Spotlight: Poulin Timberworks

On March 12th, 2013, posted in: Client Visits, Industry News by Comments Off

Native Gathering Place
Native Gathering Place

Vernon, BC based Poulin Timber Works Ltd. was incorporated in 2003. The owner, Joe Poulin, having operated a home based business creating wood carvings and manufacturing custom furniture, realized that there was a better market in the construction industry. He attended the Timber Framing Program at the College of The Rockies, with the intention of setting up his own business. After gaining two years of experience working for other log and timber framing companies, PTW went into production and hired its first (external) employee in 2005.

“Initially, 90% of our business was building timber frame accent pieces and small structures,” Poulin said. “In 2006, we landed contracts for three resorts in Vernon; building log Hashi Post decks at The Outback; trellises and pergolas at The Strand Lakeside Resort; and all of the timber frame entries and accents at The Rise. We went from a company of 2 employees, to a company of 8 highly skilled craftsmen. That was as big as we wanted to get! Keeping a low overhead was paramount in the company’s business plan…it helps to keep us competitive.”

After a few years of going ‘flat-out’, the economy changed, and PTW had to either change its strategy, or go down like other log and timber frame companies. Diversification was key and they gained a valuable working relationship with Structurlam Products Ltd. based in Penticton. The BC Government started implementing ‘Infrastructure Projects’ to help bolster the economy, and as heavy timber specialists, PTW fit right into the ‘structural glulam installation’ scope of work.

“Even when glulams were not shipped pre-cut by CNC machines, we had the tools and expertise to cut precise joinery and knew the techniques to raise and fit them. There was certainly a learning curve, especially dealing with steel connectors, rather than traditional wood-to-wood mortise and tenons, secured with oak pegs. We have perfected the process, and are proud to be amongst only a few companies in BC who can legitimately claim it! We have served as consultants throughout BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, and as far away as South Korea.”

PTW is a strong community supporter as Gold Sponsors of the 2005 Sovereign Lake FIS World Cup, the 2008 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship and currently the NONA Child Development Centre in Vernon. Our most fulfilling charitable contribution was to rebuild the roof of a community hospital in Peru after an earthquake destroyed it in 2009.

What makes them unique in their industry is that they have managed to recognize, and diversify with the changes in their economy. “My grandfather taught me that if you’re proud of your work, then put your name on it! That’s why my name is my company and I’m prepared to back it with quality work, performance and recommendations from our clients.”

Current projects include: Prince George new Kin Arena; Northern Lights College Training Tower;   Maple Ridge Pump House; NONA playground shelter; Grizzly Den log stairs & railings.

For more information on Poulin Timber Works, please visit: http://www.poulintimberworks.com/

Pucusana Hosp
Hospital roof in Peru (above picture)

Glulams

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By Scott Buchholz

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This past weekend, Abbotsford was once again home to the 2013 BC Log Home, Timber Frame and Country Living Show. The show exhibited many products and consumer goods, yet none more impressive than what was on display in the BC Wood Pavilion where the Log Home, Timber Frame, and Pre-Fab companies of British Columbia showcased their craftsmanship, innovation, and skill.

Participating members this year included: Artisan Log & Timber Homes, BC Timberframe Co., Big Foot Log Homes, Canadian Timber Frame, Daizen, Hamill Creek Timber Homes, Kettle River Timberworks, Okanagan Timber Frame, Pacific Homes, Sitka Log Homes, and Trout Creek Log Homes.

The LHTF sector stood out among the displays as fully and partially erected log homes towered over the trade event attendees, attracting large crowds and marketing the latest and greatest in timber home joinery, product, and design.

Reports after the 2012 Denver Log Home Show suggested a growing sense that the worst of the 2008 ripple-effects were over and that a general feeling of profitable times were approaching. Fast forward 5 months later to Abbotsford, and it appears as though these sentiments were rightly directed as scores of serious buyers-and less “tire kickers”-lined the event hall to inquire into companies and determine the right builder for them.

A Strong attendance, serious buyers, and quality product added legitimacy to reports of a resilient BC housing sector and a rise in demand from the U.S. This upward trend is a welcomed one.

After speaking with a number of BC Wood Members who participated in the event days after it had finalized, there were reports of sales made, meetings scheduled to go over projects, and a general air of optimism for things to come. It was good to hear of a much busier show than last year, and the word that continues to be passed around is that we are trending towards more black and less red.

