Examples of Current and Recent Projects
Technical Co-Editor, Carbon in Oregon's Managed Forests Report (2020)
Author, ThinkWood Continuing Education Unit on How to Calculate the Carbon Footprint of a Building (2020)
Co-author, study on Global Warming Mitigating Role of Working Forests in Washington State (2020)
Climate Impact Risk and Opportunity Analysis for Timber Company
Family Forest Carbon Project- Forest Carbon Scientist and Insetting Expert
I have been working as a science consultant for the American Forest Foundation (AFF) since February 2018 on a unique and innovative project called the Family Forest Carbon Program (FFCP), https://www.forestfoundation.org/family-forest-carbon-program. FFCP is a partnership between AFF and The Nature Conservancy that aims to create a program to incentivize the protection and enhancement of forest carbon by family forest owners, who make up the largest portion of U.S. forests owners and hold 38 percent, or 290 million acres, of all the forestland in America.
FFCP is tapping into the potential of family forest owners by providing a simple (for the landowners) prescription to alter forest practices for better forest health, resiliency, productivity, and carbon outcomes. We are doing this by creating an innovative carbon methodology that uses paired sampling to measure and monitor carbon outcomes at the program landscape level as opposed to individual landowner level. This allows accurate carbon quantification at the program level without imposing huge monitoring costs on the landowner (the average size of a family ownership (of those with 10+ acres or more) is 67.2 acres). The concept note on the methodology was approved by Verra (the nonprofit that oversees the Verified Carbon Standard) in April 2020 and the draft methodology will be coming out in summer 2020, https://www.forestfoundation.org/ffcp-methodology-approved.
Why is this important? Small family landowners are feeling the stress of climate change-induced increased drought, insects, disease and fire threatening the health and resiliency of their forests. Most family forest owners aren’t generating regular income from their land, yet there are expenses that come with sustainably managing their property to improve forest healthy and productivity. In addition, it’s estimated that billions of tons of carbon currently stored in family forests are also threatened by development—the conversion of forestland to other uses such as fields for livestock, housing, commercial development or even parking lots. FFCP gives family landowners practical actions to improve forest health and resilience while protecting carbon that are environmentally and economically sustainable.
Who will pay for this? In addition to many co-benefits, there is a tangible difference in atmospheric CO2 that can be achieved through investments in natural climate solutions. Though the US currently scheduled to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement in November 202, many corporations are setting science-based targets to be in line with the reductions needed to keep global warming under 1.5°C. The other role I am playing in this project is to help sort out the accounting rules for reporting so that corporations can invest in FFCP projects within their supply chain (also known as an inset or intervention). I am representing AFF on the World Resources Institute GHG Protocol Land Sector Technical Working Group. In this way, FFCP can help family landowners fund beneficial forest practices by connecting them with corporate investors.
North American Wood Product Life Cycle Assessment Coordination Group- Facilitator
The US and Canada lead the world in timber harvested for industrial products. These logs are manufactured into a wide variety of forest products that are used in structural and non-structural components of buildings, railroad ties, pallets, telephone poles, furniture and all kinds of paper, packaging, and cellulose fiber. Wood is renewable, requires relatively little energy to manufacture and provides important economic value to rural areas. In addition, when managed sustainably, it provides critical natural co-benefits such as clean water, flood control, and wildlife habit. Quantifying these positive and negative impacts across a value chain is of great interest to manufacturers, customers, investors, employees, government, and the public alike.
Life cycle assessment is a methodology that assesses the environmental impacts of a product or service across its lifetime, from raw material extraction to manufacturing, transportation, use, and end-of life. Its methodology is principally governed by the ISO 14040 series standards, with various other ISO standards addressing specific applications in reporting LCA, including ISO 21930 for Sustainability in Building Construction and ISO 14025- Environmental Labels and Declarations- for creating Product Category Rules (PCRs) that govern the creation of EPDs (see below). The Forest Sector uses LCA for three principle needs:
Environmental Product Declarations- LCAS are needed for the creation of Environmental Product Declarations, which are the way to communicate life cycle information on a product by product basis. EPDs are now accepted in green building standards, such as LEED and Green Globes, and are increasingly being requested by wood product customers.
