The clear choice Wood de­sign ideal in the South

Guest writer

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - DUSTIN DAVIS Dustin Davis, AIA, is an as­so­ciate with Polk Stan­ley Wil­cox Ar­chi­tects based in Lit­tle Rock.

As a sup­porter of green build­ing de­sign, I am also an ad­vo­cate for wood con­struc­tion. Wood is im­bued with some amaz­ing phys­i­cal prop­er­ties; it’s nat­u­ral, it’s re­new­able and, as a de­sign el­e­ment, it’s aes­thet­i­cally cap­ti­vat­ing.

That’s why ar­chi­tects like me, in­clud­ing those of us liv­ing and work­ing in “The Nat­u­ral State” of Arkansas and across the U.S. South, view tim­ber from a re­spon­si­bly man­aged for­est to be a cru­cial tool in our de­sign tool­kit.

Arkansas is called “The Nat­u­ral State” for a rea­son. We’re a place that very much wants to work with forests as a re­new­able re­source be­cause wood in our re­gion isn’t just plen­ti­ful; when sus­tain­ably man­aged, it’s a su­perb ma­te­rial—aes­thet­i­cally, struc­turally and en­vi­ron­men­tally.

Wood de­sign also con­nects peo­ple to na­ture. And de­sign­ing with cer­ti­fied wood, man­aged and har­vested ac­cord­ing to strict stan­dards, is good for the en­vi­ron­ment be­cause these stan­dards pro­mote re­spon­si­ble for­est man­age­ment, which in­cludes mea­sures to con­serve wa­ter qual­ity, bio­di­ver­sity, wildlife habi­tat, and ways to help re­cover species at risk.

While I’ve been de­sign­ing with wood for my en­tire pro­fes­sional ca­reer, and have used lo­cal, cer­ti­fied wood in my projects as much as pos­si­ble, the re­wards for us­ing cer­ti­fied wood have been lim­ited. With­out greater mar­ket in­cen­tives to use cer­ti­fied tim­ber from Arkansas, our own re­gional re­source was un­der­uti­lized by green ar­chi­tects.

The U.S. Green Build­ing Coun­cil’s re­cent launch of a new al­ter­na­tive com­pli­ance path now al­lows for more op­tions for cer­ti­fied wood to be rec­og­nized.

As the largest for­est-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion stan­dard in North Amer­ica, the Sus­tain­able Forestry Ini­tia­tive can help meet the grow­ing de­mand for cer­ti­fied prod­ucts from ar­chi­tects like me—not just in Arkansas but in Alabama, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi, Ge­or­gia and else­where.

While the Sus­tain­able Forestry Ini­tia­tive is a leader in for­est cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, the or­ga­ni­za­tion also has a broad man­date that in­cludes elevating con­ser­va­tion val­ues as well as fos­ter­ing com­mu­nity en­gage­ment across Arkansas, the rest of the U.S., and Canada.

And the ini­tia­tive’s com­mit­ment to re­search part­ner­ships in our re­gion is equally crit­i­cal to healthy fu­ture forests.

I can’t tell you how im­por­tant it is that all our tim­ber-grow­ing re­gions can now be a larger part of the sus­tain­abil­ity con­ver­sa­tion. It can only en­cour­age ev­ery­body to strive to do a lit­tle bit more. Now, more than ever, our own re­gional tim­ber re­source is avail­able to green-minded ar­chi­tects, and that means our forests will have greater value, and we’ll want to grow more trees. It’s a clas­sic win-win.

My bot­tom line is sim­ple: we can’t af­ford to ig­nore this great nat­u­ral re­source—we re­ally need to use for­est prod­ucts from well-man­aged forests be­cause they help our econ­omy and en­vi­ron­ment in ways that ben­e­fit so­ci­ety at large.

That’s why I’m en­thu­si­as­tic about the progress made in our part of the world by the Sus­tain­able Forestry Ini­tia­tive in en­sur­ing there’s a cred­i­ble, lo­cally avail­able third-party for­est-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion stan­dard to of­fer a proof point that our forests have been prop­erly man­aged for en­vi­ron­men­tal, so­cial and eco­nomic val­ues—to­day and to­mor­row.

For my own part, I grew up in a small Arkansas town sur­rounded by forests. As kids, we hiked up into the hills and forests vir­tu­ally all the time. I fell in love with wood—and with count­ing the grains and see­ing when the droughts oc­curred, lo­cat­ing when the wa­ter was plen­ti­ful. To me, it was about nat­u­ral sto­ry­telling.

So, it’s no won­der I was later amazed by the works of Arkansas’ Fay Jones, one of our great­est ar­chi­tects and a ge­nius at de­sign­ing with wood; think of Thorn­crown Chapel just out­side of Eureka Springs, or any other of his beau­ti­ful chapels. Later, our firm’s de­signs for Heifer In­ter­na­tional Head­quar­ters, or Camp Alder­s­gate Com­mons Cen­ter, would also show­case wood and help forge a strong con­nec­tion with na­ture. Fact is, we’ve made wood a key el­e­ment in prac­ti­cally ev­ery build­ing we’ve de­signed.

Cer­ti­fied prod­ucts and green build­ing de­sign are pow­er­ful trends that I’m proud to be as­so­ci­ated with. But it’s equally vi­tal that we’re able to use these lo­cal and re­gional for­est re­sources that are at hand.

Be­cause in that way, ev­ery­body wins.

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