Engineered wood products lead drive toward sustainability

Deforestation is an understandable concern among environmentalists. However, the growing engineered wood industry is offering energy efficient products that are sustainable and ecologically responsible.

Engineered wood products are manufactured from smaller, fast-growing trees, often from privately managed forests. The process makes highly efficient use of the trees, and as an engineered product, waste, such as small chips and other unused pieces may be recycled for further use.

The end product is also free of voids, knots, and other imperfections that can sometimes be found in lumber. This consistency in quality is an important trait to many builders.

Mike Ruch, president of Industrial Timber, a North Carolina-based manufacturer, uses engineered wood products to make furniture panels for upholstered furniture.

“They (engineered wood panels) lay tighter and flatter on the routers,” Ruch said. He noted that traditional timber often has imperfections, such as knots, warping and bowing, and voids. However, engineered wood lacks these imperfections, which allows his upholsterers to work with the entire board or panel.

As an added bonus, the lack of imperfections means less waste. Ruch said he is able to group small projects in the unused space on panels, often between larger projects. This in turn allows him to do more work with fewer engineered wood panels.

While this equates to a highly sustainable product, what does it mean in terms of energy efficiency?

According to www.apawood.org, website of the APA-Engineered Wood Association, it takes:

  • 5 times more energy for one ton of cement
  • 14 times more energy for one ton of glass
  • 24 times more energy for one ton of steel
  • 126 times more energy for one ton of aluminum

The telling fact is that wood products comprise 47 percent of all industrial raw materials manufactured in the United States. However, they consume only four percent of the total energy needed to manufacture all raw materials.

This makes engineered wood products not only sustainable, but demonstrates a strong argument that wood products are energy efficient to convert to raw materials.

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