July 12, 2018 - Building an ultra-energy efficient industrial-style building in a northern climate is no easy task, but the Wood Innovation Research Laboratory (WIRL) stands as proof it can be done.

Home to researchers seeking to discover novel materials and techniques for the next generation of tall wood buildings, the laboratory is itself an engineering marvel. It is a certified Passive House, the first building of its type in North America to exceed the exacting international standard.

“We pulled off something really amazing here,” says UNBC associate professor of engineering Dr. Guido Wimmers. “This building has caught the attention of Passive House researchers around the world because it demonstrates how an industrial structure, constructed with wood, in Northern British Columbia’s cold climate can be a global leader in energy efficiency.”

Certified Passive House buildings use up to 90 per cent less energy for heating and cooling when compared with standard buildings and use up to 70 per cent less energy overall.

As the building owner, UNBC provided in-house expertise on the Passive House requirement and shared ideas on how to develop design and building solutions with the architectural, engineering and construction teams. Wimmers, and others in the Master of Engineering in Integrated Wood Design program, worked closely with the contractors throughout the design and construction phase of the project.

“At UNBC, we have a lot of expertise in building science, the materials the go into Passive House buildings and how we operate our buildings,” says UNBC assistant director of facilities Dr. David Claus. “We’ve been able to put that all into practice on this project.”

That expertise, combined with the dedication to detail from all the project partners, resulted in impressive results.

WIRL set a new standard for air tightness, securing the best North American result of any building using the internationally recognized passive house standard. The testing protocol involves both pressurizing and depressurizing the building and measuring the number of air changes per hour that result. With a score of 0.07, WIRL surpassed the Passive House requirement by nearly a factor of 10.

The result is all the more impressive given the design requirements of the building. With a large bay door installed to facilitate the delivery of materials and a state-of-the-art dust extraction system required, there is a lot of potential for air leakage.

“The biggest challenge was the large overhead door,” Wimmers explains. “It is very difficult to find a manufacturer who can deliver a well-insulated and air-tight product.”

The big red door was sourced from Germany and the other doors and windows hail from Poland. European parts were required for those aspects of the building because Passive House manufacturing is still in its early stages in Canada.

Other components of the building were locally sourced, including the trusses used vertically in the design of the thick exterior walls.

“Using trusses as a vertical component is something unique,” Wimmers says. “I have been working in Passive Houses for more than 15 years and I have not seen any kind of technical system like this before.”

The 50-cm wide walls are rated R-80 and contain blown in mineral wool insulation. The roof is rated R-100 and required special certification from the Roofing Contractors Association of British Columba. Even the floor sits atop 20 cm of expanded polystyrene insulation.

“The entire envelope needs to be really well insulated,” Wimmers explains. “Everything has to be nicely wrapped with a warm blanket.”

Even with the air-tight design and extra insulation, the building also needs to be breathable so that any moisture that may accumulate is not trapped inside.  

Wimmers and Master of Engineering program graduate Stephanie Wall produced a comparative life-cycle assessment, looking at the wood-based Passive House design of WIRL and comparing it a wood structure, built to standard building code requirements; a steel structure designed to be a Passive House; and a steel structure built to code.

The wood designs contained much less embodied energy — or energy consumed during the production of building materials and the construction itself — compared with the steel buildings. The Passive House buildings use much less energy operationally, and the wood-Passive House design scored the best overall.

“A Passive house building outperforms a code building substantially in the long run,” Wimmers says. “It’s about a third of the environmental impact compared to a code building over 60 years.”

To further reduce WIRL’s carbon footprint, the University has signed a biogas contract. By using gas recovered from agricultural facilities and landfills, UNBC is able to lessen its reliance on fossil fuels.

The Passive House design, combined with the biogas fuel, means the building is expected to produce one per cent of greenhouse gas emissions compared with a conventional building.

There’s one more benefit to the Passive House that cannot be quantified.

“In Passive House we often talk all about the low energy use,” says Claus. “But because of the ventilation systems, they are also very comfortable to live in.”

Learn more about the Wood Innovation Research Lab through the Project Overview produced by naturally:wood.



