FSC lumber treks from Alabama forest to Westervelt mill to Kendeda Building

Westervelt, FSC

The Kendeda Building was designed to be a model of regenerative design in the Southeast, showing people what’s possible. Inherent in this goal is the notion that building construction and operations can restore regional ecosystems; much has been written on Kendeda Building’s approach to stormwater, for example. 

While there are many ways regenerative design can have an impact, few have as broad an influence across the Southeast as wood sourcing. Salvage wood has been a key part of the project, but the Living Building Challenge requires all new wood to be Forest Stewardship Council certified. FSC’s mission is to promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests, with members that include World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, Kimberly-Clark, International Paper and many others. (Full disclosure: As a communications consultant, I do work for FSC.)

To understand some of the impact of FSC sourcing, we followed the supply chain for the Kendeda Building’s dimensional lumber back to the forest of origin in Alabama. 

From coastal plains on the Gulf of Mexico to the Appalachians of West Virginia, forests cover more than 130,000 square miles of the Southeast. One of the region’s nicknames is “the world’s wood basket.” So sourcing lumber from the Southeast was a natural priority for the design and construction team of the mass-timber building.

For dimensional lumber in the project, including all new wood used in the iconic flooring system, our story starts in the forests surrounding Moundville, Ala. — home to the Westervelt Co. lumber mill. As an integrated company, Westervelt owns and manages forestlands in the United States and New Zealand, with a second mill under development in Thomasville, Ala. 

The company’s 440,000 acres of FSC-certified forest in Alabama is where the dimensional lumber in the Kendeda Building started its life. As is common in the Southeast, much of the forest is managed for loblolly pine – the species used in the building. However, unlike many other forest managers, Westervelt also prioritizes management on select sites for the majestic longleaf pine – Alabama’s state tree, now reduced to less than 5 percent of its historical range. This means the company uses prescribed burning to reduce understory competition and support the fire-resistant species that once dominated the coastal plain.

“We let the site dictate what needs to be growing there,” says Jonathan Lowery, Westervelt’s sustainability and policy director.

The need for prescribed burns has been increasing as the risk of wildfire increases in the region.

“With a changing climate and less prescribed fire on the landscape, we are monitoring the potential for increasing wildfire risk in the region,” said Lowery.  “These trends highlight the need for greater understanding of climate and fire impacts and the importance of responsible forest management such as is seen on FSC certified lands.”

Another requirement for FSC certification is protection for High Conservation Value forests, which are globally, regionally or nationally significant for environmental or social reasons. Examples include rare old-growth forests or important cultural sites for Indigenous People. In Westervelt’s forests, 1,250 acres are protected as threatened gopher tortoise habitat, and for conservation of dolomite glades and chalk prairie, two rare ecosystems in Alabama. Nearly 3,000 additional acres are protected as representative intact forest landscapes along two creeks and the Alabama River.

As a market-based approach, FSC relies on demand from companies and consumers for the system to work. In the case of the Kendeda Building, UFP International was the FSC-certified distributor that provided the wood package to the project. “We were excited about the project from day one,” said Laura Ebersberger, account manager for UFP. “The size request and the volume took some preparation,” she added. 

The design team requested that the wood have “character” to provide a rustic look, which meant collecting pieces with more knots and visual appeal, albeit with the same structural strength. In any case, it is important to include plenty of lead time when sourcing FSC-certified wood, as availability can vary by market, time of year, and product. “We find great value in being able to provide FSC to our customers,” noted Ebersberger. 

One of those customers is Jimmy Mitchell, director of project solutions at Skanska USA and a lead on the Kendeda Building. “It was great to find a partner in UFP who had kept its FSC certification and had leaders in the industry ready to go,” Mitchell noted. 

From the outset, one goal of the Kendeda Building was to reduce embodied carbon in the materials selected. “Mass timber was one of the key goals; picking the wood is about lowering embodied carbon,” said Mitchell.

