Tolko reopens Athabaska OSB

Tolko reopens Athabaska OSB

February 12, 2013 was an important day for Tolko Industries and the Athabasca OSB mill in Slave Lake, Alberta.

Lumber shipments at crossroads

Lumber shipments at crossroads

The Lac Mégantic tragedy has brought the transportation of hazardous material by rail to the forefront.

Loggers put brakes on ABS

Loggers put brakes on ABS

As those in the forestry sector know well, truck driving is not for the faint of heart.

Moncton hosts a full show

Moncton hosts a full show

There wasn't any room to spare at the Atlantic Heavy Equipment Show in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Top 20 lumber producers

Top 20 lumber producers

The big companies are getting bigger! North American lumber production moves higher as demand continues to improve.

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Foothills planer line...
Foothills planer line
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Faller training - undercuts...
Faller training - undercuts
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Welcome home to forestry...
Welcome home to forestry
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CFI tests chainsaw...
CFI tests chainsaw

Harvesting

Caterpillar's hybrid is fuel savvy Caterpillar's hybrid is fuel savvy

Apr. 22, 2014 – Caterpillar has introduced the industry's first hydraulic hybrid excavator boasting that it can save up to 25% on fuel. The Cat 336E H sacrifices nothing in terms of power or production and is quiet too. The company also recently announced a new hybrid, the Cat 336F. Hydraulics provide superior power density, which is why Caterpillar selected a hydraulic solution for its hybrids. The Cat 336F H Hybrid will be powered by a U.S. EPA Tier 4 Final Cat C9.3 ACERT engine. "The 336F H's Electronic Standardized Programmable (ESP) hydraulic pump saves significant fuel by integrating the machine's power sources and matching engine performance to the load encountered," the press release explains. "The unique Cat Adaptive Control System (ACS) valve optimizes hydraulic performance by intelligently managing restriction and flow, seamlessly controlling machine motion and ensuring that hydraulic power is available precisely where and when it is required." The Cat 336E Hyprid has been in Canada for almost a year now and the Cat 336F will be available soon.

Bandit's Stump Gun a sure shot

Apr. 15, 2014 - Bandit Industries now offers the Stump Gun, a powerful stump grinding attachment designed for use with skid steers. The Stump Gun's innovative-yet-simple design allows it to easily grind stumps of virtually any shape or size. It attaches to skid-steer loaders in seconds, and it's powered by the skid steer's hydraulic system. "If you have a skid-steer loader, you can have a powerful stump grinder," said Christopher Smith, Bandit's marketing and communications director. "The Stump Gun is a perfect addition for anyone with a skidsteer who's also seeking a simple, easy-to-use stump grinding solution." The Stump Gun connects to any skid steer with a quick attach plate. Once attached, the operator simply connects the hydraulic lines and removes the Stump Gun from its stand cradle. Because it operates vertically, the Stump Gun can be used to grind stumps of virtually any size. Operators simply drive to the stump, raise the Stump Gun into position, and grind the stump from left to right. The vertical design helps to aid chip containment while also being very effective on odd-shaped stumps and rootballs. "What's nice about the Stump Gun is that it's a very basic design with just a few moving parts, yet it's effective on pretty much any kind of stump," said Smith. "It's high-production with low maintenance, and that's something everyone can appreciate." Maintaining the Stump Gun is as easy as operating it. Two grease points, nine grinding teeth and an end-cap on the shaft are the extent of the maintenance. Keep the Stump Gun greased and monitor the teeth and end-cap for wear—that's it. The powerful hydraulic motor requires no routine maintenance, and the steel grinding shaft is built to easily withstand regular grinding operation. And because the Stump Gun comes from Bandit, it's built with the same durable construction and attention-to-detail people have come to expect from a Bandit product. To learn more about the Stump Gun, contact your local authorized Bandit dealer, or contact Bandit Industries directly at 1-800-952-0178.

