When we started this business in 1985, we wanted to be sure that the wood species we chose was the very best for use in furnishings for high-traffic public spaces. We needed to know density, durability, strength, stiffness, hardness, and much more. Surprisingly, our research of published technical information found a significant amount of inconsistent and incorrect data. The U.S. Forest Service Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin was, and continues to be, a great resource for information on both domestic and imported wood.
In addition to choosing wood species based on technical data, we wanted to address the environmental issues. The controversy surrounding sustained yield forestry practices was just beginning in 1985. Factual information was not always readily available. Trusted lumber industry sources and groups like The Sierra Club and Rain Forest Action Network gave us guidance in the early years.
Over time, our own experience has made us second to none in technical wood knowledge, and information from third party verification services provided direction on environmental issues.
Today, however, the “facts” about sustainable lumber harvest practices are more difficult to ascertain. There is competition between environmental groups, there is competition between third party verifiers, and there is dishonesty from some in the tropical hardwood business. Consider these statements from a recent article published by Greenpeace:
“The truth is that there are many people who are buying Ipe from
Brazil which they believe has been legally logged, but who
may be actually getting something that has, for lack of a better
term, been laundered”.
“Several sellers also prominently display the FSC chain of custody
certification logo on their websites and marketing materials,
even though a substantial portion of the products they sell are not
“Given the high incidence of illegality in the Amazon timber sector,
it is very likely that U.S. purchases of Brazilian timber have been
and continue to be in violation of U.S. law”.
So, what do we do? What do we believe? This is as difficult for those of us in manufacturing as it is for those of you who are specifying or buying tropical hardwood products.
One of the main uses of tropical hardwood in the U.S. is for decking and boardwalks. Fortunately, there are some composite materials available as a substitute for tropical hardwood decking. Some of these composite products are soft by comparison and are only acceptable for residential use, but we have found one that compares in density and structural characteristics to Ipe hardwood. It is called XTR, and you can learn more about it on our website under “Decking”.