Improving Production/Manufacturing/Innovation- LCA can be an important tool when developing new products or improving product manufacturing because it can highlight parts of the manufacturing process that have the biggest environmental impact and help model ways to improve.
Informing Policy- Often debates arise as to what is the best material to use to reduce specific environmental impacts. Because of its carbon storage and relatively little energy requirements LCAs on wood products have been favorable relative to alternate materials such as concrete and in construction, especially in reducing GHG emissions.
However, LCA methodology is a mass-balance equation and therefore has difficulty dealing with the dynamic nature of a forest, with trees and habitat changing over space and time. Furthermore, LCA is ultimately an accounting framework, dictated by the assumptions made in the study related to scope and boundaries. These lead to wildly differing results and cause confusion especially when LCAs are used in policy discussions.
Need for coordination: While life cycle assessment is a growing field with many practitioners, the nuances associated with a forest product LCA make it difficult to conduct without knowledge of forest product manufacturing, including the conversions associated with moisture content, board feet from logs versus lumber, utilization ratios etc.… An understanding of the renewability of fiber and forest dynamics is also needed to discuss LCA methodological limitations rationally and informatively and provide alternative complementary measures.
I facilitate a group about 30 wood product LCA experts, representing academia, government agencies, industry associations, and consultants in both the U.S. and Canada. We have quarterly calls and work to continuously improve on the following goals:
Efficient and timely life cycle inventory data to create industry representative EPDs
Effectively educating stakeholders, including builders, architectures, standards organizations, and policy makers, about wood product LCAs and work to continuously improve transparency in forestry and manufacturing metrics.
Generating new LCAs for new products or based on new LCI data- identifying the most relevant questions and facilitating collaboration.
Through this role I help connect wood LCA experts to answer specific questions. For example, in the spring of 2020 I helped coordinate the Carbon Leadership Forum Wood Carbon Seminars, an 8-week webinar series that invited wood experts to answer the building industry’s common and critical questions about wood carbon. Over 400 people registered to receive access to the webinars, with 100-200 people attending each session. https://carbonleadershipforum.org/projects/wood-carbon-seminars/. This web site collectively contains a wealth of information from explanations of the basics of forests and manufacturing and carbon to how wood is treated in LCA.
The Forest Dialogue on Climate Positive Forest Products- Author of Background Paper
The Forests Dialogue (TFD) convened a virtual scoping dialogue on Climate Positive Forest Products (CPFP) on April 26th, 29th, and May 3rd, 2021. Using mass timber building materials as an entry point, the Initiative aims to build understanding and agreement amongst stakeholders around the opportunities, challenges, and knowledge gaps related to utilizing forest products as a climate change mitigation tool. The scoping dialogue was convened in partnership with the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Climate Smart Forest Economy Program (CSFEP) that includes the World Economic Forum, Climate KIC, and The Nature Conservancy.
More than 60 leaders representing stakeholder groups including academia, construction, architecture, forest industry, NGO came together for the scoping dialogue. The objectives were to:
1) build a collective understanding of stakeholder perspectives and concerns; knowledge and research gaps; and priorities related to using ‘mass timber’ construction practices to mitigate climate change. And identify areas of disagreement and agreement, especially as these issues relate to forests.
2) Foster collaboration across across stakeholders that care about the mass timber value chain, allowing forest owners, timber producers, policy makers, NGOs, and architects/developers to learn from one another and a synthesis of the current scientific knowledge on the topic.
3) Co-create an actionable plan that presents a path forward and will mobilize stakeholder networks.
I authored the background/scoping paper, which was intended to set the stage for where there was broad agreement and where there were fracture lines around four key questions (i) the current state of mass timber manufacturing and construction globally, (ii) state of knowledge regarding the climate impacts of substituting mass timber for conventional building materials and of storing carbon in mass timber materials, (iii) the state of knowledge of potential end-of-life climate impacts of mass timber utilization, and (iv) potential impacts on forest carbon stock and forest condition of increased demand for wood products from forest harvesting or displacement of wood from other industries. The background paper, titled "Climate Benefits and Challenges Related to "Mass Timber" Construction, from frame to forests", can be accessed here, Scoping Dialogue on Climate Positive Forest Products (CPFP) | The Forests Dialogue