Sawmilling

Norwood launches new bandsaw

Apr. 23, 2014 - Norwood Sawmills has announced the addition of a new model, the LumberMan MN26, to its lineup of quality mobile bandsaws. The first major benefit of the LumberMan MN26 for do-it-yourselfers, is that its beefy capacity comes at a relatively pint-sized cost. Equipped with a 420cc Briggs engine, the LumberMan handles logs up to an impressive 26" (65cm) in diameter and mill boards up to 17" (42.5cm) wide. The second big draw is how quick and easy the LumberMan enables owners to mill sizeable piles of high-value lumber every day. Norwood invests heavily in research and development, focusing efforts on technology to cut the time it takes to mill logs into lumber. The MN26 is engineered to mill with faster cycle-times using patented Norwood technology like an auto-locking sawhead and optional auto-lube. The third key feature making the MN26 an ideal partner for hobbyists is its versatility. Typically sawmills in such an affordable price range are limited in capacity and capability. In contrast, the LumberMan MN26's generous 26-inch capacity is just the beginning. "No two jobs are the same," explains Norwood Sawmills President, Ashlynne Dale, "And once you get into sawmilling, you will eventually find you want to do more things with your mill, like transport it places, compensate for log taper or speed up loading and turning. With the LumberMan MN26, there are several attachments you can add any time to do all those things, and more." Norwood's versatile modular attachment system means owners do not feel trapped with a sawmill that cannot grow with their sawmilling needs. "The only regret Norwood owners feel," concludes Dale, "is they didn't get a Norwood sawmill earlier." About Norwood Sawmills Norwood Sawmills has been building premium-quality portable sawmills for over 20 years. Norwood mobile sawmills are hard at work in over 100 countries cutting millions of dollars of valuable lumber, boards and beams. With over 50 patents, more than all other sawmill companies around the world combined, Norwood is the proven global leader in portable sawmill technology.

Cochrane to attract skilled workers

Apr. 21, 2014 – The Ontario government is providing funding through the Rural Economic Development (RED) program to support a number of community projects in northeastern Ontario. One of these programs is to develop a marketing strategy in Cochrane focused on attracting skilled workers. Located an hour and a half from Timmins in Northern Ontario, the town's main industries are tourism and forestry. Tembec has a softwood lumber sawmill and wood chip operation in Cochrane with a 120 employees. For more information on the RED program, go to http://www.northernontariobusiness.com.

Industry news

BC rail shortage improving

Apr. 22, 2014 – Extreme winter weather and the trucker's labour dispute at the Port Metro Vancouver has caused lumber shipments to pile up since January but CN says the railway is gradually catching up with demand. Emily Hamer, a Vancouver-based CN spokeswoman told Finance & Commerce that they're working closely with customer on fleet avaialbility and delivery times to continually improve the service. For more information, go to http://finance-commerce.com/2014/04/cn-says-lumber-rail-shortage-gradually-improving/#ixzz2zIY6OP8L.

Wood Markets predicts Q2 slump

Apr. 21, 2014 - The slide in North American lumber prices is not good news for the industry. However, it was becoming quite predictable from many angles by early March, when a number of severe winter storms had paralyzed much of the country, slowing building activity as well as the flow of wood products to retailers. At the same time, most sawmills continued at near-normal production levels, while lumber inventories continued to rise. Almost in parallel to the U.S. market, the real estate market in China started to cool as bank financing became restricted. The construction bounce in China that normally follows the Chinese New Year in the first half of February did not materialize this year. As a result, offshore log and lumber stocks soared at a time when Chinese demand was flat at best. By the end of March, lumber prices had already started to correct and log prices were just starting to move lower from their record-high levels. (A full report and further details on the outlook for China's log and lumber market is featured in this Wood Market's China Bulletin.) From the beginning of March to the middle of April, North American lumber price declines have been quite drastic for dimension lumber, while studs have (so far) been able to weather the storm. The question on the minds of all in the business is this: how much lower will prices go until the market finds a balance? Everyone remembers how bad the price plunge was in Q2/13, and the current situation also features a combination of supply chain imbalances: delayed housing construction coupled with growing mill stocks and a railcar shortage. The eventual solution last year was sawmill curtailments, and it looks as if the same cure will likely be required this time. There do not appear to be any prospects of a breakout in U.S. housing (although it is always possible), nor does it look as if China can come to the rescue as it sorts through its own inventory mess. If lumber output can be curtailed quickly enough, it may, in combination with rising demand, be enough to minimize any further downside. However, with prices still high enough for most sawmills to achieve reasonable margins, it is less likely that sawmills will curtail in the short-term and more likely they will wait until lumber prices move lower, possibly invoking duties on Canadian lumber. So, here we go again! For the full report from Wood Markets, go to www.woodmarkets.com. The newsletter features lumber, panels and wood products analysis.

