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Wood Home

Wednesday, April 03, 2019 7:44 AM | Deleted user

84% of New Hampshire is forested. Every few years, we trade places with Maine for most woody biomass in the U.S. These trees are everywhere, and they define our everyday lives.

Every fall, leaf peepers descend on the White Mountains to witness the multi-colored foliage of Red Maples and Paper Birches. As winter draws to a close, you may be burning the last of your White Ash or Red Oak in that wood stove. If you have a stand of Sugar Maple, you might be in your shack boiling down sap to welcome spring. When summer hits, we will be building houses with Fir and Pine.

This is all very nostalgic (for me, at least), but our current experiences have not always been. For a bit more perspective, let’s take a step back in time.

Near my home in Concord, you can walk through the Mast Yard, so named because the 2-3 foot diameter trees growing there were reserved for “His Majesty’s Royal Ships” back in 1800.  None of these dense, old growth monoliths remain, nor would we have much use for them.

On countless other trails, one may encounter mysterious rock walls weaving through the forest, marking the property lines of ghost farms that lie in ruins. By current appearances, one might think these farms are ancient, but virtually the entire state of NH was clear-cut for farming not so long ago. Maybe it was the rocky soil, maybe it was the promise of cheap land out west, or maybe it was a particularly bad growing season. Whatever it was, many farmers abandoned their lots, and mature forests stand in their place.

More recently, entire towns were founded around the pulp and paper industry in the North Country. As paper demand decreases in the age of the Internet, many of these towns are not quite sure what to do. Like our forests, our use of wood is in a constant state of change.

Maybe we can learn from these forests. In them, the species are diverse, lending resilience in the face of blight, drought, and fire. Likewise, expanding our portfolio of wood products can provide a buffer to unpredictable markets.

So, what else can we make with wood? Well, it’s a mystery to me why we don’t make more engineered wood products such as PSLs, LVLs, or Glulams in state.

We could make exterior rigid insulation out of wood fiber like the Germans currently do (also our friends in Maine soon).

Why not fire up those paper plants in the North Country and start making composite counters?  Check out Richlite and Paperstone.

Instead of importing Western Red Cedar or Teak for exterior use, why not heat treat native trees right here?  Cambia creates thermally modified wood right here in New Hampshire.

Of course, there’s always the wood stove, but that’s not healthy, safe, or creative. We can do better.

See you in the field,

Doug Shilo, LEED AP BD+C

USGBC NH Chapter Co-chair

© New Hampshire Chapter, U.S. Green Building Council
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