Wood first should be no-brainer for Port Alberni

Posted by Rumin Mann
July 22nd, 2010

Perhaps it sounds so obvious we shouldn’t even need to discuss it.

Here in a region still dominated by the forest industry, our city has made the decision to institute an official policy calling for the maximum use of wood in all new city-funded buildings.

At first blush, one may think, “Don’t we do that already?” But a quick mental inventory of civic structures reminds one that our institutional architecture is very much in line with the mainstream; that is, with steel and concrete predominating.

ow the province is trying to buck that trend with its new Use of Wood Act, and the development and certification of six-story woodframe structures for housing. Mainly, they’re trying to export that concept to develop an international appetite for our wood products, particularly our kiln-dried, seismic-certified hemlock from Alberni Pacific Division. Much of that product line has been sold to Japan in market-specific dimensions. For APD workers, the Japanese designations roll off the tongue with frequent practice.

Now, Forest Minister Pat Bell has set his sights on making meaningful inroads in the Chinese market. Meaningful in that, while we currently ship a lot of volume to this burgeoning new market, there’s not a lot of markup. We’ve sent a lot of low-value beetle-kill wood and a lot of loss-leaders to encourage a culture of woodframe construction in key Chinese cities like Shanghai. We’d like to make some real money at it eventually.

The stakes are huge. The Chinese plan to build billions of dollars worth of new housing over the next decade or so, as the population increasingly shifts from the rural to the urban areas. Bell, for one, wants them to think about wood: B.C. wood.

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