Resolute invests in sustainability

Apr. 17, 2014 - Resolute Forest Products released its 2013 Annual Report, which also includes an overview of its 2013 sustainability performance. This is the second year that sustainability performance information has been combined with the company's annual financial disclosure, to demonstrate its commitment to balancing environmental, social and economic priorities throughout its operations. The following is a list of Resolute's investments in 2013.· The Company made key investments at pulp and paper operations in Augusta (Georgia), Baie-Comeau and Saint-Félicien (Quebec), Coosa Pines (Alabama) and Grenada (Mississippi).· Resolute's three investment projects in Northwestern Ontario continued to progress: the construction of a new sawmill at Atikokan; work related to the upgrade and restart of the idled Ignace sawmill; and the building of a wood pellet plant at the company's Thunder Bay sawmill. These initiatives will create some 600 direct and indirect jobs, as well as important economic opportunities for First Nations in the region.· During the year, Resolute completed the ramp-up of four power generation assets, including the $65 million cogeneration facility in Thunder Bay. External sales of power produced by the four power generation assets reduced company costs overall by about $45 million in 2013.· Together, Resolute's asset optimization and mill restructuring efforts reduced the company's operational costs by $42 million compared to 2012.· Consistent with Resolute's diversification strategy, through the 2012 purchase of Fibrek Inc., the company grew its pulp capacity by 70 per cent.· 2013 was the company's best safety year on record. It recorded an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) incident rate of 1.02, which is considered world class.· The company is closing in, ahead of schedule, on the goal set as a member of the WWF Climate Savers program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 65 per cent by 2015, compared to 2000 levels. Resolute's 65 per cent goal is an industry-leading GHG reduction target and represents the equivalent of taking 1.57 million cars off the road.· Resolute is a strong advocate for partnering with First Nations. In fact, in 2013, the company's Opitciwan (Quebec) joint-venture sawmill was awarded the Aboriginal Forest Products Business Leadership Award by the Forest Products Association of Canada and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.· Workforce recruitment and retention is an ongoing priority for the company. Last year alone, Resolute hired over 900 new employees. Resolute is a global leader in the forest products industry with a diverse range of products, including newsprint, specialty papers, market pulp and wood products. The company owns or operates over 40 pulp and paper mills and wood products facilities in Canada, the United States and South Korea, and power generation assets in Canada. With annual revenues of $4.5 billion, Resolute has over 8,500 employees and markets its products in close to 90 countries. The full report can be found online at resolutefp.com.

