There is a huge lack of consumer knowledge about eco-certified wood products

Market leader in green building movement

COMOX, B.C.—Steve Roscoe has positioned his wood-flooring company at the cutting edge of the market supplying the emerging green building movement in North America. “There is a huge lack of consumer knowledge about eco-certified wood products,” says Roscoe, general manager of Comox-based Woodland Flooring. “In fact, there’s almost no knowledge at all.”

Indeed, one survey of green buildings found that only 20 percent used Forest Stewardship Council or FSC-certified wood products in their construction. “We spend a lot of time educating customers about what is FSC,” says Roscoe.

Yet the entrepreneur in Roscoe is undeterred by today’s weak demand. He is focused on tomorrow’s opportunity and the major shift to environmentally friendly construction. He’s turned Woodland Flooring into a model of value-added, sustainable forestry in B.C.

In 2003, Roscoe developed a new line of engineered, FSC-certified products that allowed the company to diversify into commercial and green buildings. With $75,000 in loans from the Natural Capital Fund, Woodland Flooring also boosted its inventory and thus reduced its delivery time from about five to two weeks. The company is set to conquer new markets, especially green building.

This sector is growing rapidly in North America. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the number of green construction projects jumped by 35 percent in 2003. There are currently about 1,017 green-building projects in the United States. In August 2003, the Canada Green Building Council was also established to implement LEED.

LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a certification system to score a building’s sustainable site planning, water and energy efficiency, conservation of materials and indoor environmental quality. Woodland’s FSC-certified flooring is eligible for LEED credits for being both locally manufactured and an eco-certified material.

The company started small. In 1992, Roscoe moved to Vancouver Island to raise his family. He put his woodworking skills to use renovating the Mount Washington Ski Resort near Courtenay.

The resort manager loved the alder paneling and asked him if he could do an alder floor in his home. “That for us was the start of the business,” Roscoe recalls.

He then started manufacturing flooring in his small garage, using under-utilized species such as alder and maple or salvaged wood. In 1999, pressures to expand forced a move into a 6,500 square-foot facility and the company became an FSC-certified chain of custody manufacturer. He equipped the new facility with a dry kiln, moulder, sander, end matcher and finishing equipment. The manufacturing plant was fully operational a year later with eight employees and prepared Roscoe for an expansion into the American market.

Woodland began supplying wide-plank, solid wood floors to the high-end log and rustic home market. “We got a great response,” Roscoe says of his foray into the United States. “People loved it.” He established dealers in Lake Tahoe and Seattle and soon had a third of sales going south of the border. “In the United States, the market was bigger, the orders were bigger and so were the profits,” he adds.

During a marketing trip down the I-5 highway to southern California in 2003, however, he hit a roadblock. About 80 percent of the flooring dealers wanted “engineered” wood flooring, which can withstand greater environmental stress, such as moisture and temperature changes. Solid wood flooring tends to warp under stressful conditions.

Roscoe was faced with a challenge, either limit himself to the rustic home market or diversify the product for use over concrete and in commercial buildings which require engineered flooring. He also saw an opportunity in green buildings. “We needed to branch out,” he says.

Within six months, he developed engineered flooring that was FSC-certified. “We needed to make it quickly and affordably,” he says. The product is made from five multi-directional wood layers. The top layer consists of 4.7 mm of salvaged Lodgepole pine or Douglas fir or selectively harvested alder.

“Now we had a product that filled all the requirements of the market,” says Roscoe. “It just seemed a natural to bring together eco-certification and engineered flooring technology.”

Roscoe is now exploring the use of “wheat board,” instead of plywood, in engineered flooring. This could make his product eligible for two more credits under LEED and give Woodland even more marketing cache.

Roscoe’s environmentalism is about more than clever marketing, however. Sustainability is at the heart of his company’s mandate. “FSC certification is something we are doing on principle,” he says. ”It shows our commitment to the environment and future generations.”

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