This article was originally published by the University of Northern British Columbia. 
June 5, 2018 - Freres Lumber’s new $32-million mass plywood panel (MPP) plant in Lyons, Ore., is breaking new ground as it seeks opportunity in the growing mass timber component building movement and market. In doing so, the 20-year panel producer and 59-year veneer supplier is taking advantage of its longtime strengths while moving in a bold new direction.
May 8, 2018 - The University of Toronto is set to build a 14-storey academic tower made of timber on its downtown Toronto campus – expected to be the tallest mass timber and concrete hybrid building in North America.
April 27, 2018 - U.K.-based marketing and consulting firm IndexBox has published a new report called "World: Wood-Based Panels - Market Report. Analysis And Forecast To 2025".

Canadian Forest Industries has published key findings of the report below.

Global market of wood-based panels softened its growth
In 2016, the wood-based panels market grew to 408M cubic meters. After a slight reduction from 2008 to 2009, the market grew steadily through to 2016, however, the pace of growth decelerated over the last three years. In wholesale prices, the market accounted to $162B. In value terms, the market showed a more pronounced dynamics — it contracted by 15 per cent in 2009 and then recovered over the next two years with further upward trend. However, in 2015, the market dropped slightly and retained this level in the next year.

Plywood (155M cubic meters), particle board and OSB (119M cubic meters) and MDF/HDF (97M cubic meters) were the most consumed product categories, together making up 91 per cent of global consumption in 2016. Consumption of veneer sheets (4 per cent), hardboard (3 per cent) and other fibreboard (2 per cent) held small shares in the market.

The wood-based panels market is to reach 467M cubic meters by 2025
The shifting of potential market opportunities from developed countries to developing ones has been one of the main global trends in the wood based panel market over the last few years. While the economically mature markets of the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe are expected to have a modest pace of housing starts, the fastest growing Asian countries such as China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam are expected to continue growth due to rising urbanization and disposable incomes. The other emerging economies, such as Russia, Brazil, and Eastern Europe appear to have potential of growth, but it is restrained by lack of investments and the shrinking of consumer spending due to an economy slowdown.

The world economy is expected to experience fundamental changes, supported by decreasing oil prices, the slowdown of Chinese economy, and the deceleration of the world trade. However, the demand from downstream industries in largest consumer countries is forecast to remain positive, backed up by wide product use, increasing regional integration, and positive conditions for wood-based panel manufacturing. The Asia-Pacific region will remain a key growing market. Despite the slowing pace of construction in China, the expansion of China's economy continues to be significant, similarly to other rapidly-growing countries in the region (including Indonesia and Malaysia). The U.S. is also an important market, with a steady expansion in construction, combined with the stable levels of employment and the rising incomes, leading to an increasing demand for wood-based panels. In general, the global wood-based panel market is expected to continue to grow by +1.5 annually in the medium term which will lead the market size to 467M cubic meters by the end of 2025.

Wood-based panels output grew by 45 per cent from the outset level
Production of wood-based panels reached 410M cubic meters in 2016, with an upward trend over the last seven years. This resulted into an increase of +45 per cent from the outset level. In 2010, global wood-based panels overcame the pre-recession production level of 2007. In value terms, the production flattened at $161B in 2016 after a 7 per cent drop recorded in the previous year; prior to that it increased robustly from 2010-2014.

China was a major producer of wood-based panels
China was the key world wood-based panels producing country with an output of about 204M thousand cubic meters in 2016, which accounted approx. for a half of total global output. The other major producers were the U.S. (eight per cent), Russia (four per cent), Canada (three per cent), Germany (three per cent), Brazil (three per cent), Poland (two per cent) and Turkey (two per cent).

In China, production levels increased by +10.4 per cent annually from 2007 to 2016, largely attributed to favorable economic conditions and growth of construction market. The other major producing countries showed mixed dynamics of wood-based panels output in physical terms. In 2007-2016 annual growth rates were especially high in Turkey (+6.5 per cent) and Russia (+4.1 per cent). Germany (-3.7 per cent), Canada (-2.1 per cent) and the U.S. (-1.1 per cent) were major producing countries with an annual decline of wood-based panels output.