Swedish imports at 10-year high

Apr. 11, 2014 - The forest industry in Sweden imported about ten per cent of its wood material needs in 2013. Softwood log imports reached a ten-year high, while there has been a decline in the importation of hardwood logs. The major log suppliers to Sweden in 2013 were Latvia, Norway, Estonia and Finland. Sweden is the fourth largest importer of logs in the world, despite having forests that cover almost two-thirds of the country. The import volumes have been growing steadily the past five years, with 2013 imports being almost 60 per cent higher than five years ago. Softwood logs make up all of the increase in imports and 2013 had the highest softwood log import volume over the past ten years. In a contrary development, the importation of hardwood logs in 2013 declined, with import volumes being down about 16 per cent from the previous year. As a matter of fact, imports last year fell to the second lowest level in 15 years, with Latvia reducing shipments the most. During the past few years, between 10-15% of the imported log volume have been sawlogs destined for sawmills in the Southern part of Sweden, of which most have been sourced from Norway. Almost 90% of imported logs in 2013 were pulplogs, evenly split between softwood and hardwood. The two major supplying countries have been Norway (softwood) and Latvia (softwood and hardwood), with other neighbouring countries including Finland, Russia and Estonia following far behind. The total softwood log shipments from Norway to Sweden, including sawlogs and pulpwood, reached just over two million m3 in 2013, up from 1.4 million m3 in 2012 and only 709,000 m3 in 2011. The major reason for this dramatic increase was that the Swedish pulp company Sodra permanently closed its pulpmill in Tofte, Norway last summer. As a consequence, private forest owners in the region have increased their log shipments to pulp mills in central Sweden. This has had an impact on log flows and prices in the local markets in Sweden and there has been no shortage of wood fibre in this part of the country. Imported raw material for the Swedish forest industry is not just a marginal business but quite important for many manufacturers of lumber and pulp. The past two years, imported logs have accounted for about ten per cent of the total log consumption in the country, this was up from 7.5 per cent in 2009.Global pulpwood and timber market reporting is included in the 52-­page quarterly publication Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ). The report, established in 1988 and with subscribers in over 30 countries, tracks sawlog, pulpwood, lumber and pellet prices, trade and market developments in most key regions around the world. To subscribe to the WRQ, please go to www.woodprices.com.

Wood Panels

North American production is expected to jump even further, moving up by 5.5 per cent in the U.S. and 6.5 per cent in Canada. Lumber supercycle to take off

