We invite you to learn more about Bark House® brand bark walls and the benefits they are creating.
Work at Bark House began in 1990 with a focus on the wellbeing of Appalachian forests and the people working and living in them.
In 1990, we embarked on a new manufacturing company framework to honor the strategy of trees and forests through cleanly manufactured products and regenerative processes. We sought to benefit Appalachian forests and the families working and living in them. Bark House products support landowners and eco-loggers in Appalachia to remain connected to the land that they cannot abandon. The aim is to restore Appalachian forests and families through a regenerative development strategy.
By 1998, Bark House met a Mission Goal to expand a positive economic impact to other independent business owners in our community – by training loggers in the proper procurement and handling of RAW™ (Reclaimed Appalachian Wood Waste) or poplar bark for shingles. Company co-founder Marty McCurry trained 50 loggers the first year and increased their income for a poplar log substantially. Product demand had grown enough that orders could not be met through in-house harvesting. The work of peeling back the bark is hard but economically worthwhile – and environmentally sound. Today, The Bark House has trained over a thousand loggers from 5 states and 45 counties in Appalachia and works with over 150 independently operated businesses each year. This process increases their income threefold for each log by selling us the waste bark from poplar trees.
Because we were the first manufacturer to design and create bark wall panels, we defined how loggers procured the material, how they interacted with the landowners, and what practices they used on the land. Our goal in working with loggers is based on a regenerative methodology. We aim to support them in following best management land improvement processes. We treat them equitably through transparent processes, by creating a brand-new income stream for previous waste and by keeping them connected working with the land they dearly love.
Bark House supports a forest management strategy that focuses on micro-parcel tree harvests and respects the diversity of living forests. Comprised of approximately 20-acre tracts, the land is owned by individuals who care about it and their community. Nurtured for generations, these stewards want to keep the land healthy and intact for the future. Forest-management plans are implemented that support biodiversity. Only Bark House trains loggers in the proper procurement of bark from felled trees for use in wall panels. This strategy is designed to support loggers with deep reverence to nature to stay connected to it in their work. Two to three-person logging crews with lighter equipment are engaged and maintain better soil stabilization. Bark House monitors forest inventory growth-to-removal and watershed reports, verifying sustainability and environmental health in our region. Only Reclaimed Appalachian Wood Waste (RAW™) is purchased at Bark House. We ensure this by verifying that logs have a disposition.
After ten years of operation, our success in sales saw bark operations spring up with extractive practices that contaminated the marketplace with lower quality products, using compromised methods in the forest and with landowners. It was a time that we feared for the products and processes survival, as the market looked for cheaper substitutes. Today, several loggers sell their material to these operators because they do not track a chain-of-custody (whose property the log came from), they do not have the same quality standards for RAW™ material (including the assurance that the log has a disposition), and they do not all send out tax forms on material purchases.
Appalachia is not new to extractive practices. History has recorded land grabs from wealthy outsiders aiming to rob the land of its “commodities” through mining and strip-logging. Locals were often pushed out of their homes as taxation required a monetary system of trade in a culture where the exchange of goods was the method of payment. We have experienced the negative impacts of government programs placing leaders in positions of trust with the intent to change the “backward culture” of the region. Today, Appalachia is sadly one of the last safe-places to stereotype. As we clearly see today, through numerous social movements, the system in which you live, impacts your options greatly. Loggers are pinched in this extractive system. Many bark-buyers follow extractive practices. Many sawmills have price schedules and scale charts that are constantly changing due to industry fluctuations. It is no wonder loggers sometimes respond in-kind looking to “get theirs” even if it compromises their core values.
To combat extractive practices and mature a regenerative system, Bark House must shift its supply chain from a context that is dependent on the sawmill industry to one that participates in regenerating Appalachian forests and families. This has become more urgent in this time of COVID-19 and Trade Wars with China. Bark House must be able to fulfill its mission to benefit Appalachia, to benefit worldwide clients, and because this is a regenerative process tied to forestry, these actions have larger benefits that include carbon sequestration and climate change remediation. Although Bark House practices the regenerative process, we cannot accomplish this scope – this scale – alone. We need qualified partners.
Our goal is to regenerate our supply chain, but the benefits we will create through this process will reach far beyond the walls of Bark House. Please join us in a One Forest Regenerative Project – One Forest at a time for One World Forest.