For more information, do not hesitate to contact me at sbuchholz@bcwood.com

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US Market Update

On March 12th, 2013, posted in: Architects, BC Wood Activities, BC Wood Members, Industry News, Markets, USA by Comments Off

A few ideas, suggestions, and thoughts that may be of interest to Industry…

Last week, I attended the Wood Solutions Fair in Seattle, Washington and was pleasantly surprised with the number and quality of attendees at this one day event. According to Woodworks staff, over 630 qualified architects, engineers, construction specifiers, and other key influencers in the light commercial construction sector attended the event. Attendees had a chance to participate in seminars that showcased new products and trends in wood frame construction and to meet with exhibitors displaying high quality wood and construction related products. The general consensus from exhibitors and attendees was positive and many architects came to the event armed with construction plans and blueprints. All in all, the Wood Solutions Seattle was a good event for companies looking to increase sales into the non-residential and light commercial construction sector.

I have been working with an architect in the Lake Tahoe market and in our discussions found it interesting how he is using some new software in the design of the multi-million dollar vacation homes that his firm specializes in.   He is using a software program, Innodraw, which utilizes laser technology to provide 3 dimensional, precise measurements of the interior rooms of his projects. These exact measurements are then forwarded to the architectural millwork shop that he works with. They in turn manufacture 95 percent of the product in their shop and are only on the jobsite for the install. The architect believes that considerable time and money is being saved by using this software, and he feels that a number of costly mistakes have been avoided as a result of the millwork supplier adopting the use of the software into the manufacturing process. For more information on the Innoware software, check out their website,  www. Innodraw.com.

Finally, a hearty congratulations to Mr. Doug Auer who has recently been appointed as the new CEO for Viceroy Homes. Doug, as many of you know, worked for BC Wood for a number of years as our in-market representative for the United States. He has a strong knowledge and specialized expertise in the prebuilt housing sector and will use these skills in his new role with Viceroy. We wish Doug all the best in his new endeavor.

As always, for more information on the topics discussed or on market opportunities in the United States, please contact me at dfarley@bcwood.com

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How important is a gasket?

On March 12th, 2013, posted in: Industry News, Log Homes, Product Sectors, Timber Frame by Comments Off

By Dai Ona – Daizen News, March 2013

The photo below shows a thermal image from a blow door test for BCLTBI, superimposed over a shot of the house itself. A blow door test forces air through the house to determine where heat is escaping. The tongue-and-groove decking and, especially, one triangle along the roof are areas of air leakage. Since they are in the upper part of the house, the heat loss is tremendous.

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The air-tight joints with gaskets that we use prove that our joinery is not causing the heat loss. In one spot, where a beam intersects the roof plate via a wood housing, we thought a gasket was not needed. But the photo shows a distinct air leak. What we learned from this test result will change our frame joint details immediately; and with this knowledge, the leak was easy to fix.

More on an air-tight joint.

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Once again BC Wood organized the Canadian Pavilion at the Nikkei Newspaper’s construction industry trade show. This year, seven BC Wood members took part covering a variety of products including log & timberframe homes, kitchen cabinets, WRC, mouldings and flooring, as well engineered wood. Our Canada Wood partner, Canada Tsuga, took space with us as usual. We also included a special display on the Canada-Tohoku Reconstruction Project so that show visitors could see the efforts being made by Canada in helping to rebuild after the March 11th, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

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Having Japan’s most influential newspaper behind the show means that it will always be a well-attended event. The show is only open to industry people and yet attracted 242,353 visitors over four days. This represents a 2.6% increase in attendance over 2012. In total, there were 1,279 exhibitors (for a total of 3,640 booths) representing 13 countries. The show organizers are looking to further build this event by clearly branding it as a “Nikkei Show”. Therefore, from this year, they started using “Nikkei Messe” as the overriding name connecting the various sections such as “Architectural and Construction Materials 2013,” “Japan Shop 2013,” “Lighting Fair 2013,” etc.

Aside from the strong numbers, you could also sense the bullish housing sector in talking with the visitors. While there is a concern of what might happen after next year’s consumption tax increase, many people that I spoke with are now feeling optimistic that the economic recovery will keep housing starts strong past the tax hike. More importantly, participating members reported a good number of business leads and strong sales figures by the end of the show.

During the week, BC Wood also worked with COFI to put on a seminar for the Japanese committee members working on the new CLT JAS code. This is a crucial time in these deliberations as the first draft is expected to be tabled by this spring and the final draft brought into effect by next spring. Therefore, we seized the opportunity to have Colin Chornohus speak to the committee as Structurlam was participating in the Nikkei Show. Colin was able to address their questions about using mixed species such as SPF as well as the types of glue used in Canada and Europe.

All in all, it was a very busy and successful week!

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The 27 Rules of Engagement For Booth Staffers

On March 12th, 2013, posted in: Industry News by Comments Off

The Rules of Engagement tell the military the limitations they must follow in using force.  The Rules of Engagement for Booth Staffers are there to help prevent staffers from limiting their lead counts.

