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June 19, 2014, 04:58 PM

Turning shipping crates and scrap lumber into floors and panels

By Thornton Kay

Joe Mitchoff and Pierce Henley, co-founders of Viridian [photo © Viridian

 
Reclaimed 'Good Neighbor Fence' panelling
 

Oregon, USA - Viridian was started when Pierce Henley moved house to Scappoose and became entranced by the beauty and possibilities of a pile of old discarded hardwood in his new yard, wrote co-owner Joe Mitchoff in NorthWest Renovation magazine:

Curious about the wood's origin, he discovered the former homeowner worked as a longshoreman on the docks at the Port of Portland. He traced the wood back to the port, where he met with the manager to inquire about getting some more. "Sure," the manager said. "There are 30 full drop boxes to choose from." The manager told Pierce that ports generate massive amounts of wood, metal, and other waste as byproducts of their operations, but the high cost and physical demands of unloading the ships makes the material extremely difficult to recycle. Most of it is destined for the landfill.

Pierce saw this waste as an opportunity to "up-cycle" the wood, and he brought me on board to help with the process. We made it a night-and-weekend hobby to find good homes for the wood, and eventually convinced the port manager to allow us to do a large-scale pilot project in 2004. Our business was born. The volume and requirements of the project were extremely challenging; we discovered that many had tried to recycle the wood before and failed. But through a mix of resourcefulness, tenacity, and luck, the project was a success. Since then, our reclamation program was expanded to include other ports.

Rescuing the wood is only half the equation. Once it arrives at our 40,000 square-foot material-recovery facility, it is sorted and graded. This gritty, hands-on process is necessary because the mixed waste cannot be mechanically sorted. In order for the program to work, virtually everything that comes in is recycled. We're proud that 99% of inbound materials are permanently eliminated from the waste stream.

Viridian's flooring, paneling, and countertops represent the best of the best woods, and other grades of wood go to industrial uses (including the fuel that fires the kilns to make Viridian's finished products). People have asked me if Viridian reclaims barn wood or gym floors or salvaged trees. There are many good companies that already do these things very well, so Viridian has chosen to only reclaim wood from sources that have real need for waste reduction or where we can add value to the reclamation equation. In recent years that mission has led to partnering with other deconstruction companies that don't always have outlets for their wood. The end result is a wide array of high-end, completely unique, and totally sustainable building products.

In Viridian's Look Book, the company writes. 'Most people think of reclaimed wood from old barns and schoolhouses. Our story was born in 2004 down at the shipyard, with a lot of grit and a couple of friends' idea to rescue some really amazing wood from winding up in a landfill. Wood from far off ports arrives daily as shipping pallets and crates, but it's extremely difficult to recycle. Through years of trial and error we pioneered a method for up-cycling these dockside discards into products with lasting value. At Viridian, we're committed to finding the best use for every stick of wood we reclaim to reduce the demand for new lumber.'

Viridian has a web page about finishing options for its wood, running the gamut from waxes, through oil, urethanes and Swedish sealers, outlining which are eco-friendly, durable and toxic and why, and how to clean the floors after they have been sealed with the various methods (see link below).

In 2011 Viridian started a new line of urea formaldehyde-free FSC certified MDF panel boards veneered with reclaimed urban salvage Oregon black walnut and old growth Douglas fir from warehouse deconstruction.

In November 2012 Viridian announced the launch of a range of engineered boards which have a 4mm reclaimed wear layer with all round micro-bevel over 9 ply birch in a variety of woods and colours, including tropical pallet hardwood, European beech shipping packing for wind generators, Douglas fir from structural beams, and new American oak, with a 7 coat VOC-free finish, and in widths from 2.5ins-8ins and lengths from 1ft-8ft. The product range has FSC 'Mixed credit' rating with the wear layer 100 percent FSC certified post-consumer reclaimed, on FSC Mixed Credit plywood.

Joe Mitchoff told Floor Covering Weekly, ""We've made engineered flooring on a special-order basis for years, but demand for FSC-certified product has dramatically increased in the commercial interiors segment, and this is a great way to get reclaimed wood into larger commercial installations."

Viridian flooring and paneling can contribute points towards LEED credits: MRc3: (Materials Reuse), MRc4 (Recycled Content), MRc5 (Regional Materials) and MRc7 (Certified Wood).

In 2013 Viridian reclaimed wood was in BuildingGreen's list of top ten green building products. Alex Wilson, founder of BuildingGreen, posted on Green Building Advisor about his use of Viridian's reclaimed wood porch decking:

Because Viridian's tropical woods are reclaimed rather than being cut from forests, the species vary widely and typically aren't even known. We ordered a mix of wood known as Jakarta Market Blend - Dark Sort that is comprised of probably at least a dozen actual species. Some are very dark, almost black; others are a deep red; some have beautiful figured grain. The weight also varies greatly, with some having specific gravity that is significantly greater than that of water - - meaning that that wood doesn't float.

The great density of these tropical hardwoods also results in tremendous hardness and wear properties. With flooring, hardness is typically measured using the Janca Scale. The Jakarta Market Blend - Dark Sort flooring we got has a hardness ranging from 1100 to 3500, which makes it suitable for high-traffic commercial applications. By comparison, eastern white pine has a hardness of 380, hemlock 500, Douglas fir 660, cherry 995, teak 1155, red oak 1290, and sugar maple 1450.

As we were selecting from the batch of wood received from Viridian, I chose the heavier pieces for the porch flooring - - so I suspect most pieces have a hardness well over 2000. The dimensions of the decking are 2 1/2 inches x 5/8 inch, in random lengths up to 6 feet 6 inches.

Viridian is a premium product that sells for a premium price. Pricing is somewhat higher than that of redwood decking and significantly more expensive than pressure-treated (PT) decking. But it should hold up as well as Ipé, which is typically more expensive. The price of the Jakarta Market Blend is $6.95 per square foot, though shipping will add to the price. According to Joe Mitchoff, one of the advantages of having a constant supply of salvaged wood is the ability to keep pricing fairly constant.

In May 2013 the company announced the launch of 'Truck Deck' flooring and paneling from reclaimed red oak and white oak truck decking.

Finally, this year the ever-innovative Viridian has just launched a new range of wall cladding made from reclaimed cedar and redwood fencing, with a strap line of 'Good Fences make Good Neighbors' and old saying dating back to the 18th century, and immortalised in Robert Frost's 1900s poem 'Mending Walls'.

Where is reclaimed flooring heading?

Viridian Reclaimed Wood

Viridian: Choosing a finish for your reclaimed wood flooring
Viridian: Where to Find Reclaimed Wood and Reusable Furniture

Story Type:  Feature

ID: 83191

        
 
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