Versatile Wood Products

Portland, Oregon

Photo Credit: Dan Bihn

Photo Credit: Dan Bihn

It looks like what you'd expect in a large wood shop — warehouse space with concrete floors, high ceilings and metal beams. It’s a space that looks expensive to heat and, unsurprisingly, always has been. But after a chance meeting between two wood industry guys, and a few beers, the story has changed.

Versatile Wood Products, owned by Arciform, is located in Portland's inner northeast industrial area. In the summer of 2016, with the help of Wisewood Energy, they installed a biomass boiler to meet their heating needs. Fueled entirely by their own wood scraps — about 100 tons of sawdust and wood cuts generated every year — the boiler efficiently and sustainably heats the entire 40,000-square-foot space.

Make no mistake, this is a big deal.

“Wisewood Energy made this work in an urban environment," said Richard De Wolf, owner of Versatile Wood Products and Arciform. “This is the first system like this in a major United States metropolitan area. It has enormous impacts.”

The city of Portland is a project supporter along with many others. Systems like this are more common in rural areas, using forest debris or lumber scraps. But in a city with high standards for air quality, creating a clean burning but sustainable system is turning heads.

"Richard was motivated by becoming the most environmentally-responsible company possible," said Andrew Haden, Wisewood Energy founder and president. "His drive for innovation helped us create the first modern biomass system within Portland city limits, which is inspiring."

Photo Credit: Dan Bihn

Photo Credit: Dan Bihn

Craftsmen at Versatile Wood Products specialize in historical structure design and renovations. Iconic northwest structures like Timberline Lodge and coastal lighthouses have been revived by the team, as have pieces in historic homes, the bell tower of a church and more.

De Wolf and Haden met at a wood conference 18 months prior to the system’s debut. “After you talk about these things over a couple of beers, you start to get really interested in the possibilities,” said De Wolf. “I’m a sucker for technology and sustainability.”

The $250,000 project is being touted as a case study for urban sustainability and was supported by a tax credit offsetting 35 percent of the project costs. It was also supported by partnerships with companies including Casebeer Hydronics LLC, Viessmann and more. Wisewood conducted the feasibility study, drafted designs, helped orchestrate tax credits, coordinated partners, consulted during construction and is providing ongoing system support.

Finding grants and engineering for biomass aren’t the kinds of things I do everyday. So it was important to find a team like we did with Wisewood Energy. I highly recommend them. They’re the kind of company you want to come in and get the job done right.
— Richard De Wolf, Owner of Versatile Wood Products