Standard Lumber Goes All-Green In Grand Valley

February 29, 2008
| By Pete Daly |
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TALLMADGE TOWNSHIP — Standard Lumber is still going strong after 104 years, probably because it learned long ago to roll with the punches and, perhaps more importantly, adapt to the times.

Beginning in March, the company’s Grand Valley lumber yard and building supplies center on Lake Michigan Drive just west of Standale will be renamed Standard Lumber/Standard Kitchens Eco-Connection — a green building specialty store. There, the company will sell only Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood products and other green materials, such as adhesives with low VOCs, Energy Star windows, decking made from recycled materials, and other materials that meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design construction specifications.

“We are committing our company to the goals of the LEED green building rating system,” said Tim Rottschafer, president of Standard Lumber/Standard Kitchens companies and the third generation of Rottschafers to own and operate the business.

He noted that the LEED green building rating system, established by the U.S. Green Building Council, is the nationally accepted benchmark for green buildings. Rottschafer added that the company is eager to work “with our builder customers in design and construction practices that contribute to the reduction of negative environmental impact.”

He said the Grand Valley showroom is the first of its kind in West Michigan and will be a resource for materials and information sought by architects, specifiers, designers and others who are interested or active in LEED or green-built projects.

Founded in 1904 on Kalamazoo Avenue in southeast Grand Rapids, the privately held company today has about 200 full-time employees, according to Rottschafer. It has sales or other operations at 13 locations in Michigan, from Traverse City south to Kentwood and along the lakeshore. The locations include eight lumber outlets, 11 kitchen centers and a truss plant in Walker.

Fire is the bane of lumber companies, and Standard has had its share of those over the years, the most recent being a major fire that destroyed its Kalamazoo Avenue lumberyard in 1999. That hardly fazed the company’s momentum, however, and the facility was quickly rebuilt and running again.

The major slowdown in home construction throughout the nation has rippled through the lumber industry, too, but Rottschafer said Standard “is a very strong company, and we expect to weather the storm. We definitely intend on coming out of this, and I expect that will be sooner than later.”

He noted that now is an extremely good time to build or remodel, due to relatively low prices for materials and “hungry” builders looking for work.

Going green is definitely a popular strategy for companies involved in the construction industry, too. Green construction of homes and buildings of all types is the big buzz throughout North America and Europe. Protection of the environment and sustainable forestry provides much of the energy behind the green movement — but so does energy efficiency.

“A big part of our effort (at the Grand Valley lumber yard and store) will be to demonstrate that green buildings also offer sustainable economic advantages by paying for themselves immediately, or within a very short timeframe,” said Rottschafer.

Some energy-conserving materials are “upfront, more expensive,” he noted. But with energy costs continuing to go up, one may assume that investment is likely to pay for itself sooner rather than later.

Kurt Geoghegan, manager of the Eco-Connection store, has taken training from Green Built Michigan, a nonprofit organization that trains builders and certifies their completed homes as being energy efficient, safe, durable and environmentally sustainable. Geoghegan has also attended USGBC workshops.

A Standard Lumber employee for eight years, Geoghegan said he is also in the process of studying to obtain LEED-accredited professional status through USGBC. He said the exam takes hours to complete and is very detailed and grueling.

Geoghegan said the green building movement is “gaining more and more people every day” among builders who want to be able to get their finished homes certified by either the LEED program of the USGBC, or Green Built Michigan. Verification by third parties is proof to the owner of the house that he or she is getting what was paid for, in terms of the structure being energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and made with sustainable materials that are not hazardous to human health.

Certification “covers everything” about the house, said Geoghegan. He noted that Green Built (which is a national organization) recognizes three types of third-party certifications of lumber, including the FSC. USGBC only recognizes FSC lumber. That is why Standard Lumber sought and was recently granted FSC Chain of Custody certification for all the lumber it will sell at Eco-Connection.

“Chain of custody” refers to the origin of the lumber and all processes it underwent, right through delivery to Eco-Connection. 

Both Geoghegan and Rottschafer said they believe Eco-Connection will be the only facility in Michigan that only deals in FSC-certified lumber.

The Forest Stewardship Council is a global organization, founded in 1983 in Mexico but now headquartered in Germany, according to Katie Miller, communications director for the U.S. FSC, based in Reston, Va. She said it was started by a consortium of nonprofit organizations around the world and really took off after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Today, there are FSC-certified forests in more than 70 countries around the world.

FSC is a forest-management certification, said Miller. Any wood or paper product legitimately bearing the FSC logo “comes from a well-managed forest that has followed our strict environmental and social standards,” she noted, adding that it is “total forest management” for the long-term health of that forest, managing for wildlife, water quality and more.

There are several other companies in West Michigan that sell FSC-certified wood construction materials, according to Miller, although she said the Standard Lumber/Standard Kitchens Eco-Connection is unique in Michigan because “most companies don’t commit to only selling FSC-certified lumber.”

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