You can’t generate a big pile of trade show leads if you’re not adept at sparking and fanning the flames for many conversations.  So let’s do a deep dive on the start of the interaction that takes place in only a few seconds.

  1. Trade show booth staffers can only engage with attendees when they have their eyes on the aisle.
  2. Booth staffers that talk to each other can’t engage with attendees.
  3. For hyperactive booth staffers (such as most sales people), it is difficult, yet essential that they maintain their focus on aisle traffic through the entire show.
  4. Attendees will walk around a clump of people talking in front of your trade show display, instead of going into it. The bravest thing you can do is to ask your company senior management that is blocking your booth with their conversation to move away from the aisle.
  5. While some staffers can attempt to qualify leads by reading attendees’ badges as they walk down the aisle, that’s only for experts, because it can backfire. People don’t like to be treated as a number. If you are qualifying by the color of their badge, then go ahead, because you can see that from a distance. But if you try to read their company name to prequalify them, they will catch you and be offended. And if you read their name and call them by name, they will perceive you as very cheesy.

Click here to read the entire article

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Winning designs included the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre in Vancouver, and three new buildings at the University of B.C.

Fourteen British Columbia architects, contractors and engineers were honoured Monday night at the B.C. Wood Design Awards for their innovative use of wood that, according to awards organizers, is growing in popularity as the building material of choice for beauty and sustainability.

“We are truly amazed by both the structural and architectural uses of wood; we are seeing innovation beyond anything we could have imagined a decade ago,” said Mary Tracey, executive director of awards sponsor Wood WORKS! and co-MC of the event.

Winning designs included the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre in Vancouver, and three new buildings at the University of B.C. – the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, the Earth Sciences Building, and the Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility.

Twelve awards and two honourable mentions were handed out at gala ceremony attended by 350 people at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Judges recognized green touches, such as a Revelstoke residence built with solid wood panel walls and held together with wooden screws.

It is the ninth year for the awards, which recognize leadership and innovation in wood use.

There were 98 nominations.

“Builders and designers have always embraced wood for its beauty and sustainability, and now with technological advances in wood products, they are recognizing it as a building material that offers them opportunities to create distinctive and expressive projects because of its remarkable versatility, flexibility and cost-effectiveness,” said Tracey

The top honour, the Wood Champion Award, went to Vancouver consulting engineering firm, Equilibrium Consulting, chosen for their work on such projects as City of North Vancouver Civic Centre Renovation and Prince George Airport. Equilibrium co-founder Eric Karsh was also the recipient of the Engineer Award.

Other winners included:

  • Architect Award: Kimberley Smith and Bo Helliwell of Helliwell + Smith Blue Sky Architecture of West Vancouver.
  • Wood Innovation Award: Peter Busby and Jim Huffman of Perkins + Will for VanDusen project.
  • Green Building Award: Peter Busby of Perkins + Will for the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability at UBC.
  • Residential Wood Design: Kimberley Smith, Helliwell + Smith Blue Sky Architecture for Solar Crest, Sidney Island, B.C.
  • Multi-Unit Residential Wood Design: Oliver Lang, Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture Culture for Monad, Vancouver.
  • Commercial Wood Design: McFarland Marceau Architects Ltd. for the Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility, UBC.
  • Interior Beauty Design: Andreas Kaminski, aka architecture + design inc. for the Queen of Peace Monastery, Squamish.
  • Institutional Wood Design, Small: Graham D. Fligg, Merrick Architecture — Borowski Sakumoto Fligg Ltd. for the Klahoose First Nation New Relationship Centre, Cortes Island.
  • Institutional Wood Design, Large: Jana Foit, Perkins + Will for the UBC Earth Sciences Building.
  • Western Red Cedar: Pam Chilton, Zimba Design for The Urban Longhouse, North Vancouver.

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B.C.’s forestry industry has a head start over other regions to make the most of rising lumber prices, say industry experts.

The steady rebound in the U.S housing market has caused softwood lumber prices to follow suit, rising 40% over the past six months, according to data compiled by Natural Resources Canada.

“We’re positioned to make profit now, where [other provinces and U.S. states] won’t make it until they open [mills] up,” Dave Cohen, a forestry professor at UBC, told Business in Vancouver. “We’re in a good competitive position.”

Data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce shows U.S. housing starts are up 23% above last January’s numbers, putting the U.S. market on track to build just under one million houses this year.

It’s a far cry from the 2.1 million starts seen in 2005 before the U.S. housing bubble burst, and the market still has a ways to go before it can be considered stable, said Cohen.

“What they consider steady state is somewhere between 1.5 and 1.8 [million],” he said.

