15 October 2020

Breathe a sigh of relief: wood is good for the climate – inside and out!

TRADA image

Architects and builders like working with wood as it allows for creativity in design. It is strong, flexible, attractive and easy to work with. But wood means even more than that. It has a positive influence on the climate, both for the planet and for the indoors, as well as for the well-being and health of the people who live or work in buildings.


A s we are seeing a growing appreciation for wood as a superior and sustainable building material for tall buildings as well as smaller projects, we now need to pay much closer attention to what wood gets specified and where it comes from. European Union member countries, for example, will no longer allow the import of timber from Asia if it isn’t responsibly sourced, with legal certification and a verifiable sustainable supply chain.


That’s where an internationally preferred label for sustainable forest management comes in to play.


Besides working to reduce harmful deforestation, illegal logging and forest fires around the world, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) actively promotes the use of responsibly sourced, sustainable timber for buildings. This is not only good for the environment but also important for the people who depend on forests for their livelihood (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification 2020).


Utilising certified timber in construction also makes it possible to attain some of the sought-after standards companies want their buildings to have.


The World Green Building Council, for example, recognises that materials that make up a building are key to determining its sustainability. Thus, the building industry, along with its supply chains, has a major role to play to use responsibly sourced materials, which is also in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (World Green Building Council 2017).


Two Singapore-based businesses are leading the way to help make this happen, by making sure that all projects they’re involved in – whether in Singapore, Asia or even further afield – are certified alongside PEFC’s internationally recognised forest management standards.


One of these businesses is TRADA member Venturer Timberwork, run by Kevin Hill, who has lived in Singapore for many years. The other is Double Helix Tracking Technologies, managed by Darren Thomas. Hill has for a long time been advocating the Chain of Custody (CoC) as a way of verifying the source of timber he uses in his building projects in Singapore, Asia and elsewhere, while Thomas has been leading the charge for Double Helix’s DNA-based wood verification in South East Asia and further afield since the company was set up here in 2008.


Venturer has long been a leading user of cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glue-laminated timber from certified European sources in a number of projects in Singapore and the region (Venturer Timberwork 2020). It is now the first Singapore business to obtain PEFC CoC certification, which is in turn accredited by the Singapore Accreditation Council (SAC).


With several building projects lined up, Venturer is the first company in Singapore to be PEFC project certified and is also believed to be the first timber construction contractor in Asia to be CoC certified.


Acknowledging that the construction industry faces specific challenges, Hill says that it is not always easy to prove that the timber specified and supplied for individual construction projects is from certified sustainable sources. PEFC solved this challenge with the CoC certification – or “project certification” – for specified projects – a mechanism for gaining independent verification of the use of certified timber in a one-off project with a limited duration.


Venturer is going through the process of making sure all its building projects are PEFC certified, including a tropical timber resort for Singapore-based real estate developer Pontiac Land on the Fari Islands in the Maldives, which is set to open later this year (Chin, 2020).


Located in the North Malé Atoll, the resort will feature three hotels – managed by luxury hotel operators Capella Hotels & Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and Patina Hotels & Resorts – a marina and a village campus. The properties are designed by architects Studio MK27 (by Marcio Kogan), Kengo Kuma & Associates and Kerry Hill Architects.


Hill recently reported that his company is also involved in producing the first James Turrell Skyspace in Asia, to be located in the Maldives (Turrell 2020). It is the first Skyspace built with PEFC-certified timber components and is what Hill calls “a truly sustainable tribute to one of the greatest living artists of our time”.



With PEFC project certification, it’s now possible to clearly and reliably demonstrate that the decision to build with responsibly sourced sustainable timber is the right way to go.


That’s where Double Helix comes in. Already involved around the world in verifying and certifying the source and characteristics of timber products, they now offer PEFC CoC certification to companies across the Asia-Pacific region (Double Helix 2020).


As the first company to be accredited to the PEFC scheme by the SAC – a leading member of the International Accreditation Forum – Double Helix’s service standards are now recognised equally all over the world. It was announced last year when SAC – part of Enterprise Singapore – told PEFC stakeholders that this scheme provides the industry with greater support to meet the Green Mark requirement for mass-engineered timber to be sourced from sustainably managed forests (Enterprise Singapore 2019).


