterday I read an interesting article in ‘International Wood’, an International Wood Products Association (IWPA) trade publication, about a topic I didn’t previously know about: the use of lesser-known timber species. I found the information to be well worth passing along to our readers. Here’s my summary, followed by some helpful resources on the topic.

Exotic, often times tropical, woods are much in vogue these days. As such there is high commercial demand for, or regulations regarding the use of, several species such ipe, mahogany, and ebony, which in turn drives up price and reduces available inventory. More importantly, there’s a chance many tropical woods, not just the ones mentioned, are not forested or harvested sustainably.

The wood industry is looking to promote lesser-known species (LKS) for several reasons, and designers would be remiss if they didn’t check out the various options and think about using them in future projects.

Reasons to Consider Lesser-Known Timber Species:

  • Large Selection – The IWPA lists nine LKS’s that have great potential for the US market, including garapa which is an attractive option for building exteriors and lattice-work. The World Wildlife Fund list over two dozen species to consider in their ‘Guide to Lesser Known Species’ (click here).
  • Design – Using LKS makes your design project standout. Many of these woods look great with no need for color altering stain. And because you don’t see them that often used at retail, they look fresher than the typical wood finishes you see in store interiors. Also LKS broaden your material palette. Garapa, tigerwood, and morado are all good species to consider.
  • Cost Savings – Because they are not utilized as often, the cost is often less than high-demand wood such as mahogany, while still providing excellent durability, color, and performance. All at a fraction of the cost.
  • Sustainability – Specifying LKS of wood promotes diverse forest eco-systems, reducing the pressure on forests that provide only high demand timber. Managed correctly, wood is a renewable resource that works well in retail environments. Always make sure the lumber you specify and use is FSC certified. No exceptions.

Here are some links for more information:

World Wildlife Fund’s Global Forest & Trade Network has a ton of info on sustainable forestry: http://gftn.panda.org

International Wood Products Association’s LKS page: http://www.iwpawood.org/?page=81

The UK Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) page on LKS: http://www.fsc-uk.org/lesser-known-timber-species.155.htm

The Amazon Alternative LKS page: http://www.theamazonalternative.org/news/en/news-july-lks

The World Wildlife Fund has a comprehensive guide to lesser-known species, get it here: http://www.worldwildlife.org/publications/guide-to-lesser-known-tropical-timber-species

The U.S. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) page: https://us.fsc.org

Have you used any lesser-known species of timber in your retail projects?

What are your favorites?

Join the discussion below in the comments.

Chris Weigand Design, LLC is committed to sharing our passion for a sustainable environment with our clients, our industry and our community. We encourage the use of sustainable materials and processes in retail design solutions. For more information on our commitment to the environment or to find out how we can develop innovative, sustainable solutions for your next retail design project, visit www.chrisweiganddesign.com or call 330.858.8926

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