Background on FSC Certification and Finding It at The Home Depot

We were surprised to see FSC lumber at The Home Depot today.  While many say ‘building green’ is costly, due to the higher cost of ‘green’ materials (e.g., FSC lumber), it is comforting to see FSC materials at a low-cost supplier, such as The Home Depot.

FSC Certification

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) established set of criteria that are used to review and certify wood products that meet their standards.  The following is from the ‘About FSC’ page on the Forest Stewardship Council’s web site:

FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC is a certification system that provides internationally recognized standard-setting, trademark assurance and accreditation services to companies, organizations, and communities interested in responsible forestry.

The FSC label provides a credible link between responsible production and consumption of forest products, enabling consumers and businesses to make purchasing decisions that benefit people and the environment as well as providing ongoing business value.

FSC is represented in more than 50 countries around the world.

FSC is an international association of members consisting of a diverse group of representatives from environmental and social groups, the timber trade and the forestry profession, indigenous people’s organizations, responsible corporations, community forestry groups and forest product certification organizations from around the world. FSC has a unique governance structure that is built upon the principles of participation, democracy and equity.

Here is a link to a consumer brochure published by the FSC.

Why FSC?

If we were not participating in the LEED for Homes program (LEED-H), we probably would not understand the importance and value of cerification of wood products by the FSC.  And we most certainly wouldn’t pay a premium price for their certification.

As we went through the LEED-H criteria, we noted that using FSC certified wood is only a prerequisite for tropical wood, and not for other wood products (e.g., framing lumber).  MR 2.1 is the prerequisite that states:

2.1 FSC Certified Tropical Wood: Meet the following two requirements, as applicable:

a) Provide all wood product suppliers with a notice containing all of the following elements:

i.) a statement that the builder’s preference is to purchase products containing tropical wood only if it is FSC-certified;

ii.) request for the country of manufacture of each product supplied; and

iii.) request for a list of FSC-certified tropical wood products the vendor can supply.

b) If tropical wood is intentionally used (i.e., specified in purchasing documents) use only FSC-certified wood products. Reused or reclaimed products are exempt.

Note: A species of wood is considered tropical for the purposes of this prerequisite if it is grown in a country that lies between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

LEED-H Points for Environmentally Preferable Products

Under the LEED-H program, we can receive points for using ‘environmentally preferable products’ so this is where we are incented to use FSC certified lumber in our framing.  There are 8 points available, with up to 4 additional points for exemplary performance.  There are 0.5 points available for meeting the criteria set forth in Table 1 under MR 2.2.

MR 2.2 states:

2.2 Environmentally Preferable Products (0.5 point each, maximum 8 points).  Use building component materials that meet one or more of the criteria below. Except as noted in Table 1, a material must make up 90% of the component, by weight or volume. A single component that meets each criterion (i.e., environmentally preferable, low emissions, and local sourcing) can earn points for each.

a) Environmentally preferable products (0.5 point per component). Use products that meet the specifications in Table 1.

Note: Recycled content products must contain a minimum of 25% postconsumer recycled content, except as noted in Table 1. Postindustrial (preconsumer) recycled content must be counted at half the rate of postconsumer content.


b) Low emissions (0.5 point per component). Use products that meet the emissions specifications in Table 1.


c) Local production (0.5 point per component). Use products that were extracted, processed, and manufactured within 500 miles of the home.

So, drilling into Table 1, we find the relevant ‘components’ include exterior wall framing/wall structure, flooring, floor framing, interior wall framing, trim, roof framing, and roof, floor and wall sheathing.

We will receive 0.5 points by using recycled, FSC-certified, or reclaimed material in in each of these components of our home.

FSC-certified lumber at The Home Depot.

FSC-certified lumber at The Home Depot.

FSC certification label.

FSC certification label.

Priced competitively at The Home Depot.

Priced competitively at The Home Depot.

1 Comment

  • Did you know that those Bay Area Home Depots don’t have a Chain of Custody number? Their places aren’t certified so contractors purchasing this lumber cannot claim the wood as FSC certified. As far as LEED projects go, no FSC wood coming out of a Bay Area Home Depot can count towards any LEED points. Home Depot can “promote” FSC wood, they just can’t “claim” it. Sounds like green washing to me.

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