No Politics, Please
You write: "We need to regard wood for what it is: one of the many construction supplies and s-ervices that we offer ? and not just because it's what our daddy sold." In my opinion, you have this right. Today, 65% of the sales at Ganahl Lumber are wood products or products derived from wood, such as MDF molding, engineered wood products and Trex decking. ? I believe [the percentage] likely will move lower gradually in the next 25 years.
But here is my concern: If the policies coming out of the so-called green movement in construction are based on a combination of science and economics, we're ready to move to the best products and building methods that get us there. For example, do they reduce energy usage when in place? Are they energy efficient to produce relative to the alternatives? Are they long lasting? Are they renewable? If, on the other hand, the green movement uses the political arena rather than the scientific and economic arenas to move the process, our industry needs to be a strong and reasoned voice that guides the process toward the best policies over the long run.
–Peter Ganahl, president
Ganahl Lumber, Anaheim, Calif.
Pete Ganahl makes a great point: we need to be customer focused and serve up what they need and want. On the other hand, wood is a very green building material in that it is renewable, recyclable, and consumes carbon dioxide as it grows. It's crucial for us to join the dialogue on green building to ensure that real science is at play. While it's very true that we can adapt to sell other types of building products (and have done so successfully), if the market moved significantly to cement, for example, the opportunity for us pro dealers might be significantly less than currently exists.
–Paul Hylbert, CEO
Pro-Build, Englewood, Colo.
Avoid Unintended Consequences
I agree with Mr. Ganahl that too much of the momentum of the green building movement is politically motivated. The causes for [climate] change are open to debate and are theoretical in nature. The bottom line is many people accept the theories that are being presented as fact. This is influencing their beliefs and behaviors. Our industry has to take the lead in educating architects, builders, and homeowners on how to choose the best materials for their building projects.
–Ron Fragapane, partner/sales representative
RepMark Sales Inc., Cleveland
Little Green Men (and Women)
Around here, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a tree-hugger. I suspect most of these little green men and women just like the bumper stickers. Tree-huggers don't want to change their lifestyle to save the planet; they want everyone else to change. It's cool to be green right now. Kermit the Frog never had it so good.
My advice is simple. To suppliers: simply give customers what they want. That's our job. To manufacturers: no one wants dirty air and water, so clean up after yourselves. That's your job. The free market will sort out who is right and who is wrong.
–Thom Gross, millwork specialist
Marvic Supply Co., Bucks County, Pa.
No Argument–Wood Is Best
Re: 'The Weight of Wood' editorial. I appreciate the history angle, but I think it is irrelevant for discussion of what's really green today. It's time to address the ignorance demonstrated by otherwise perceptive observers when it comes to what constitutes a green building product. What needs to be communicated is that, hands down, wood beats plastic, concrete, or steel as a green building product.
What's astounding is how many people who consider themselves environmentalists choose plastic, concrete, or steel over wood because using them doesn't "destroy forests." Seems to me they'd be more interested in using what truly is the ultimate natural material in building products. Aren't these the same people who wear hemp shirts and rawhide shoes as opposed to clothing made from synthetics? Wood's added bonus of being both abundant and renewable should give them something to smile about as they walk their melon rinds out to the compost pile.
–Dick Gauthier, vice president of marketing
Universal Forest Products Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich.
The issue that confronts us [with the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating system] is the requirement that all framing materials be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. Truckee-Tahoe Lumber Co. considered carrying an FSC-certified inventory, but concluded that the increased costs and lack of adequate supply would have too great an impact on our ability to fulfill our customers' needs on a consistent and affordable basis. That's why we are instead directing, whenever possible, our Douglas fir lumber purchases to California producers who are members of the American Forest & Paper Association. Its members are required to meet or exceed Sustainable Forestry Initiative standards as a condition of membership. Far less fuel is being consumed in the delivery of products from those producers than when we were sourcing them from Oregon and Washington.
–Breeze Cross, president
Truckee-Tahoe Lumber Co., Truckee, Calif.
Don't Let Green Scare You
I have been selling building products for 28 years, and until recently had little understanding of "green." [Recently], I met a builder that introduced me to a much higher understanding of green building. Conservation, reusable, sustainable, and hybrid are just a few of the green words he is using. This builder uses little to no wood in his structures but builds to any style or specification. The efficiency of materials and energy usage for the homeowner is second to none. It does cost more per square foot, but promotes using Sarah Susanka's idea of the "not so big house" to help control cost.
I will continue to learn more about green each and every day. Hopefully, we all can learn enough to not be scared of what thinking green can mean to building homes.
–Brian Reid, territory manager
MI Windows and Doors, Weaverville, N.C.