Apr. 9, 2014 - In 2013, slowing softwood lumber consumption in Europe was more than offset by increases in North America, China and Japan. U.S. housing markets advanced further in the first quarter of the year, but then stalled near the 900,000-unit level for more than six months before increasing at the end of 2013. Relative to the derived long-term demand of 1.5 to 1.6 million units, there is still a long way to go (and returning to “normal levels” is expected to take longer due to a number of structural market changes — changes that most economists have not yet captured in their models). After a retrenchment in 2012, Chinese real estate and wood markets improved steadily in 2013 as Chinese buyers began buying again. Facing reduced log exports from Russia, China turned to more countries for its log and lumber imports. Europe’s ongoing economic woes caused wood products demand to slow further, and a recovery could take shape later in 2014. Japan showed remarkable growth due to sustained rebuilding efforts following the tsunami, and also from moves by homebuilders to get new-home starts sold prior to September 30, 2013 (the deadline for the higher consumption tax on new-home purchases to kick in). While the global economy continues to be fragile, a similar upswing in North American lumber prices in Q4/13 into Q1/14 has occurred that is mirroring a trend to the bullish prices achieved in Q4/12 and Q1/13. However, most buyers are wary of a repeat the Q2/13 lumber price crash, and should any crash re-occur, then this could stall prices from moving much higher for some time. In any event, when higher prices are achieved in North America, it will result in upward price movement on lumber and logs in Asia, and could create enhanced export opportunities for both European and Southern Hemisphere exporters.      When higher prices are achieved in North America, it will result in upward price movement on lumber and logs in Asia, and could create enhanced export opportunities for both European and Southern Hemisphere exporters.   Global Demand and SupplyAfter a 3.4 per cent gain in 2012, total global softwood lumber consumption in 2013 is projected to see a more modest gain of 1.8 per cent versus 2012, reaching 290 million m3 (181 billion bf, nominal). The U.S., China and Japan are expected to achieve the highest growth rates in 2013. For 2014, the global outlook is for an improved gain to 300 million m3 (+3.4 per cent). All major regions are expected to show increases in demand, with Japan perhaps being the only exception (as constructions slows somewhat after two strong years of growth). The U.S. and China are projected to see the highest growth rates in 2014, and these two regions could provide a catalyst for rising prices due to the tighter relationship of these markets in international trade. Global softwood production trends should mirror their consumption counterparts in 2013, increasing by 3.1 per cent to 298 million m3 (186 billion bf nominal. For 2014, production is forecast to grow by a similar amount to reach 307 million m3 (+3.0 per cent). A rebound in North American production (to supply the recovering U.S. housing market) will have the largest influence on global production in 2013: a gain of five per cent is forecast. And, in 2014, North American production is expected to jump even further, moving up by 5.5 per cent in the U.S. and 6.5 per cent in Canada. European production should finally get moving in 2014 (a 3.5 per cent increase is forecast) as export markets create further opportunities. Increased exports to markets in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa will absorb the extra volume. North American DemandThe U.S. economy remains somewhat fragile, and recent GDP growth was on the low side for 2013 (1.9 per cent) but Q4/13 grew at an annual rate of 3.7 per cent for the last six months of 2013. The outlook is higher for 2014 at 2.6 per cent. A major downside risk has emerged: the ongoing battle in Congress over budget spending limits has resulted in lower consumer confidence and higher borrowing rates for government. The familiar themes of high unemployment, home foreclosures and “underwater” mortgages have been nearly as prominent in 2013 as in 2012. U.S. housing, the key driver of North American lumber consumption, is now on a slow upward trajectory. New- and existing-home stocks have retreated to historically average levels, prices have stabilized and are rising in many regions, and starts have been growing (albeit from very low levels). Based on increased housing starts, lumber consumption for new U.S. residential construction alone should soar in the next two years. Demand will also grow due to strong gains in repair and remodelling, industrial, and commercial applications. Based on the demand forecast, total U.S. lumber consumption is projected to rise strongly, moving from almost 40 billion bf in 2013 (nominal) to 43 billion bf in 2014 and over 47 billion bf in 2015 — up by about nine per cent each year. Total Canadian demand will also expand, but at a much slower pace (given that Canada’s housing market has already recovered fully from the 2009 recession).      Although limited by tightening timber harvests in the B.C. Interior, Ontario and Quebec, Canadian shipments are also forecast to grow, moving from 24.0 billion bf in 2013 to 25.0 billion bf in 2014 (+4.4 per cent), and then to 25.8 billion bf in 2015 (+3.4 per cent).   North American SupplyNorth American production has recovered by four to five per cent per year in the last two years, and is expected to expand at a similar rate in the next two. Total North American output is projected to be almost 54 billion bf (nominal) in 2013, and is forecast to grow to 56.5 billion bf in 2014 (+5.3 per cent) and 59.5 billion bf in 2015 (+5.3 per cent over 2014). The lion’s share of this increase is likely to come from the U.S.: shipments are projected to grow from almost 30 billion bf in 2013 to 31.6 billion bf in 2014 (+6 per cent) and to almost 34 billion bf by 2015 (+6 per cent from 2013). Although limited by tightening timber harvests in the B.C. Interior, Ontario and Quebec, Canadian shipments are also forecast to grow, moving from 24.0 billion bf in 2013 to 25.0 billion bf in 2014 (+4.4 per cent), and then to 25.8 billion bf in 2015 (+3.4 per cent). The peak year of the timber harvest in the B.C. Interior is expected to be 2015 or perhaps 2016, and then the last round of sawmill closures should start until the end of the decade when most mills will be back to cutting green logs. Chinese consumptionChinese softwood lumber imports continue to grow, and the peak level of 14.9 million m3 achieved in 2011 and this was surpassed in 2013 at nearly 17 million m3. The Chinese market continues to tighten the supply of lumber in North America, allowing lumber exporters from around the world to ship more lumber to China. North American lumber suppliers will need to watch the movement of market prices more closely in China. This is because Chinese buyers have become more aware of softwood resources and products available in other countries/regions worldwide. The Chinese are recognizing other lumber supply options, especially as prices move up in North America (as they did during the 2012/13 spike). The softwood lumber supply world for Chinese importers has become much larger and this will impact softwood lumber suppliers/sources in the future. The days of SPF setting the tone for lumber markets in China should begin to diminish, especially as the U.S. market gets hotter and exports to China diminish. Further details are available in WOOD MARKETS’ monthly China Bulletin and The China Book • Outlook to 2017. Super-Cycle? Maybe!WOOD MARKETS 2014 full five-year lumber forecast to 2018 predicts two distinct price spikes. The first one is anticipated in about two to three years, but will require sustained, strong demand (including an ongoing rebound in U.S. housing starts). A runaway market can only happen when the supply chain can’t keep up with demand and must struggle to keep enough lumber products moving to customers in a timely manner. We have seen this event occur a few times now since the beginning of 2010. With supply steadily ramping up in all regions of North America at a pace of five to six per cent per year, a price spike will require U.S. demand — and especially housing starts — to expand substantially and at a faster rate than production (if tension is to be kept on supply). This could occur if housing starts move toward their long-term sustainable level of 1.5 million units through increases of at least 150,000 to 175,000 starts per year from 928,000 units in 2013. Steady to rising demand should move prices generally higher, and very high prices will attract incremental domestic production (when economically or practically available), as well as imports into the U.S. market. This event is now forecast to occur in 2015 or 2016. At some point, supply will catch up to demand and a price retreat will occur (as it always does). It is highly possible that continued demand growth in the U.S. and Asia, along with an eventual recovery in Europe and key ME-NA markets, as well as the looming restrictions on production from Canada, could combine to create a major supply/demand imbalance. It is still possible for a lumber super-cycle to take place in 2015 or 2016, but it will require steady to strong demand growth in order to occur — something that really hasn’t happened on a sustained basis since the 2009 market bottom. Markets have been volatile, and more extreme volatility is forecast as this next market cycle unfolds. Is it time to fasten your seatbelts? Not yet…but maybe in 2015, and more likely 2016. Extracted from WOOD MARKETS 2014 — The Five-Year North America Lumber & Panel Outlook 2014–2018 - see http://www.woodmarkets.com/p_wmbook.html. Detailed summaries appear in WOOD Markets Monthly International Report.

