In the earliest stages of a project, high level decisions are made with implications for later design and procurement options, for example:

  • Deciding to build, not build, or renovate/retrofit.
  • Defining the project vision, program, area summaries and building code approval path (how big, how tall, what construction type is most appropriate, what fire code applies, etc.).
  • Site/land-use analyses and early massing studies.
  • Establishment of development goals, with a cash-flow pro forma development.
  • Identification of major environmental, sustainability and social/equity goals.

Pricing studies are frequently performed in early phases comparing the relative costs of different structural systems. It’s important to establish alignment on what should and should not be included in comparative cost analyses. Neglecting or under-valuing advantages for mass-timber buildings may have the unintended effect of incorrectly penalizing mass timber at an early stage. These frequently cited advantages of mass timber include but are not confined to:

  • Potential savings in finishes by leaving more of the structural elements exposed (whileconsidering applicable fire code requirements).
  • Likely schedule savings.
  • Potential for improved rent/return on investment for mass timber buildings vs alternate materials.
  • Potential for improved attractiveness, wellness and sense of place to tenants.


At this stage, multiple options will be on the table and specific material choices will rarely be fully defined. If wood is chosen to be a major component of the project, it is best to open discussion of CSW procurement as early as possible.

CSWG recommends that the owner and project team review the CSWG Climate Smart Forestry definition, Transparency & Traceability, Procurement Options and Case Studies  as part of a process to clarify values and establish high-level project goals that will guide future decision-making. Early procurement/vendor input can also be brought in at this stage to help establish a framework for future decision making around prospective options. Having a general contractor or construction manager engaged early in conjunction with an architect will greatly facilitate this outreach.

Before the end of Conceptual Design, and prior to publishing of a conceptual budget is an ideal time for the project team to discuss the principles of CSW with the ownership team. Many in the industry may have preconceived notions on cost premiums associated with sustainable wood sourcing efforts. Early in the project it is important to unpack alternative pathways around Transparency & Traceability and Procurement Options so that these decisions, benefits, and potential cost premiums can be incorporated into the early estimates and decision matrices.

The ownership and General Contractor (GC)/Construction Management (CM) team should consider:

  • Allocating budgetary holds, allowances, and/or contingency to plan for any potential premiums associated with pursuing a CSW procurement strategy.
  • Creating a plan for maintaining financial commitment to CSW procurement as the project progresses.
  • As the project proceeds into later stages of design and the CSW pathways for the project are selected, any savings that are realized could be redistributed to other aspects of the budget.
  • Establishing a contractual provision between the GC/CM and owner that expresses a mutual expectation of at least exploring climate-smart wood sourcing options and considering these factors in material selection and procurement later in the project.

CSWG is working to build a network of wood product supply chain actors across North America who are skilled and experienced with CSW sourcing and who practice CSF as a normal course of business.

The intention is to demystify and streamline the process of CSW procurement, differentiate firms and organizations that can consistently produce better sourcing results, and reduce risks associated with cost and schedule. An early consultation with CSWG to identify potential network partners in the project area and/or continentally helps the project team determine an array of feasible options that can inform goal-setting and budgeting.