Approx. 21 per cent of wood-based panels consumption is imported
Wood-based panels is a widely traded commodity. The share of imports in global consumption stood at 21 per cent in 2016. Despite the fact that the share of imports decreased noticably by seven percentage points over the last nine years, the market is still highly dependent on imports. High trade intensity is determined mainly by the substantial distances between the main centers of wood-based panels manufacturing countries and key consuming countries.

Particle board, plywood and MDF together made the vast majority of world exports
Particle board and OSB (29.9M cubic meters) and plywood (29.5M cubic meters) constituted the largest product categories in terms of exports, each comprising 34 per cent of the total exports in 2016. Exports of these products recorded a slight growth in volumes from 2007-2016: the average annual growth rates stood at +0.8 per cent and +1.0 per cent, respectively. MDF/HDF lagged somewhat behind, accounting for a 19 per cent share of total exports and expanding with a CAGR of +1.8 per cent over the same period.

China and Canada are the leading suppliers of wood-based panels to global market
In 2016, the volume of global wood-based panels exports totalled 87.5M cubic meters, expanding robustly from the bottom point of 2009. In 2013, exports recovered from a slump caused by global financial crisis of 2008-2009 and then continued to increase gradually. In value terms, it fluctuated near $34B from 2011 to 2016.

China (14.8M cubic meters in 2016) and Canada (8.4M cubic meters) were the main global suppliers of wood-based panels with a combined share of 27 per cent of global exports. Germany, with the share of seven per cent, Malaysia (six per cent), Russia (six per cent), Thailand (five per cent) and France (four per cent) were the other major exporters. From 2007 to 2016, Russia (+9.4 per cent per year) emerged as the fastest growing supplier among the major exporters, followed by Thailand (+4.9 per cent per year) and China (+3.3 per cent per year). Meanwhile, exports from Canada reduced by -1.5 per cent per year over the same period.

The U.S. continues to lead the globe in terms of imports of wood-based panels
The volume of global imports totalled 85.2M thousand cubic meters in 2016. In terms of dynamics, imports were generally in line with exports: these trade flows globally complement each other. In value terms, the total imports stood at $34.9B in 2016, this figure remained relatively stable over the last four years.

In 2016, the U.S. (12.9M cubic meters), Germany (5.6M cubic meters), Japan (4.2M cubic meters), China (3.5M cubic meters), Canada (3.4M cubic meters), the UK (3.4M cubic meters) and Italy (2.7M cubic meters) were the leading destinations of wood-based panels imports, together making up 42 per cent of the global imports. Among the major importing countries China (+1.3 per cent per year) gained the highest annual growth rates from 2007 to 2016. Despite a rapid acceleration in 2014-2016, the U.S. imports of wood-based panels still need to grow a bit more to regain its outset level. By contrast, Japan and the U.K. recorded a slight decrease with regard to imports, which contracted by -2.0 per cent per year and -1.1 per cent per year, respectively, from 2007-2016. In the other countries, imports remained relatively stable throughout the analyzed period.



The full report can be accessed here.
April 25, 2018 - Approval has been granted for Vancouver Island's first mass-timber building to be constructed. The location is in Esquimalt, B.C., which is at the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

“This is an innovative project that is going to serve to really bring focus to Esquimalt as a municipality that does innovative and exciting things,” project manager Troy Grant told Victoria News.

Upon completion, the 12-storey, 83-unit building will weigh only 25 per cent of a similarly sized concrete and steel building.

Read the full article here.
April 25, 2018 - Ontario is investing $7.8 million in research, education and construction of tall wood buildings so more wood products can be used in new homes and taller buildings through the new Mass Timber Program.

The use of wood in infrastructure can help address climate change by storing carbon in buildings and by avoiding greenhouse gas pollution associated with other carbon-intensive materials.

“Ontario’s Mass Timber Program will help make us a world leader in innovative new wood products and tall wood frame building construction,” Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Nathalie Des Rosiers. “Our government is committed to moving beyond six-storey structures and through our new centre for innovation, and partnerships with educational institutions here in Ontario, we know we can build a future that is environmentally friendly, innovative and safe.”