Bark House created a “Factory Like A Forest” that benefits people and nature. Air, water, and soil inputs have been verified by third-party certifications.
Bark House products are 100% sourced and made in the Appalachia. The supply chain to manufacturing operation allows us to directly monitor our impacts, and change methodology when it’s called for. The wall panels become regenerative when their natural intrinsic value is honored. Clean manufacturing that implemented solar energy, incredibly uses zero water in direct-manufacturing and adds no chemicals to poplar products so they biodegrade naturally to build clean soil at end of life is part of this process. Bark House poplar wall panels hold more sequestered carbon in them than all of Bark House manufacturing back to tier one vendors and up to shipping. Bark House monitors watershed health and participates in stream clean up and stream bank restoration. The business process is intentionally designed to create equity for vendors, employees, clients, and the community. We take these variables so seriously that they have been third-party verified and we have earned top certifications and awards.
A Circular-Manufacturing-Economy that benefits people and nature has been proven possible by Bark House, and verified by third-party certifications.
It is rare to find a beautiful wall finish that is manufactured in an equally beautiful way, but such is the case with Bark House Wall Panels. The rough texture invites you to touch the surface, and when you do – you know that you have found something that is pure, something that deserves to be honored. Company co-founders, Marty and Chris McCurry, designed and created products and processes that are recognized worldwide. Bark House products received the world’s first Cradle to Cradle PLATINUM product certification, and are an Architectural Record Product of the Year as well as a John Ruskin finalist. Company processes have been recognized by earning B-Corp Best for the World Company, Buckminster Fuller Catalyst, and Sanford Institute Regenerative Business certifications and awards.
The work of the Bark House Team is aimed to honor the strategy of the bark material itself, the trees, and the forest. We approach this by monitoring our inputs to air, water, and soil quality. This work also aims to honor every person who touches the products through the entire supply chain to the end-user as exemplified in the three lines of our work which results in whole-community personal development and a minimum of fifty-percent of company income being invested directly into the local community, which compares to fourteen percent with big-box-stores.
Designer and creator of the first manufactured bark wall panels, Marty specified every manufacturing detail, down to the thickness and length of the material so that the strategy of bark as a protective covering for a tree is fully realized for a building, and quality is assured. Tree growth sequesters carbon, and Bark House designed manufacturing methods to use less carbon than that which is held in the material. Marty engineered one-of-a-kind kilns to efficiently circulate air-flow through the stacks of material and a moisture content monitoring protocol that assures consistency of the product. Chris added solar power to manufacturing. Both combined to ensure that more carbon is held in the product than the sum of all of its manufacturing, all the way back to the first person who touched it. Zero water is used in direct manufacturing. Bark House monitors water-shed reports, engages in stream-bank restoration, and stream clean-ups. An extraordinarily unique characteristic of the poplar products is that they biodegrade cleanly at end-of-life to build clean soil, compared to building oceans of contamination like other products.
Air Quality Strategy
The logging industry focuses on the impact that the harvesting of trees causes to watersheds. We do this, plus we enact procedures to protect water quality and balance at our manufacturing facility as well. Recently, watershed reports that less water is running downstream of the Appalachians. The reason for this is troubling as it reflects that the water is being absorbed by an increase of faster-growing trees, like poplar. The poplar tree is one of the first to reclaim timbered areas. It grows fast and often chokes out the slower growing oaks. This problem can be addressed through the One Forest Regenerative Project founded by Bark House.
Water Quality Strategy
We start with the bark of trees that is recycled logging industry waste. Every tree has a disposition within the industry sector such as at sawmills for furniture substrates, plywood, and laminates. Trees are not cut for the purpose of harvesting bark. These trees would have been cut without the bark ever being used. Appalachian forests have been designated “sustainable” within the specific parameters of growth to removal ratio over the past 50 years by the US Forest Service Inventory. Yellow poplar is widely dispersed across the bulk of the Appalachian chain and can be the dominant species in many areas. At the end of the product’s usefulness (up to 80 years for exteriors and unlimited in interiors), the poplar product waste can simply be added back to the soil or Recycling Centers have a Demolition and Construction Recycling Infrastructure for re-utilization. That waste is a clean biological nutrient that builds soil or creates energy if used in a bio-burner.
