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Showing posts from August, 2012

Politics, Government, and Natural Resources

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In the spirit of the season, I thought you might like to consider how the wood industry and specifically, natural resource management, enter into the the political discussion. You may think, "They don't"...but then you wouldn't really be aware of where the governments of the world are taking us. It's been going on a long time, perhaps as long as governments have existed.

Heads of state have long realized that control of the land and the resources it produces are the key to power and wealth. And there was a time in America, for our first one hundred years or so, when private citizens wrested control of the land away from the government and used it for their own personal sustenance and gain. But by the end of the 19th century, politicians began to respond to "the public's" growing anger with the monopolization of the country's land and resources by large corporations, and the Occupy Wall Street movement was born. Although in those days, the occu…

Great Designs in Wood (30) - The Yin-Yang House

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Here's a different perspective on an interesting use of wood in a contemporary, energy-efficient home design. The Yin-Yang House of Venice, California was designed by Lawrence Scarpa of Brooks + Scarpa Architects.

From the firm's website description of the home...
"The Yin-Yang House is a single-family home in a quiet Venice, CA neighborhood. The design objective was to create a space for a large and growing family with several children, which would create a calm, relaxed and organized environment that emphasizes public family space. The home is also meant to serve as a place to entertain and a welcoming space for teenagers as they seek social space with friends."  "Many of the materials used, including the bamboo interior, composite stone and tile countertops and bathroom finishes are recycled, and reinforce the environmental DNA of the house, which also has a green roof. Blown-in cellulose insulation, radiant heating and a host of other sustainable features aids…

Droughts and Biomass Supply

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A reader asked...
"Chuck,I am curious about droughts and forest health. With the ongoing drought situation, and reported likelihood that droughts become the norm, have you seen any information on how this may affect the biomass industry long term?

Thank you, M" My reply to M...
"Well, long term over a wide range is pretty tough to predict. First of all, drought rarely kills trees except in the most extreme of circumstances...they simply slow down on growth, unless the drought is extreme for several years in a row. A good wet year generally brings their root system back to life. In Pennsylvania, despite all the talk about drought, we're having a good year for forest growth (notice how green it is out there?)

The relationship between rainfall and forest growth is really an issue of species. As rainfall amounts decrease, areas affected are likely to see species change. So if drought caused the annual rainfall in an area to actually decrease over time, we would see some cer…

North American Pellets for European Power

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You may ask...how do European countries justify the production, use, and transportation of North American wood pellets for their power production facilities, when we know that power production is a relatively inefficient use of wood energy?

In the video below, the answer is..."Europe has strong renewable energy policies"...and it cites their goal of 20% renewable energy by 2020. The full set of policies is embodied in the phrase "20/20/20 targets"; 20% reduction in greenhouse gases, 20% production of total energy consumption from renewable resources, and 20% reduction in energy consumption.



Update, 1/20/2015: The original video has disappeared; this newer video gives us an update of EU goals for the period 2020 - 2030...which has a target of 27% renewables by 2030.

The first report referenced in the video is European Power from U.S. Forests, and it is a useful document for getting a handle on the current and projected wood pellet markets in North America and the EU…

Great Designs in Wood (29) - The Pine Ridge Pallet House

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...and the winner of this year's Go Wood Wooden Woodie Award for Pallet Re-Purposing is...

The Pine Ridge Pallet House, built by some inspiring natural builders out on the Pine Ridge Ogalla Sioux reservation in South Dakota.

Pine Ridge is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, and it has been the site for some of the most shameful deeds in the history of our country. Custer made his infamous Last Stand there while in the process of violating a treaty in order to take the Black Hills from the Sioux. Fifteen years later, the tragic Wounded Knee Massacre effectively ended the era of the free Native American culture in the country. The subsequent 120 years have clearly illustrated the futility of government-imposed living; the reservation has suffered chronic alcoholism and unemployment ever since.

Which is one of the many reasons I love the following video. Some good folks have banded together to do a good thing for the right reason. The Pallet House is in itself a demonstrat…

Great Designs in Wood (28) - Re-purposed Pallets

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In #23 of these Great Designs posts, we examined a video of temporary, cost-effective housing solution for refugees. That was a popular post, and the recent post on pallet art has zoomed right up the list of most popular posts ever on this blog (although I'm not sure why.)

Wooden pallets are appealing, I think, because they are simple, functional in so many ways, easily converted to something else, and easy to obtain. I've found a few more interesting pallet videos that I thought were worth of a Go Wood Woodie award.  Here are the category winners...

In the "You Might be a Redneck if..." category, the winner is "pallet decks", which easily demonstrates that you might be a redneck if you build a deck of pallets set atop bricks that hold down a plastic sheet...and the pallets are clearly rental-pool pallets that are the property of the largest pallet company in the world which is notorious for dragging pallet purloiners into court...and for good measure, you …

Quality Sells

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A couple of posts ago I shared with you a story of customer service and disservice, and the difference that made in a product purchase. And I received some nice feedback both on the blog comments and in personal emails that great customer service will, in fact, produce results.

There's a broader lesson to be learned from that story. Great customer service is just one component of a satisfying purchase, as is the high quality of a product. A satisfying purchase is one in which you acquire the product you need, perhaps in a nicer quality than you expected, at a better price than you expected, delivered in a timely manner, and resulting in a relationship with the supplier that you can trust to be reliable for another purchase in the future.

Each of these components reflects a different aspect of the quality, or value, of the purchase. And each of them has consistency as its foundation. A company that delivers the product with the expected (satisfying) results, time after time, will b…

An Industry Sure to Grow - Reclaimed Wood

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There is a niche but growing industry in reclaimed wood...wood that is collected from old barns, urban homes and buildings, lakes, and other unusual places where old logs and lumber have resided for decades or centuries. Even the giant old remnant stumps of redwood harvested long ago are being resawn with special saws and sold for art, corporate meeting tables, and such.

This old wood is labor-intensive to collect and remanufacture - nails, bolts, and other forms of metal objects must be removed. Then, it is usually stored on site by the reclaimed wood company until a buyer comes along, looking for just that right piece or load of old oak, chestnut, or Douglas Fir. Most of it is then re-manufactured to purpose and ends up in nice new custom homes, or themed restaurants, where its beauty is on display for all to see. Like diamonds, these old slabs and boards lay hidden away from man, and when discovered by hard-working timber miners, and are re-cut and polished, dazzling the admiring e…