Ontario's Mass Timber Program has been developed to promote the use of wood in taller buildings by:

  • Providing funding for research and development of innovative wood products, undertaken by academic and private research organizations, to support potential wood-related changes to the Building Code and other standards 
  • Funding post-secondary education institutions to provide skills development and technical training and to create tools relating to using wood in construction
  • Supporting the establishment of a tall wood research institute in Ontario, in partnership with researchers, universities, and colleges
  • Demonstrating the successful use of mass timber in design, construction, and the fire safety of taller wooden buildings (seven storeys and higher) including four tall wood demonstration projects.
“In 2012 I introduced a Private Member’s Bill to allow for six-storey wood frame construction in Ontario, and this was adopted into the Building Code in 2015,” said Bill Mauro, Minister of Municipal Affairs. “The expanded use of this sustainable resource in the construction industry is important for northern Ontario’s economy, and compliments the work my ministry is doing on how we can allow for tall wood buildings higher than six storeys to be built in the province.”

In 2015, Ontario made changes to its Building Code related to the use of wood-frame construction in mid-rise construction of up to six storeys. Numerous projects have been designed and built to these new Building Code requirements and more are coming.

In addition to environmental benefits, mass timber structures will have lower building costs due to quicker construction times, while maintaining fire safety standards.
April 10, 2018 - A 12-storey building inherently different than any other in the city will soon rise on Toronto’s eastern waterfront.
March 23, 2018 - On the picturesque shores of Vancouver Island, in the city limits of Nanaimo, B.C., a veneer and roundwood facility has been efficiently turning 100 per cent Douglas fir into quality veneer sheets since 1988.
March 15, 2018 - Norbord Inc. announced today that a shortage of wood will cause it to temporarily suspend production at its oriented strand board (OSB) mill in 100 Mile House, British Columbia.  Norbord currently expects the suspension to commence on or about May 14, 2018 and to continue for approximately one month.

The significant wildfires that the province of British Columbia experienced in the summer of 2017 seriously damaged logging areas surrounding the 100 Mile House mill.  Further, the severe weather conditions this winter have limited loggers' ability to access the forests during the months when the mill typically builds its annual log inventory. Combined, these extraordinary circumstances have impacted Norbord's ability to secure a sufficient wood supply to operate the mill on a continuous basis during this one-month period.

Norbord will continue to supply its customers with production from its other OSB mills and the 100 Mile House mill will continue to receive log deliveries during this period. The Company currently estimates that the curtailment will negatively impact its second quarter 2018 financial results by approximately US$5 million.

The 100 Mile House mill has a stated annual production capacity of 440 million square feet (3/8-inch basis).
Jan. 16, 2018 - CFI takes you inside Coastland Wood Industries' veneer and roundwood mill in Nanaimo, B.C., where they process 100 per cent Coastal Douglas fir.
Jan. 5, 2018 - Terrace House, the highly anticipated development by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban, with its highest point sitting at 232 feet above ground level, has received official approval to use exposed mass timber in the top seven storeys of this 19-storey building.  

The issuance of the Building Permit required approval of an “Alternative Solution” to demonstrate compliance with Vancouver’s Building Code, thereby allowing the use of mass timber in the construction of a high-rise building.  

This approval from the Chief Building Official’s Office is significant as Terrace House is the tallest hybrid wood structure approved for construction in North America.

“As an engineer, it is imperative not only that I trust my own work, but that my work receives rigorous review and confirmation by others, including peer reviewers and competent authorities having jurisdiction, such as the City of Vancouver,” said Andrew Harmsworth, lead fire engineer and building code consultant from GHL Consultants Ltd.

Prior to the official approval of Terrace House, the use of exposed mass timber in a hybrid wood structure of this height had never been permitted in either Canada or the United States.

While there has been much discussion of the environmental benefits of tall mass timber buildings, few exceeding 6-storeys have been permitted or constructed.

The recently completed Brock Commons, an 18-storey student residence at the University of British Columbia, was permitted only as an exception to the B.C. Building Code and the acceptance was based in part on covering all the timber with fire-rated gypsum wallboard.