Belting solution takes the heat

April 7, 2014 - Process and conveyor belting solutions providers Ammeraal Beltech, working with and for the panel board and broader wood processing industry, have created an infeed belt for conti-presses that improves efficiency, is easy to install, and offers an extended service life. The company's ZipLink belt system has progressed from concept to proven global solution in just two years, with installations on every continent.  Greater efficiency, easier installation ZipLink belts are designed to solve a major issue with traditional continuous belts in panel board industry. Normally constructed from PVC or PU, and installed on site with the aid of a welding press, traditional belts withstand only 110ºC, are difficult to splice, and have a short lifetime. The available alternative, an endless woven belt, takes around eight hours to change when necessary, and a team of four to five people. Ammeraal Beltech's ZipLink belts feature a specially designed spiral link made of high quality polyester monofilament with a Silam silicone impregnation. They are continuous and seamless, and the innovative quick splicing method allows the installation of a seamless belt without the need to disassemble the processing machine. They can be installed from start to finish by just two people within two hours. The belt can handle high temp applications above 200ºC. The belt itself remains often cooler and is resistant to 180ºC; and it is designed to handle an 8mm nosebar. If an accident happens on the processing line, ZipLink belts can also be repaired. In all, ZipLink belts' construction delivers real benefits, particularly in terms of increased production time and saved costs. Contact Richard Duijn for further details on Ammeraal Beltech's products for the wood industry at rduijn@ammeraalbeltech.com, or visit the website at www.ammeraalbeltech.com.