FSC: Right-Minded, but Wrong
The trend toward certified wood is laudable but often misguided. If we are talking about hardwood lumber from a tropical rain forest in a Third World country, then there is probably value in an independent, third-party certification process. To suggest there is a significant environmental difference between a certified and noncertified piece of lumber produced in Canada or the western U.S. is just silly. We have some of the most restrictive and stringent forestry regulations anywhere. They deal with wildlife and watershed protections as well as replanting and biodiversity. Additional third-party certification on top of what we already have is meaningless.
Another amusing fact about one type of certification is chain of custody. If my company buys a piece of FSC-certified lumber and then sells it, it is no longer certified, because we aren't. All the supposed environmental benefits are lost because we touched it. That's silly.
If someone develops a better alternative-building product than wood, we will happily sell it. We just don't want the choices to be driven by misinformation or by government bureaucrats using an emotional rather than scientific basis.
–Rick Roberts, CEO
Sunnyvale Lumber Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif.
President, Lumber Association of California and Nevada
Letters on Language
July's article on promoting safety in LBM operations when a large number of workers speak only Spanish (¿Habla de Seguridad?" page 63) triggered a debate. Walter Wilhelmi, warehouse and buying manager at Dealers Building Supply, Salisbury, Md., started it by saying the story's report on efforts to talk to Spanish-speaking workers in their native language was a step "in the wrong direction. Last I looked, we live in America, an English-speaking country."
John Smith, safety manager at Foxworth-Galbraith Lumber Co., Dallas, then sent ProSales an April 17 interpretive memorandum by Assistant Secretary of Labor Edwin Foulke Jr. The memo says, in part: "an employer must instruct its employees using both a language and vocabulary that the employees can understand." Smith added: "Our safety training and safety programs are intended to keep our employees safe and free from injury. We owe it to them to make sure they understand how to perform the job safely. We also owe it to them to follow up and ensure that they are actually doing the job safely."
Here are some of the replies, edited for space.
Push Safety and English
If the Labor Department is going to make it mandatory that companies provide multilingual safety instructions, companies should have the right not to hire non-English-speaking people. I support the idea that this country is strong and productive based on our language, culture, and borders (to quote Michael Savage). It is not strong because we have layers and layers of government rules and regulations. Safety is first, but English shouldn't be thrown by the wayside.
–David Aldridge, engineered wood products specialist
Oso Lumber Inc., Arlington, Wash.
Literacy Is What Counts
A few years ago, we explored converting our safety manual to Spanish to accommodate the growing number of Hispanic workers we were encountering. The safety consultant we were using discouraged it. Why? The overwhelming majority of Hispanic construction workers in our area came from poor rural areas and could not read Spanish. They were illiterate in their native tongue.
–John Archibald, vice president of operations
Forge Lumber, Cincinnati
I manage a lumber store in central/eastern Utah. We don't have the language problem with employees, so I don't have a vested interest in jumping on any bandwagon one way or another. I feel that we should be bound as employers to furnish safety training in a manner that protects our employees.
However, I also feel we should be empowered to (brace yourself) discriminate on who we hire by being able to require fluent use of the official state and federal language (English). If a worker wants to live and work in this country, he should fit the mold by acquiring the skills, training, and communications ability (language) needed to mesh with established citizens. Workers should be federally required to speak fluently and write the official language as a condition of living and employment in this country. Employers should be required to provide proper instruction in the official language. If either chooses to avoid that responsibility, then they should be held accountable. Employers should not be forced to offer training in every potential language.
–Eric Howes, store manager
Magnuson Lumber Inc., Castle Dale, Utah
Don't Listen to Hillary
I don't care what Hillary Clinton or anyone else says; English is the national language of these United States of America. The French, Germans, Japanese, Chinese, or any other country will not change their language for me or you. Why should we?
–Robert Riggs, owner
Riggs Sales Service Inc., Lexington, Ky.
Don't Promote Spanish
Employers who hire and keep purely speaking Hispanic workers and provide a completely Spanish environment for them are adding to this communication barrier–and ultimately making the problem worse for all American citizens, regardless of their original tongue. My families are of French, Micmac Indian of Canadian descent and also Polish dialect, but I'm not asking you to dial "1" to continue in any of those languages now, am I?
–R.W. Titchen, territory manager
Eat Your Veggies, and Think
Give it up and get a life! Nearly anyone who is not Native American came from somewhere, or his or her grand- or great-grandparents did. People who settle here learn the language eventually, and it just makes sense to help them along the way. Safety training benefits everyone, so a bit of whatever language you need to get this done can't hurt. The Hispanic workers I've known are nearly all hard working, polite, and have the same ambitions as the rest of us: a decent job and a better chance for their kids. As to the immigration hoopla, let's make it easy for people to get in. That way they'll go home again without the fear of never getting back into the U.S. We need people to do the work most Americans have no interest in doing. Eat your veggies and be glad we had a migrant to pick them.
–Ding Kalis, president
Mag-Bit, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
Send your comments to editor Craig Webb: firstname.lastname@example.org or One Thomas Circle NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005. (Letters may be edited for clarity and space.)
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