SAC provides internationally recognised accreditation which facilitates trade harmonisation and acceptance of certified wood products from Singapore’s key trading partners, notably Indonesia, Malaysia and China, all of which have PEFC-endorsed forest certification systems.


The CoC certification shows that forest products like paper, wood flooring, furniture (or even non-timber forest products like rubber), originate from well-managed forests and exclude material associated with conflict or land clearance. It is a valuable tool to communicate the environmental credentials of organisations bringing such products into the market.


PEFC’s claim and label is widely recognised across the world and is synonymous with sustainability. With over 320 million hectares of PEFC-certified forest and more than 20,000 companies with PEFC CoC certification, businesses are able to meet legality issues, as well as customer expectations, by introducing traceability solutions into the supply chain.


During his visit to South East Asia last September, Ben Gunneberg, chief executive officer of PEFC, pointed out that Singapore has already made its mark in the region by accrediting Double Helix to provide certification in Myanmar to meet stringent regulations for the export of teak to the European Union and United States (US) (PEFC 2019). The Myanmar project, coordinated by PEFC, is supported by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation as part of its commitment to tackle deforestation (Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation 2020).


PEFC takes its commitment to wood and design to another level through its partnership with the World Architecture Festival (WAF), offering the annual prize for the Best Use of Certified Timber, which is open to architects and builders around the world (PEFC 2020).


What’s more, PEFC certification assists in meeting regulatory requirements, such as the European Union Timber Regulation and the US Lacey Act. By gaining PEFC certification, companies can sell their timber products and maintain access to these environmentally conscious and demanding markets (EU FLEGT Facility 2020).


Wood from certified sources is not only good for people’s health and the environment, but also vital for businesses that could well miss out on the next big order if they cannot clearly show a certificate verifying where their material comes from. It can help business meet other worthy objectives too, by reducing rampant deforestation in South East Asia and stopping unscrupulous operators from engaging in illegal logging and the export of protected timber species.


Wood is good in more ways than one.


About the author

Ken Hickson, Chairman & Managing Editor of Sustain Ability Showcase Asia, acts as a sustainability & communication adviser to PEFC. A journalist and editor by profession, he has also authored six books including Race for Sustainability (World Scientific 2013) and produces two online magazines ABC Carbon Express and The Art of Travel. He also shares some of his work via the Double Helix Tracking Technologies website.


Article originally published in Wood in Architecture.



Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) 2020, Assuring compliance with our standards, PEFC, viewed 24 July 2020. Link.


Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) 2020, Singapore Green Building Product Certification Scheme, SGBC, viewed 24 July 2020. Link.


World Green Building Council (WGBC) 2017, Green building & the Sustainable Development Goals, WGBC, viewed 24 July 2020. Link.


Venturer Timberwork 2020, Compliance, International Standards, Venturer Timberwork, viewed 24 July 2020. Link.


Chin, C 2020, Pontiac Land launches Maldives resort, EdgeProp Singapore, viewed 24 July 2020. Link.


James Turrell 2020, Skyspaces, James Turrell, viewed 24 July 2020. Link.


Double Helix 2020, Double Helix now offers PEFC Chain of Custody, Double Helix, viewed 24 July 2020. Link.


Enterprise Singapore 2019, Quality & Standards: Breaking into new markets with accreditation, Enterprise Singapore, viewed 24 July 2020. Link.


Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) 2019, Myanmar’s forests gain visibility through PEFC membership, PEFC, viewed 24 July 2020. Link.


Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation 2020, Working in partnership to bring sustainable management to Myanmar forests, viewed 24 July 2020. Link.


Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) 2020, “Best Use of Certified Timber” – PEFC and WAF continue partnership, PEFC, viewed 24 July 2020. Link.


EU FLEGT Facility 2020, Voluntary Partnership Agreements, EU FLEGT Facility, viewed 24 July 2020. Link.