"The wood was just sitting around and getting wasted," said Andres Quinonez, co-owner of Azul Home Designs, a newly formed business that customizes siding using 100 percent beetle-kill. "What we've been able to do is take a standing dead product that's seen as waste and holds no value, and convert it into something that's marketable, attractive and affordable."
Quinonez and his business partner Javier Bravo only started the company this past January. Quinonez also owns a tree cutting company, and Bravo owns a wood manufacturing business.
"I was producing a lot of wood, and he had the idea, 'Why don't we come up with something we can reuse?'" Quinonez said.
"I chose to use beetle-kill because of the abundance of the resource and the true beauty of the blue stain," Bravo said. "We look at it as saving it from going through a chipper and ending up at the dump."
Bravo designed the product, and Quinonez has been busy marketing it. Quinonez said their siding is not only environmentally friendly because it's recycled, but attractive and energy-efficient once it's installed. The company name — Azul — is the Spanish word for blue, the prominent color of beetle-kill timber. Quinonez said their product has been well-received by customers so far, and they're currently in talks different stores who might be interested in carrying it.
"So far it's been pretty good," Quinonez said. "We can take something that's dead and transform the look of a home, but also become that green company that people are looking to do business with these days."
Powder River Construction owner Todd Gourley has been building log homes from scratch for years. After building a small, 200-square-foot cabin for himself from beetle-kill lumber, he decided to form a business around it: Powder River Log Cabins, which he established last summer.
"With all the quantity of trees that are available, I just thought it would be a good service," he said.
Gourley said the trees are usually turned to firewood, or chipped up and disposed of.
Some people are wary of using the timber for their homes, Gourley said, because they think the trees have fungus in them. While the mountain pine beetle does introduce fungal spores into the trees — which leaves the blue stain — Gourley said the fungus dies once the tree is dead and the moisture is gone. He said he's talked to engineers, who have told him the structural integrity of lodgepole pine is great.
"There is nothing wrong with using beetle-kill lodgepole pine," he said. "Handcrafted operations have been using dead-standing forever."
Gourley said his log cabin homes are as green and sustainable as you can get. He said because the logs are collected from Summit County — Gourley has an agreement with a couple of local loggers, who alert him when there are trees he can use — transportation costs both dollar-wise and to the environment are low.
"There's no reason to not use (beetle-kill)," he said.
For more information about Azul Home Designs, call (970) 389-8095. For more information about Powder River Log Cabins, call (970) 389-1250, or go to www.powderriverlogcabins.com
— By Kathryn Corazzelli, Summit Daily News