In an era of ever-increasing awareness about the limitations of natural resources, manufacturers are leveraging research and technology to find new alternatives for raw materials. Accsys Technologies did this with the development of Accoya, an acetylated wood product that gives sustainably sourced softwoods the strength and durability of old-growth tropical hardwoods. The process takes fast-growing, FSC-certified softwood boards and replaces the wood’s natural free hydroxyls (the chemicals that absorb and release water, causing wood to swell and shrink) with stable acetyl groups that do not bond with water at all. As a result, Accoya wood does not expand and contract with changes in climate—allowing coatings and finishes to last longer—and it is more resistant to insects. Composed of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon, the acetyl groups are nontoxic; the chemical byproducts from the treatment process are either recycled back into the process or sold for use in other industries. Juror Sylvia Smith praised the company’s “multifaceted investigation” into the chemical processes, while juror William Massie appreciated the product’s ability to “simulate tropical species of wood through technical processes.”

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