Green Building

Pine Beetles: An Opportunity for Green Building

What is pine beetle wood, why is it a green choice, and why should CSU’s building comity care? Pine beetle wood is the victim of a small insect, smaller than a grain of rice, those burros deep within to lay eggs and inadvertently kill the tree. This epidemic is especially evident in Colorado because the most common trees attacked are none other than pine trees currently scattered across the Rocky Mountains. As the evergreen hue of the Mountain side slowly shifts to a brown maroon color it is evident that not all is well in the woods. Although this is a sad situation, what in the world does it have to do with CSU and its building comity? The wood presents an interesting opportunity, fully a-lined with CSU’s green ideals. It is a green choice because the wood in question is already dead, so live potential wood is not affected. It is also green because if the wood is left untouched then it will just rot away and why not take advantage of the situation and make the wood a useful product.

The comity of building at CSU should use Pine Beetle Wood to build future structures on campus. I am a CSU student and am aware that the university as a whole has embraced the green movement. Through my findings it has become apparent that Pine Beetle wood can help accomplish this goal further as a viable building material choice.

Since the use of the wood is time sensitive there are tax cuts to promote the use of this product. Colorado’s Beetle Kill Association has worked hard to make sure of that. Although the association is in its infant stages the Trade itself is a solid structure with big goals. “The members of this trade association are committed to meaningful action, not meaningless talk. They are committed to forming public and private trade partnerships and leveraging every resource possible to enable a trade economy around the use of beetle killed pines. We will work together to increase the speed at which natural economies can be established” says Chris Anderson. The association began in 2008 and in May of that same year the Governor of Colorado signed a tax rebate law providing businesses and blue-stain purchasers with valuable tax exemptions for the use of the product (www.kill-pine-beetles.com). Blue-stain is another term for Pine Beetle Wood once it transitions into a product.

I urge this comity to seriously consider this material as an option, especially since this choice would allow for funds to be saved without making dangerous sacrifices in quality. Colorado Beetle Kill Trade Association’s efforts to get the attention of the government to make this pine beetle building project a reality are now realized complete with this federal funding (Maletsky, Kiernan).

The Trade Association’s founding fathers include Colorado Blue Logs, Breckenridge Timber to Log, Confluence Energy, and many others; all of which are companies that wanted to be proactive in making the pine beetle issue a resource. Since its founding in 2008 its membership has expanded too many other companies and individual members. If such substantial companies are taking building with beetle kill seriously then it is safe to say that something is working.

It’s green and economical, but why use this material at all? There are some common misconceptions about blue stain wood that understandably deters builders from choosing this wood for substantial structures. The words dead and damaged tend to undermine the referenced product. The bottom line is that if the building material is not durable and sustainable then a builder has no business considering it for a structure that requires these things. There has been some quite compelling research that proves Pine Beetle Wood is structurally sound, and comparable to like wood!  In “Mechanical properties of lodge pole pine containing beetle-transmitted blue stain” the Conroy Lum , Tony Byrne , and Romulo Casilla clearly document a number of studies conducted to find the difference between blue stained wood and non stained wood. All three authors had been contributors to the Pine Beetle cause for Canadian natural recourses since 2005 and have made significant contributions in their field. The goal of their research was to identify the structure and soundness of blue stained pine in order to provide a stable resource for builders.

Builders and engineers need to be aware of their materials and this lab report of an article proves knowledge needed to take on architectural projects. The science team conducted three main tests including: a Toughness test, Bending MOE and MOR tests, Truss-plate-connected tension test. The toughness test indicates the woods ability to withstand fracture; MOE and MOR tests measure the level of flexibility and stiffness in the wood, while the truss-plate-connected tension tests identify the amount of tension.  Their research proved that the wood had structural integrity in spades and overall the differences they identify had only a slight margin of difference. They describe the most significant benefit, having nothing to do with the integrity of the wood, to be the absence of knots and slope grain. This fact only addresses that it slightly easier to work with blue stained wood. With that being the biggest difference the Scientists asses that the wood is sound in every way they tested.

These theories have been successfully translated into reality. On a small local scale there are countless examples of the wood being used for homes. An entire company, American Log Homes.Inc, is dedicated to building log pole homes. On a large scale Pine Beetle Wood was chosen as the sole material used to build the Speed Skating Oval’s roof In 2010 Winter Olympics (www.ipsnews.net).  This structure is a grand and as large scale as can be. If it was deemed substantial  enough for the Olympics, and was utilized to house the mass of people only the Olympics can bring then blue stain wood is in definitely viable for an educational building.

Pine beetle wood is structurally sound and supposedly economical, but now how can I get it here and how much does it cost? The price of the wood itself can be competitively priced but in most cases the product is a deal in comparison to like products (csfs.colostate.edu).As for getting the product here, the wood is a local resource and is a great deal closer than many alternative wood choices outside of Colorado. A shorter drive equals a smaller carbon footprint. As stated earlier it is a local product and any extra costs I have not addressed to obtain this product are far outweighed by the tax breaks for using this wood provide. Not only is there initial funding as seen from the Trade Associations efforts but the tax cuts apply as long as the structure remains on the property. Essentially it becomes the gift that keeps on giving.

The effects of the pine beetle epidemic are most visible, and catching the attention of native peoples of Colorado more than ever before.  My proposal is to utilize this green sturdy and economical resource which should have the greatest appeal to CSU’s building comity because it addresses all their potential concerns and a-lines with their embraced green ideals. Green building is the way of the future and I realize CSU has already taken the green movement on; I am merely proposing a new green opportunity.


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