American Forest Foundation's headquarters

WASHINGTON, DC—The Department of Agriculture and the Wood Products Council’s WoodWorks initiative announced a $1 million program that will provide training for architects, engineers and builders related to the use of advanced wood materials in US buildings. The program cites The President’s Climate Action Plan goal of preserving forests in mitigating climate change and the recently-signed 2014 Farm Bill, which calls for the creation of rural jobs.

Some local companies, though, are one step ahead of the initiative, at least in terms of its embrace of wood and sustainable building products.

Earlier this year, the American Forest Foundation secured the second-highest Green Globes rating for its office design and retrofit at its new headquarters at 2000 M St., NW. The 11,000-square-foot space uses wood certified through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, a North American forest certification standard supported by Green Globes. Also, AFF was able to re-use many elements that might otherwise have gone to a landfill.

Two other associations-the American Forest & Paper Association and American Forests-also emphasized sustainable wood use in their office designs and retrofits, according to their broker West, Lane & Schlager Realty Advisors, which also repped AFF in its lease.

American Forests, which took 6,000 square feet at 1220 L St. NW, has installed a custom-designed large glass wall of a forest scene that allows visitors to see through the trees into the staff lounge. There is a wood floor in the entry, which connects to wood slates on the ceiling that continue throughout the space.

American Forests also incorporated symbols of its work throughout the office: there is the pen that President Franklin D. Roosevelt used to establish the Civilian Conservation Corps, and a guitar made from the remains of the last surviving Revolutionary War Liberty Tree. Also, on the wall outside each office are mounted shovels used at various ceremonial tree plantings.

AF&PA recently secured 29,142 square feet at 1101 K St. NW. Among its decorative touches are tree limbs that act as a room divider; and wood flooring.

Granted, the new partnership between the Agriculture Department and WoodWorks has a decidedly more utilitarian bent with its emphasis on job creation and the environment. “As advanced wood products allow the use of wood in a greater variety of buildings-including wood high-rises-we can increase the role of forests in mitigating climate change while strengthening rural economies,” Jennifer Cover, executive director of WoodWorks says in a prepared statement.

As the partnership explained, using wood from sustainably managed forests helps keep carbon out of the atmosphere because wood products require less fossil fuels to manufacture than other major building materials and because wood continues to store carbon absorbed from the atmosphere while the tree was growing.

But a focus on employee productivity may not be far behind; it was, after all, a benefit cited by all of the associations that used wood in their designs.

“Seeing other people doing their work fosters a different kind of energy,” says AF&PA’s president and CEO, Donna Harman. “Staff members feel more connected to one another. It’s a modern office, but with a traditional feel.”