Green Building at the Lumberyard

In most parts of the country, it’s difficult to find a lumberyard that doesn’t sneer when you ask for green products. Yards that do stock one or two token green products have a poor selection, and there’s rarely a knowledgeable person at the counter available to answer your questions. Until now, the only other option has been “green boutiques” specializing in products that are good for the earth but cost an arm and a leg.


But builders on the central coast of California looking for green building materials need look no further than Hayward Mill and Lumber. While most lumberyards cite a lack of demand for green products, Hayward noticed a growth trend in 1997 and launched a Green Building Materials Division, headed by Michelle Randall. She soon discovered that the company was “selling about $90,000 a year just by accident.” Sine then, the supplier has developed a line of products suitable for most green construction demands. More important, Hayward is committed to providing the customer service needed to support its green product sales to mainstream contractors.

Sine there is no universal standard for determining what is and is not green, Hayward’s staff evaluates potential green, products on several grounds. According to Randall, the toxicity, recycled content, and recycling potential are examined, as are the resource efficiency, source material sustainability, and impact on alternative locally-produced materials. In the end, these factors are balanced against cost. “We offer environmentally preferable products that have been evaluated by our staff,” says Randall, “through research and discussion with the vendor and the green building community.”

Being able to buy “green” from a regular contact at the lumberyard is key to the success off the program. All of the sales agents at Hayward are trained in the green products the offer, and when special needs arise, front-line counter reps know where to look for answers.

Some green-minded home buyers are willing to pay a premium, but evaluating the cost benefit of green products is complex. The materials run the gamut from those that are actually cheaper than their mainstream counterpart (Homasote vs. Gypcrete, for example), to those that cost more initially but less after lifetime maintenance costs are added (Trex vs. redwood decking), to those that clearly cost more from beginning to end.

A word of caution: Some green products, such as borate-treated mud sills, might not be approved by your local building department and projects might not pass inspection if the code official has not given prior approval. To avoid that kind of problem, Randall works with building officials to get cod approval before the products are purchased and installed For more information, check out Hayward’s web site at