The approval is a milestone for Terrace House and the City of Vancouver. It was achieved through a process of performance-based fire and structural engineering tests supported by analysis of fire risks including risk of fire after earthquake.

Tests demonstrated to the City and the expert peer reviewers that this hybrid mass timber building is as safe, if not safer, than a conventional concrete or steel high-rise. 

The approval is a major step forward in Vancouver's goal of being the Greenest City in Canada. Wood is a sustainable and versatile building material that stores, rather than emits, carbon dioxide for the life of the structure and beyond.

The environmental and performance benefits of wood construction include reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced embodied energy, renewable benefits, and direct occupant and builder health benefits. For Shigeru Ban Architects, wood is valued for many of these reasons, and particularly for its economy, tactile qualities and performance attributes.

Terrace House has advanced tall wood construction in Canada through its use of exposed mass timber not only as a structural, environmentally sustainable element, but also as an integral interior finish within a residential market high-rise.
Dec. 5, 2017 - An intense orange light frequently glows in Quebec’s Northern Lac Saint-Jean skies – a sign of industrial development. But unlike the forestry or aluminum development the region is used to, this time the glow is all about cucumbers.
Oct. 24, 2017 - Henco Viljoen, co-owner of Timbersoft in South Africa, is passionate about timber drying. He inherited this passion from his father, mentor, and co-partner, Johan Viljoen. Together they have developed customized drying systems for fine tuning, improving, and upgrading kilns.

The result? Their client sawmills in South Africa are now generating greater productivity, higher quality products, and increased profits.

“Our main business is optimizing the drying process,” says the younger Viljoen, who works from Sedgefield in the Garden Route section of the Western Cape.

“Our strong suit is my father’s 50+ years hands-on knowledge, not only of drying, but the sawmilling industry as a whole, and my 20-year wood technology/IT automation background.”

When Johan retired from milling in 2005, he decided to use his hands-on approach in helping other mills to improve their kiln drying. But he quickly discovered a problem – mills were now very technology driven, using computers, PLC and SCADA interfaces. He soon realized that processes happen behind the scenes in software code that he had no control over.

This is where Henco got involved. With his IT knowledge, the Viljoens installed their first PLC/SCADA based kiln controller in late 2005. Installations and upgrades followed at regular intervals. The client base grew, and by 2013 Henco joined Timbersoft on a full-time basis after a career in IT and automation.

In 2013, Henco started a small research project where he combined solar and heat pump technologies with their PLC and SCADA system to dry hardwoods “smokeless without a boiler.” The kiln dried Eucalyptus boards, which normally dry in four weeks, dried in less than two weeks.

This technology opened up many more advancements, including the development of smoke/boiler free drying and ISPM15 heat treatment systems.

“It also allowed me to make an in-depth study of the drying process, dynamics, and controls, enabling me to really improve our drying system by leaps and bounds. We used Johan’s vent cycle approach and developed a dynamic, self-adjusting schedule.

“Although not yet 100% foolproof, we are very close. The system keeps improving. The goal is to leave the operator with only a start button…the program does the rest and stops at target moisture content (MC%). The operator won’t have to make any decisions,” Viljoen remarks.

Since Henco joined the company full time, the business has grown by more than 300 percent and is still growing. Kilns running their system are currently drying about 300,000 cubic meters annually and are expected to increase to 400,000 cubic meters by the end of 2017.

Measuring Moisture
Moisture measurement is an integral link in the drying management chain -- and forms part of Timbersoft’s Process control. For that very important reason, Timbersoft relies upon moisture measurement.

Viljoen says a moisture meter in the hands of a kiln operator is like a calculator or Excel spreadsheet in the hands of an accountant. Neither can go without it.

Viljoen personally uses a Wagner L606 handheld meter to measure moisture in the kilns because of its speed, accuracy, dependability, consistency, and ease of use. Many of his clients use Wagner’s MMC220, L612 and L622 models, and the L722 stack probe for exactly these reasons.

“The Wagner brand is very big in South Africa sawmilling with good reason. If you think capacitance moisture meter, Wagner is the first name that comes to mind. Even in student literature used by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Wood Technology course, the Wagner is used as an example of a capacitance meter,” Viljoen says.

