Oconomowoc-based Fiberesin Industries Inc. is equipped to supply architects, general contractors and commercial furniture companies with environmentally friendly building and furniture components, following certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in March.
Fiberesin Industries, staffed by about 75 employees, manufactures Stonewood panels along with Fiberesin HPP panels, Edgemold tables and Fiberesin sports court panel systems, at its two plants in Oconomowoc and Ashippun, Wis.
The company’s FSC certification, which it announced at the beginning of August, is known as Chain-of-Custody certification and applies to its Stonewood Architectural Panel products as well as its medical and office furniture products, racquetball and squash court wall systems, and treated papers.
Through the Chain-of Custody certification, Fiberesin Industries and its customers can ensure that these products have been manufactured with materials from forests managed responsibly.
“It’s a way of certifying (products) all the way through the chain of custody – forest to paper mill, paper mill to Fiberesin, Fiberesin to the building,” said Mike MacDougal, president and chief executive officer of Fiberesin Industries.
The FSC U.S., which has a national office in Minneapolis, Minn. that functions as a part of FSC International, is a nonprofit organization driven by a mission to “protect forests for future generations.” In addition to offering Chain-of-Custody certification to manufacturers and traders among companies in other sectors, the FSC grants Forest Management certification to forests cared for through practices that meet its environmental, economic and social standards.
“We have a Forest Management certification program, and we have a standard that we develop that is appropriate to the forest types of the United States,” said Gary Dodge, director of science and certification at FSC U.S.
The standards incorporate 10 principles and 57 criteria that account for the use of clear cuts, the use of pesticides, rights to indigenous people, the livelihood of forest workers and nearby communities, and the monitoring of forest conditions and products among many other factors.
Forest standards vary among regions and different kinds of forests in the U.S. with specific factors pertaining to specific forest types. Factors like the use of clear cuts, in which all trees are removed from a given area, range across a broad spectrum among forests and forest management.
“We use an ecological process to determine the appropriateness and the extent to which clear cuts are used in forest management,” Dodge said.
Products like Fiberesin Industries’ Stonewood Architectural Panels have been created with resources harvested from the forests of property managers or owners that the FSC has certified.
With its recent Chain-of-Custody certification, Fiberesin Industries’ Stonewood Architectural Panel products will meet the increasing demand for “environmentally-conscious” materials and resources. The panels, which can be used on interior walls or as exterior cladding, will support construction projects breaking ground with a green approach and will secure these projects Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) credits from the U.S. Green Building Council.
“(Architects and general contractors are) looking for environmentally-conscious products to get LEED credits for their buildings, and if you have FSC certified wood fibers going into your panels then they know they’re from responsible sources and it contributes to the green rating for the building,” MacDougal said.
To manufacture its Stonewood Architectural Panel products, Fiberesin Industries relies on paper mills to supply saturating kraft paper, which the mills create from harvested trees in forests that are part of the FSC’s Forest Management certification program.
All the wood fiber components that go into the manufacturing of the company’s panels as well as its fabricated furniture components must be FSC certified in order for these products to be considered FSC certified.
Fiberesin Industries can also manufacture these products with materials that are not FSC certified at a slightly lower cost to clients.
The company began exploring the possibility of becoming FSC certified about two years ago when MacDougal attended the 2010 Greenbuild tradeshow and learned about FSC products and the growing need for them.
Throughout the four- to six-week certification process, a third-party auditor accredited by the FSC and contracted independently by Fiberesin Industries audited the company’s two plants. The process also involved auditing of its manufacturing processes and its technology as well as product reviews and follow-up discussions after the auditor’s site visit.
Prior to certification, Fiberesin Industries had been incorporating FSC-certified materials into some of its products, but without official certification from the nonprofit it could not market them as FSC certified.
Currently, Fiberesin Industries is creating FSC-certified table tops for Pennsylvania-based Knoll, Inc. and is also working on FSC-certified wall systems for racquetball and squash courts. The company plans to make a more targeted effort to secure environmentally-conscious projects for national clients in commercial construction and others in commercial furniture companies seeking greener furniture components.
“Fiberesin will be working with more green-minded companies,” MacDougal said.
The FSC certification, which MacDougal believes is gaining in popularity among U.S. manufacturers, promotes Fiberesin Industries’ broader initiative to enact a green mentality throughout its structure and operations.
In 2009, Fiberesin Industries secured BIFMA level certification at its Oconomowoc plant. BIFMA, or the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, is a nonprofit organization that sets voluntary product and industry standards related to safety, health and sustainability. The certification process considers a company’s environmental footprint, including facets like water usage, national gas usage and emissions.
To reinforce its certification from BIFMA, Fiberesin Industries, recycles its scrap at its plants and uses it as an energy source for its manufacturing processes. The company has also installed equipment to help curb water usage and has reduced energy usage by introducing equipment that automatically powers down during off hours.
While upholding green practices has challenged Fiberesin Industries to continue reducing its energy usage as it increases production year over year, the company has overcome this struggle the last four years through lean processes and equipment upgrades.
Its green efforts have also decreased its energy costs and have allowed MacDougal and his team to bid on more opportunities.
“Green construction (and) green buildings are a growing piece of the new construction market, and so our FSC certification gives us a competitive edge when architects are selecting materials for green projects,” MacDougal said.