N.B. hosting forest products conference
February 23, 2016 - Innovation in wood products design and manufacturing is reaching a rapid pace and it is critical that Atlantic Canada’s forest and wood product industries keep abreast of these trends. The tallest wood building in the world currently stands at 14 storeys. New construction technologies and engineered wood products have the potential to push the height limit of wood buildings to an even higher level.
By Andrew Macklin
At the same time, some fundamental changes may be occurring in the US housing sector, which is the Canadian wood products industry’s largest market. “As Baby Boomers exit the market and the Millennial generation enters, demand is shifting toward smaller, simpler, more affordable homes—but with a twist. To cap it off, US builders are already seriously short of skilled labor even with single-family home starts running 25 per cent below their long-term average” says one industry expert.
This has important implications for mid-rise, multi-family residential construction.
On March 1 and 2, the UNB Wood Science and Technology Centre will hold a conference entitled Looking Ahead: Opportunities in Value-Added Wood. The conference will be held at the Moncton Coliseum and will feature an impressive line-up of guest speakers including Robert K. Irving, Co-Chief Executive Officer of J. D. Irving, Limited who will be the keynote speaker for the luncheon on March 1.
“Our business depends on the long-term health of the forest, and maximizing the value of each tree through our vertical integration is a long-standing strategy of J.D. Irving, Limited,” said Mr. Irving. Using the example of consumer tissue products to illustrate the concept of adding value from “seed to shelf,” Mr. Irving’s presentation will focus on keys to business success, building the economy of tomorrow, and opportunities and challenges in doing business in Canada and the United States.
The Government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, along with the Province of New Brunswick is providing financial support for the conference.
Host of the conference will be Y. H. Chui, PhD, P. Eng., Director of the UNB Wood Science and Technology Centre and holder of the New Brunswick Innovation Research Chair in Advanced Wood Products. “The current generation of mass timber products has enabled wood to be considered as a main stream building material in mass construction, including tall buildings and institutional structures” said Dr. Chui, whose presentation will focus on applications of these products in mass construction and mid-rise buildings, with an emphasis on business opportunities for Atlantic Canada’s wood industry.
“New Brunswick’s economy is closely tied to our natural resources, with 80% of our land mass covered in a rich forest tapestry” said Meaghan Seagrave, Executive Director at BioNB, a partner of the conference. “We have the industry and technology assets to transform this resource into high value products bound for international markets. The UNB Wood Science and Technology Centre is a powerful research asset for the wood products industry and the province, and this conference is a fresh step toward fostering the growth of the region’s wood technology cluster.”
Greg Brooks of Louisville, KY will also be a guest speaker. Brooks, a consultant and author, is President of the Building Supply Channel, editor of LBM Executive, and a Steering Committee member of the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies. “In the wake of the worst economic crisis in nearly a century, the U.S. housing industry faces a unique dilemma. Historically, severe and extended housing downturns nearly always trigger significant changes in construction practices … Chances are this time will be no different …” says Brooks, whose presentation will explore how the US housing industry is evolving in the wake of the Great Recession, and discuss how wood and building product distribution channels in the U.S. and Canada are responding to those changes.
Another guest speaker is Phillip Bibeau, Executive Director of the Wood Products Manufacturers Association, headquartered in Boston and representing some 300 wood product manufacturing companies in 37 states. Bibeau has seen many changes in the US over the past 20 years, and his presentation will examine the rationale behind these changes, how they affect small and mid-size wood product manufacturers in the US, and the opportunities they present to suppliers in Atlantic Canada.
Registration fee for the conference is $125+HST, which includes conference admission and admission to the Atlantic Building Supply Dealers Association annual show being held concurrently at the Moncton Coliseum. For more information see www.woodtechnologynetwork.com or call 506-451-6987.