In recent years the harvesting and use of old growth timber has become a subject of concern for many consumers.
As an Australian leader in the manufacture of timber windows and doors, Airlite has a responsibility to ensure that we are environmentally astute about the timber we use and the way in which it is harvested, and are diligent in ensuring that we do not support environmentally unsound practices.
Airlite only uses one type of timber for our windows and doors - Western Red Cedar. This is because it has a natural resistance to fungus and pests, it has a natural strength and durability in all weather conditions, is easily worked and fashioned into windows and doors, and it has a beautiful rich grain. Western Red Cedar is a fast growing softwood and occurs naturally in the forests of the northern United States of America and on the west coast of Canada in the region known as British Columbia. Airlite's primary supplier of Western Red Cedar is a Canadian company called Weyerhaeuser.
Airlite is committed to purchasing our cedar from this source, and absorbing the significant cost impact of freight, as we are totally against the less than environmentally friendly practices used in various parts of South East Asia. While this does impact on our selling price to the market, we believe that it is justified and socially responsible of us to do this.
Airlite is confident that timber supplied by Weyerhaeuser complies with and in some cases exceeds rigorous environmental legislation in Canada, and that Weyerhaeuser practices environmentally friendly timber harvesting methods. Some of the ways that Weyerhaeuser minimises their impact are explained below.
Under Canadian law, Weyerhaeuser is required to completely replant all areas where they harvest Western Red Cedar, and maintain these plantations until the trees have grown enough to look after themselves. The Canadian government is committed to ensuring that their coastal forests are a renewable long-term resource and that the impact of timber harvesting is minimised.
Further, Weyerhaeuser currently does not practice clear felling, and today harvests approx 33% of their timber from regrowth areas. Instead of clear felling (or clear cutting as it is called in Canada) they practice what they refer to as "variable retention" harvesting. This is a harvesting method that allows selective felling of trees, and leaves large stands of trees intact while Weyerhaeuser harvests around them. The recent introduction of "heli-logging" means even less environmental impact as felled timber is removed by air, reducing the amount of damage done to the forest understory and reducing the need to build roads and bridges to get the timber out. Up to 25% of Weyerhaeuser's timber operations practice heli-logging.
The harvested areas are replanted immediately and tended by Weyerhaeuser until the young trees have outgrown the surrounding vegetation and are capable of continuing to grow on their own.
Partnership with Environmental Groups
In 1999 Weyerhaeuser became one of the first timber products companies to become a part of a joint environmental, government and corporate initiative with the objective to practice permanent, ecologically sound, sustainable logging of timber. The initiative has the agreement of Greenpeace and proves beyond doubt that Weyerhaeuser is a committed, environmentally sound timber company. More information on the alliance can be found at http://www.coastforestconservationinitiative.com/
In a local sense, Airlite is just as committed to the sustainability of our environment and we continue to demonstrate this in a number of ways.
Airlite is a re-manufacturer of sawn wood, meaning that we do not take a tree log and process it into pieces of timber. Instead we import rough sawn timber primarily in block form - ie cut to a profile of 4.5cm x 15.5cm. (This accounts for most of our cedar, however we do also import some larger profiles to create veneer.)
In 1985, Airlite was the first in Australia to use "engineered cedar". This process ensures that from the full pieces of rough sawn timber that we import, we have almost no waste. Prior to this time, we would cut up the cedar to create the components that were needed, and all the offcuts would be turned into sawdust.
Today Airlite takes all these offcuts, and joins them together to create a piece of finger-jointed cedar. We then laminate this with a piece of cedar veneer to create an engineered cedar profile. In an ongoing effort to continually reduce the environmental impact of our use of cedar, Airlite is further developing the engineered timber components to use plantation timbers.