Remanufacturing

BC to find new export opportunities

Apr. 16, 2014 – Langley, British Columbia –The Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification announced $1,003,326 in funding to support a project by the BC Wood Specialties Group Association (BCWSGA) that will promote market development in the Americas. "The wood products sector is one of the cornerstones of our economy and providing jobs and opportunities for economic growth. By promoting the quality of locally manufactured wood products in new markets, this project will further enhance the sector's value to our economy," said Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification. The goal of the project is to identify opportunities in western U.S., Mexican, Central and South American markets for value-added wood products, and prepare companies to participate in trade missions and tradeshows in these markets. Establishing a trade presence in markets across the Americas, would enhance the sales of value-added wood products, thereby increasing exports, boosting foreign investment in western Canada, and create jobs. "New regional markets in Western United States, Mexico and Latin America will be the first step towards increased sales and market diversification for many small and medium sized manufacturers of finished wood products in B.C. The next three years will be a time of rapid economic growth in these regions. With this new program and funding provided by WD, BC Wood and B.C.'s value-added wood products manufacturers will be well positioned to take advantage of that growth," said Grant McKinnon, Past Chairman of BC Wood and Partner of Pacific Homes. Quick facts • The value-added wood products sector includes companies that manufacture high-value products such as specialty lumber, millwork, cabinetry, furniture, engineered wood products, prefabricated homes, and log home and timber-frame structures. • Canada has 10 per cent of the world's total forest cover with more than 100 tree species, allowing for the ability to deliver diverse, high-quality wood products. • The BCWSGA is a not-for-profit trade association that was formed in 1989. Its mandate is to assist BC manufacturers of value-added wood products to achieve global competitiveness by providing marketing services to capitalize on new market opportunities.

Building code to boost mid-rise market

Apr. 8, 2014 - An update to the national building code will be coming out in 2015 with new rules for mid-rise wood buildings and it’s bringing excitement to the industry. Under current codes, wood buildings can be no more than four storeys tall but the new rules will allow for six storey wooden structures. Once the national code is updated, it will be easy for the provinces to adopt the new codes. Current regulations require buildings greater than four storeys to be concrete structures and few developers are buildings six storey apartments. Concrete buildings must generally be eight to ten storeys tall in order to be economically viable. But mid-rise construction is the new building trend as the population ages and urban densification plans keep the urban sprawl of single-family homes to a minimum. Wood buildings have a 15 to 20 per cent economic advantage over concrete buildings making them an affordable housing option for mid-rise condominiums and apartment buildings. “This is a huge opportunity for the wood industry,” Marianne Berube told CFI over the phone. She’s the provincial director of the Ontario chapter of Wood Works! an initiative of the Canadian Wood Council to promote the use of wood in non-residential and mid-rise construction. The Canadian Wood Council recently announced new funding from FedNor for the Ontario chapter; their goal is to position wood as an excellent choice and best-value building material for all types of construction. The GTA and the golden horseshoe make up 50 per cent of the construction market in Canada and condominiums are increasingly popular in this region. Increasing the market share for wood products here, and elsewhere in Canada, provides a stable market for Canadian secondary wood products manufacturers that are heavily dependent on the U.S. housing market. “In Ontario, the new building code will change our market share to three times what it is right now,” Berube explained. “That’s why FedNor is keen that we go to the next level and get that implemented.” The topic of mid-rise construction drew a lot of attention at the Montreal Wood Convention in mid-February (see page 39 for details on the convention). Aside from market forecasts and information on exports to the U.S., a fire scientist from FPInnovations, Christian Dagenais, talked about the challenges and opportunities of mid-rise wood buildings. Dagenais drew a large crowd as he described some of the mid-rise buildings that have been successfully built around the country. These buildings were constructed quickly and were a lot less expensive than concrete buildings that require time for the concrete to cure. He also noted the attractive structure of the wood buildings didn’t require interior finishes, saving additional time and money. Now that six storey buildings are essentially a done deal, Dagenais said his team is looking at wood buildings that are greater than 10 storeys. “We’re looking forward to our first high-rise wood building,” he told the crowd. Rather than setting a limit on the size and type of materials used, his goal is to focus on fully performance-based design that will allow for some flexibility. Fire resistance remains a concern though wood buildings pose no greater threat than other forms of construction; the use of sprinklers and one-hour fire resistance is crucial for any mid-rise building. It is important to maintain the integrity and continuity of fire separations making sure all fire-safety rules are followed. Once the codes have been changed, developers and builders will need plenty of training and technical support and this is where associations such as Wood Works! will continue to have an impact on the industry. “There’s a lot of new innovation going on,” says Berube, “there’s a bright future ahead though it’s been so gloomy for the past number of years. But there’s a lot of exciting things happening right now.”

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