In a recent national survey conducted by SMS Research Advisors for Wilsonart, 70 percent of architects and designers agree that using responsibly sourced wood materials is a priority. The challenge: 99 percent could not correctly identify the majority of endangered woods from a list they were given. Furthermore, the survey revealed awareness that a wood is endangered does not always prevent usage. Up to 51 percent of endangered wood users are aware that the wood is endangered or threatened, but 40 percent of respondents said they would still specify an endangered wood if their client specifically requested it.
“We learned from this survey that professionals in the industry need to be more informed about the materials they specify,” said Tammy Weadock, Communications Manager at Wilsonart. “The largest knowledge gap exists where it could impact architects and designers the most, in their own practices.” To bridge this deep gap in awareness, knowledge and action in specifying products, Wilsonart is launching Understanding Wood: Sourcing Against the Grain, an educational initiative for architects and designers. The program aims to educate architects and designers not only on how to identify endangered and threatened woods, but to equip them to find alternate materials that meet their aesthetic and functional needs.
“The design community is largely unaware that while trees are renewable, forests are not,” said Weadock. “Aside from the lack of knowledge about specific endangered woods, designers and architects are even less informed about the rules and regulations in protected forests and the logging that happens there. Forty-two percent did not know what makes a forest protected, and only 24 percent were very familiar with the Lacey Act, which makes using responsibly harvested wood not only an ethical choice, but a legal responsibility.” Wilsonart’s program will offer the A&D community CEUs, presentations, educational materials, infographics and a white paper on this critical conservation issue. “We are urging architects and designers to use properly sourced wood materials,” Weadock noted. “This will help save protected forests, endangered wildlife and the very air we breathe.”
Key components of Understanding Wood include:
- A National Day of Learning. Wilsonart invites architects and designers across the U.S. to join in person or online for a CEU on the topic of Global Forestry and what architects and designers need to know to protect their practices. The CEU will take place October 18, 2017 at The Center for Architecture in NYC and will be livestreamed twice that day so participants outside of NYC can join. The Global Forestry CEU, which is accredited by AIA and IDCEC, will be presented by Grace Jeffers, thought leader, design historian and materials expert, who is known for an interdisciplinary and integrated approach to the study of materials.
- A Global Forestry White Paper. Knowing how complex this issue is, a white paper has been created to provide the A&D community a comprehensive overview of the subject and steps they can take to protect their practice.
- A Partnership with the Interlochen Academy of the Arts. Situated on a 1,200-acre campus near Traverse City, Michigan, Interlochen Academy of the Arts is one of America’s premiere arts educational institutions. It draws young people from around the world to study music, theater, dance, visual arts, creative writing, motion picture arts and comparative arts. Wilsonart has underwritten curriculum exploring “The Art of Ecology,” and “The Ecology of Art.” As part of the course material, artists Daniel McCormick and Mary O’Brien will visit the campus and collaborate with students on art installations within the forests at Interlochen. Additionally, Wilsonart is supporting the transformation of a Red Pine plantation forest, located on the Interlochen campus, into a natural, native forest. Phase one, which takes place in late 2017 and throughout 2018, involves selective thinning of the existing forest and the reintroduction of native species.
- An Educational Hub. In the fall, 2017, Wilsonart will launch an education hub with all materials developed for the program on Wilsonart.com/understanding-wood. The hub will act both as a resource for the A&D community and a gallery of Interlochen students’ blog posts, videos and perspectives about the issue.