Material Health Strategy
Our work coalesces when clients realize their dream of a unique living-legacy building project that benefits forests and people.
Client investment in regeneratively designed projects incorporating Bark House® Wall Panels completes the circle to create a living legacy. Bark wall panels support regenerative projects through their sourcing practices, their manufacturing methods, and because they have an intrinsic connection to the forest. Unlike any other, the wall panels compel exploration of the human connection to the natural world and all that it can teach us about authenticity, beauty, and collaboration. A living legacy has reached from forests to cities, from homes to commercial spaces as people choose to reconnect to pure nature. You are invited to learn more about the distinctive Bark House difference through our monthly EmBark Blog series which will always include at least one building project, and through our featured project highlights. There, we will celebrate all of the award-winning projects and media features, as well as projects you choose to share with us and our community.
Innovating regenerative products, building a legacy brand – Marty and Chris McCurry.
Architectural Record Product of the Year, B Corp Best For The World Company, Buckminster Fuller Catalyst Company, Regenerative Company, and over 250 important media features- these accolades only begin to reflect the value of the wall panel products and business processes created at Bark House. This company has earned its reputation as the preferred brand for well-known tech, fashion, and hospitality industries as well as discerning homeowners.
In 1990, just before the “green building” field came together, this married team would rise as business partners working to lift the sourcing, procurement, and manufacturing of forest products in the Appalachians into full integration with living systems in service of regenerative development. Their work centers on implementing a living-systems manufacturing and product design process. Marty is the original designer and creator of bark wall panels. The process Marty innovated re-claims a forest waste product – the bark of trees – using ethical harvesting practices and environmentally sound manufacturing methods. Chris created the process of whole-building that ensures the proceeds from these investments are supporting a human-nature connection to build whole-communities. The benefits of this work include superior quality products, a circular economy, and the realization of exponential value to the social, ecological, financial, and human qualities of projects, our ecosystem, and the larger world community.
With an unwavering drive for the perfection of whole-design, patterns from nature inspired the products and processes and honest craftsmanship became the unwavering method upon which Marty and Chris built the Bark House brand. But what fuels the brand’s continual progress was a legacy spirit, shared between makers and clients.
The concept was to showcase local products and culture in a way that enables local people to see the true value of what they have and who they are. For eight thousand years, the region’s culture had sustained a relationship of respect and caring between humans and nature, and as a result, both had thrived. Over the last century, however, the culture had steadily deteriorated under the forces of extractive modernization and industry. To change the trajectory of a people that seemed literally set in stone, this business would have to connect to an energy source well beyond that of providing products and services. It would have to create a system, true to a shared vocation. This vocation embraces understanding the walls that hold us together and set us free.
The Appalachian region has a special sense of place. Walls of ancient mountains shrouded in mist with cascading streams hold the promise of refuge and revitalization. This regenerative attribute infuses the land and the forests in this place. It is within the RAW™ (Reclaimed Appalachian Wood Waste) materials used in Bark House product making. History recorded regional business practices that were extractive to both people and this place. The Bark House was called to align co-operatively with natural systems and create a business whose aim is to be regenerative. To rebuild whole-communities in this place and in the places where Bark House products would adorn requires sharing a far-reaching strategy. It requires understanding the nature of a living legacy.
The system of Regenerative Development and Whole-Building mobilizes investment to improve the health and vitality of communities and nature. This practice views building as an opportunity to engage the essential capacity of all stakeholders (architects, builders, community, designers, distributors, manufacturers, owners) to participate in communal, economic, and environmental enrichment as an integral function of creating a built environment. Whole-building aims to re-align a co-operative human-nature relationship.
This project activates the three complex levels of work that Bark House has engaged (sourcing, manufacturing, and investing) as one collaborative force and forms a system to restore forests and support a meaningful connection with the people who love them. We are focusing on forests in Southern Appalachia at present.
Join us as we are:
Developing the capacity to discern what this place we inhabit inherently wants to become,
Understanding complex living systems paradigms and how to work with them, and
Becoming an instrument of the regenerative process.
Each of us possesses an enormous capability to co-evolve life versus destroying it.
For More on The Bark House History, Visit The Milestones Page
"Quality is not a goal here… It’s a way of life."