While interest in mass timber has grown significantly, its rollout in the Southeast has been slow. Mitchell indicated the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped because it resulted in a few mass timber projects in the region being put on hold. Still, he remains optimistic.

“If architects and structural engineers are successful in convincing their clients,” he said, “then it will come.”

“From a climate standpoint, there does seem to be good recognition that this might make sense compared to steel and concrete, if you can keep that land in forests, keep forests as forests,” noted Lowery. Eighty-six percent of forestland in the Southeast is privately owned, most by families or individuals. So by using FSC-certified wood in its construction, the Kendeda Building rewarded landowners for meeting high standards for forest management. And in doing so, the project helped advance its goal of regenerating regional economies and ecosystems.

PHOTO AT TOP: Westervelt owns and manages this sustainably managed loblolly pine plantation in Alabama. Photo courtesy of Westervelt.

Brad Kahn is communications consultant based in Seattle, Washington. His practice focuses on climate, forests and green building, with clients including the Forest Stewardship Council, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, International Living Future Institute, and Kendeda Fund. He has a Master’s degree in watershed systems and management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.


  1. After exploring a handful of the blog articles on your blog, I
    really appreciate your technique of blogging. I saved it to my bookmark site
    list and will be checking back in the near future.
    Please check out my website as well and tell me your opinion.

  2. Hello there! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know how
    to make your site mobile friendly? My site looks weird when browsing from my iphone.
    I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be
    able to fix this issue. If you have any suggestions, please share.
    With thanks!

    Feel free to visit my web-site; delta 8 thc

  3. Right here is the right blog for everyone who wants to understand this topic.
    You know a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not
    that I really will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject that
    has been written about for a long time. Wonderful stuff, just excellent!

    My site: where to buy delta 8

  4. Hello there! I know this is somewhat off topic
    but I was wondering if you knew where I
    could get a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the
    same blog platform as yours and I’m having difficulty finding one?
    Thanks a lot!

    my webpage best delta 8 thc

  5. Hi there! This post could not be written much better! Reading through this article
    reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept
    talking about this. I most certainly will send this article to him.

    Pretty sure he will have a very good read. Thank you for

    my blog post :: buy cbd gummies

  6. What i do not understood is in reality how you’re no longer actually much more well-favored than you might be now.

    You’re very intelligent. You realize therefore considerably in the
    case of this topic, made me in my opinion imagine it from a lot of various angles.
    Its like men and women aren’t involved until it’s one thing
    to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs great. At all times care for it

    My web blog – where to buy CBD

  7. Thanks for the auspicious writeup. It in reality was once a amusement account it.
    Glance complicated to more brought agreeable from you!
    By the way, how can we keep up a correspondence?

    Also visit my web-site gold bee

  8. Hey there would you mind letting me know which web host you’re utilizing?

    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 different browsers and I must say
    this blog loads a lot quicker then most. Can you suggest a good hosting provider at a fair price?
    Thank you, I appreciate it!

    Review my web page: cbd

  9. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog posts.
    Any way I will be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly.

    my blog post: where to buy CBD

  10. I’ve been browsing online more than 3 hours
    today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all website owners and bloggers
    made good content as you did, the web will be
    a lot more useful than ever before.

    Here is my blog post … best delta 8 thc carts

  11. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog before but after browsing through a few
    of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m definitely pleased I
    came across it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back often!

  12. After looking into a few of the blog articles on your website, I honestly appreciate your way of writing a blog.
    I book-marked it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back soon. Please visit my web
    site too and let me know what you think.

    My homepage slot

  13. Howdy I am so happy I found your webpage, I really found you by mistake, while I was searching on Aol for something else, Regardless I am here now
    and would just like to say many thanks for a marvelous post and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read it all at the
    minute but I have book-marked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time
    I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the
    great work.

    Feel free to surf to my web-site :: delta 8 gummies

  14. I love what you guys are usually up too. This kind of clever
    work and exposure! Keep up the awesome works guys I’ve included you guys
    to blogroll.

    Feel free to surf to my blog post; Best Delta 8 THC Gummies (sfweekly.com)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *