I’ve been pricing cabinets for clients lately and had a serendipitous phone call from a local shop. Rick, the sales manager at ~Woodshanti~, was contacting designers in San Francisco (I’m guessing as part of a New Year’s resolution). He invited me to check out their sustainable wood-working shop in Bayview and I was glad he did.
Set in one of the industrial pockets in Bayview, Woodshanti has a sizable shop where they were working on some beautifully crafted millwork pieces. The company is a worker-owned, FSC certified shop. FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. They follow the forest management practices and the wood products through the supply chain documenting the Chain of Custody (COC) through to the sale to the customer. From their website:
“FSC certification provides a credible link between responsible production and consumption of forest products, enabling consumers and businesses to make purchasing decisions that benefit people and the environment as well as providing ongoing business value”.
It is the gold standard for sustainability in the lumber industry and this is my first visit to a certified shop!
Rick tours me through the shop and tells me in great depth about the way things are done here and why. Their wood products come from a variety of sustainable sources including salvage of fallen trees. The shop has machinery to do almost anything in-house which allows them to control their high level of craftsmanship. They use only one type of finish – a plant-based, single coat oil called Rubio Monocoat that contains zero VOC’s and bonds with the wood in a single application. The Monocoat product was originally developed for floors and can stand up to a beating either under foot or in a high traffic or wet location like a kitchen or restaurant setting. The absence of VOC’s makes or a better work environment in the shop, but also negates the production of a petrochemical product for their use. Nothing here is off-gassing and no giant fans are running to air out any fumes. This is a great thing in an industrial shop.
Studies by the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and other researchers have found that VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are common in indoor environments and their levels may be two to hundreds of times higher than outdoors. There may be anywhere from 50 to hundreds of individual VOCs in the indoor air at any one time. Some may produce objectionable odors at very low levels, but many have no noticeable smell. Many VOCs are irritants and can cause headaches, eye, nose and throat irritation and dizziness. Long-term exposure to certain VOCs may lead to chronic diseases or cancer. At high concentrations, some VOCs are toxic.
Indoor air quality in North America is actually worse now than it was a few decades ago thanks to VOC’s like formaldehyde being added to consumer goods. The majority of formaldehyde found indoors originates from building materials, pressed wood products (hardwood plywood wall paneling, particleboard, fiberboard) and furniture made with these pressed wood products. The surprising truth about formaldehyde is that it never stops off-gassing. That particle board book shelf or kitchen cabinetry made ten years ago is still poisoning the air today. The best practice is to avoid the source of these VOC’s before they enter your home.
Now back to the tour. We walk past the framework of a beautiful walnut banquette bench and service station being built for a new restaurant. Further in the back are some sleek white oak tables for another restaurant, these ones finished and waiting for transport. And in the same room are some wood-stain color mock-ups drying for a client. Every piece is exquisitely detailed. There is an especially lovely set of tables and cabinets for a restaurant with very clean geometry and a tightly radiused void which will wrap around a column when it is installed. As a designer who has seen her drawings fabricated with varying degrees of craftsmanship, I have to say it is truly a delight to see the construction of a design done so well.
You can see some of Woodshanti’s work for yourselves in and around San Francisco at Ragazza in San Francisco and most recently at the Tap Room at Coddington Mall in Santa Rosa. You may have already seen their craftsmanship if you took the AIA home tour a few years ago (see photo above). They were key players in creating that beautiful kitchen.
For projects that require custom cabinets, furniture, or artful wood detailing, I would definitely talk to the professionals at Woodshanti.woodshanti.com 415/822-8100