Featuring a distinctive color palette and the natural warmth of wood, exotic hardwoods can add style to lodging facilities. Their rich hues can contribute to nearly any interior ambience, while characteristics like dimensional stability and durability make exotic hardwoods well suited for flooring, furniture, cabinets, millwork and other decorative applications.
Illegal-logging concerns can certainly supersede the design advantages of exotic hardwoods. While such apprehensions are valid given deforestation problems in many tropical countries, it is important to note there are prominent exceptions. Exotic hardwoods can be—and are—grown and harvested to sustainable standards, and offer other environmental attributes. A primary example is plantation-grown, certified eucalyptus.
Eucalyptus and the Environment
A key attribute of eucalyptus is that it can help meet the increasing demand for wood products and provide a stable supply of wood for future generations when grown and managed according to sustainable forestry practices. Eucalyptus can reach maturity within 14 to 16 years of planting, while many temperate and tropical hardwoods take between 60 to 100 years to reach maturity.
Eucalyptus trees grown on intensely managed forests (otherwise known as “plantations” or “tree farms”) can further advance the benefits of this remarkable growth rate. Foresters manage these plantations to protect important values like water quality and biodiversity; they also strategically cultivate, harvest and replant eucalyptus to produce more volume of lumber per acre annually than unmanaged forests. In some instances, these well-managed plantations can produce up to 30 times more volume of wood per acre than an unmanaged temperate forest.
While the obvious benefit of intensely managed plantations is maximizing annual wood yield, there are many secondary advantages. For instance, producers can manage trees for quality. This includes active pruning to support healthy growth and to reduce the number of knots. The result is stronger, straighter lumber and less wood waste, since a greater portion of each log is suitable for use. Plantations also enable foresters to reduce the land footprint needed to produce wood products.
Third-Party Certified Eucalyptus
Two organizations that help promulgate responsible forestry, including for exotic hardwoods like eucalyptus, are the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Both programs operate around the world, with overarching standards, principles and guidelines for verifying sustainable forest management. They evaluate forestry practices to ensure wood products come from responsible sources, make sure foresters take actions to protect wildlife habitat, water quality and sensitive ecosystems, and monitor the rate of wood harvest so it does not exceed the rate of natural regeneration or growth from replanted trees.
In addition to global standards, each program also has regionally targeted certification requirements. For instance, the Brazilian Forest Certification Program (Cerflor) is a regional, PEFC-endorsed program. Wood that receives a Cerflor certification indicates that it is grown and harvested in a responsible manner specific to Brazil’s climate and ecosystem.
Although recent amendments to the U.S. Lacey Act now prohibit the import of illegally harvested wood and wood products, it is still important to perform due diligence and verify third-party certifications. Today, many eucalyptus solid wood and engineered products sold in North America are third-party certified, promoting sustainable forestry and harvesting methods.
Beauty and Performance
As important as environmental factors are for exotic hardwood selection, the aesthetics and durability of such materials also rate high with lodging industry professionals. Eucalyptus scores very well in this regard.
Illegal logging and deforestation are not yet practices of the past. But exotic hardwoods can be a viable part of green building. For building and design professionals who desire their unique aesthetic, taking the time to research and specify third-party certified species like eucalyptus can help ensure responsible wood selection.
Eric Anderson is the marketing and market development manager for Weyerhaeuser, South America. The company’s Lyptus eucalyptus hardwoods are harvested from third-party certified plantations in Brazil. Educated as an architect, Anderson worked for several architectural firms and spent 12 years as the owner of a furniture design and residential building and remodeling business prior to joining Weyerhaeuser. He can be reached at email@example.com.