“You don’t hear of a Wagner meter that just stopped working,” he adds.

While in-kiln moisture meters are important in achieving excellent results, Viljoen believes that MC alone should not be used as the only guide to where the schedule should be. However, for stopping at a desired final MC, it cannot be beaten.

“The way the moisture evaporation rate in the timber reacts to a set point should be taken into consideration. This can be seen by observing how your vents react to a set point, but only when preparation, process control, and maintenance remain constant.

“If you have the in-kiln moisture measuring facility AND you know how to interpret all the information your kiln controller is giving you, then you are on the road to becoming the best kiln operator a boss could ask for,” Viljoen declares.


High-Tech Advisory
Because the Viljoen team is highly knowledgeable about using technology to dry timber, Timbersoft has achieved exceptional success. However, he cautions that operators who do not know how to interpret the information provided by high-tech systems can block improvements.

“A kiln operator should be more skilled than just able to see the dry bulb is running low (call the boiler room), or the wet bulb is running high (fix water issue/check probe), or the in-kiln target MC% is reached (pull the timber),” he declares.

The new high-tech systems have made kiln drying more graphic, and for a good operator with a clear understanding of these systems, it should be considerably easier. But for operators who lack this understanding, Viljoen says the ease of changing multiple variables can and has been catastrophic.

“Kiln operators who use high-tech systems should never make more changes to a schedule than what they can accurately identify the outcome of,” he remarks.

“Make a study of your kiln controller. Don’t just accept everything it presents you with. Try to figure out the logic it’s applying. More often than not, the programmer has no idea what kiln drying is about. The same applies to the kiln expert – he/she often has very little idea what programming is about. The operator needs to ask questions because the more he knows and understands, the more he’ll realize how little he knew when he started,” he adds.

Kiln Drying Management
Viljoen says there are five points of drying management. If one of the first three changes, then the schedule optimization is affected.

The first three points include preparation, process control, and maintenance. Preparation involves sawing accuracy, board dimension, and stacking procedures. Process Control involves airflow, energy distribution and management, humidity control, and venting. While maintenance involves electrical, mechanical, instrumentation, and structure.

“When any of those three changes, it affects the dynamics of the kiln. This affects the rate at which moisture leaves the timber – meaning that the MC is not yet where it’s supposed to be at that stage in drying.

“A MC-based schedule is more forgiving, as it is supposed to only progress to the next stage of drying when a certain MC is reached. A standard time-based schedule, however, won’t know what to do. This is why it’s of utmost importance that a kiln operator spots these abnormalities on the process graph and have the authority to stop the kiln and have it fixed,” Viljoen says.

Achieving Higher Profitability
Quality control is essential for production yield and profitability. And one of the key factors in a good quality control program is moisture management.

Inaccurate readings can lead to delays, low yields, and poor grade inspections. That’s why Timbersoft considers kiln moisture monitoring, using the Wagner moisture meters, to be part of their overall success.

Timbersoft has many successful client case studies as proof of its customized approach to kiln moisture management. Learn more at www.tskilns.co.za. And, learn more about Wagner’s wood moisture measurement solutions at https://www.wagnermeters.com



Tony Morgan is a senior technician for Wagner Meters, where he serves on a team for product testing, development, and also customer service and training for moisture measurement products. Along with 19 years field experience for a number of electronics companies, Tony holds a B.A. in Management and his AAS in Electronics Technology. Call Wagner Meters today at (800) 634-9961 and ask for Tony, or visit www.wagnermeters.com.
Oct. 24, 2017 - Nestled in between the forests of Kenora, Ont. is Weyerhaeuser’s Kenora TimberStrand, a 10.5-acre engineered wood products facility that resides on a 65-hectare site. This plant is the base of operations for the production of the company’s TimberStrand Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL) products, which include wall framing, rimboard, concrete forms, columns and headers and beams.
Oct. 11, 2017 - Do you remember the last time you ate a popsicle? There is a good chance that you were holding on to your icy treat with a wooden stick produced by Quebec company John Lewis Industries. John Lewis provides the vast majority of popsicle sticks to food companies throughout North America.
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