Softwood lumber prices have risen along with rising construction and steadily climbing U.S. home prices. Last week, softwood lumber had risen to around $420 per thousand board feet, up from below $300 six months ago, according to data compiled by Natural Resources Canada.

Click here to read the entire article

 

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Coastal BC swept the 2013 Wood WORKS! BC Wood Design Awards, with projects of the winning architects and structural engineers located in and around Vancouver and the Gulf Islands, including three projects on the UBC campus. See 2013 Winners on YouTube Here

More than 350 distinguished design and building professionals, including architects, engineers, project teams, industry sponsors and guests gathered this evening to honour the nominees and winners of the 2013 Wood WORKS! BC Wood Design Awards. The 9th annual awards evening at the Vancouver Convention Centre (West) recognized leadership and innovation in wood use while being an opportunity to publicly salute and celebrate continued excellence in the building and design community.

There were 98 nominations in 12 categories for the 2013 awards from all over the province, as well as some national and international submissions, including one by a BC architect for a project located in Tajikistan and another in the Yukon. “We are truly amazed by both the structural and architectural uses of wood; we are seeing innovation beyond anything we could have imagined a decade ago,” explained Wood WORKS! BC executive director Mary Tracey.  “Builders and designers have always embraced wood for its beauty and sustainability, and now with technological advances in wood products, they are recognizing it as a building material that offers them opportunities to create distinctive and expressive projects because of its remarkable versatility, flexibility and cost-effectiveness. The project teams are exploring wood’s potential and advancing the science and art of wood design and building which are goals of our awards program.”

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There’s no way North American stud lumber sawmills will be able to keep up with the recovering U.S. housing market, new research being compiled by the International Wood Markets Group shows.

The shortage of studs — boards used to frame walls in residential houses — is expected to lead to record lumber prices and will make construction lumber profitable enough that European sawmills will likely make inroads into North America, where a supercycle is shaping up for commodity lumber, Wood Markets president Russ Taylor said Friday.

Lumber prices today are high, having broken through the $400 US a thousand board feet barrier, but Taylor said this is just the beginning.

“Two or three years out is when we think it is really going to hit,” he said.

U.S. housing starts are expected to more than triple off their 2009 lows between now and 2017, when Taylor said they will hit 1.5 million starts a year. Starts are expected to reach 925,000 to 950,000 this year, indicating the lumber rally still has a long way to go, he said.

While all segments of the lumber industry are expected to benefit with the U.S. recovery, studs are going to be affected the most, Taylor said, because there are limited opportunities to increase production capacity.

Studs are generally made from logs cut to eight-foot lengths and are processed in mills designed to produce only two-by-four or two-by-six dimensions in that length. While a standard dimension lumber sawmill can produce studs, it usually means taking a more valuable piece of lumber and cutting it to the eight-foot length, something that may end up happening as the supercycle — which Taylor said is now underway — leads to supply shortages.

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BC economic snapshot for March 2, 2013

On March 11th, 2013, posted in: Industry News by Comments Off

Private and public-sector organizations in B.C. look like they are going to play it safe this year by holding capital investments level following slow economic growth and subdued corporate profit gains in 2012.

According to Statistics Canada’s annual survey of investment intentions, anticipated current-dollar investment in construction, machinery and equipment across all sectors is about $46.9 billion for 2013. This would mark a 0.9 per cent increase from 2012, but would be one of the weakest gains since 2000 and a far cry from last year’s 6.8 per cent uptick.

B.C.’s expected decline is consistent with the direction of Canadian aggregate intentions, which fell to 1.7 per cent from a gain of more than 7 per cent in 2012, but anticipated growth in B.C. was fourth lowest among Canadian provinces.

While overall intentions are subdued, outlooks differ sharply among industries. Weak commodity prices have weighed sharply on expansionary plans for B.C. resource industries. Investment intentions for 2013 in the mining and oil and gas sector, slumped more than 25 per cent ($2.3 billion) from 2012, while plans in the utilities sector fell 5 per cent ($200 million).

In contrast, capital investment plans surged in manufacturing by nearly $1 billion or 50 per cent, as companies plan to invest heavily in wood products, food and transport-related products. Gains are also expected in transportation and warehousing, which saw a 28 per cent gain ($650 million) in intentions over 2012 levels. Housing is also expected to be a positive driver with residential investment rising 3.6 per cent from 2012.

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By Scott Thompson

BUILDEX Vancouver, one of Canada’s largest tradeshow/conferences, welcomed over 13,000 design, construction, and real estate management professionals on February 13th and 14th to the Vancouver Convention Centre. Over 600 exhibitors and more than 50 educational seminars were presented to the interior design and architecture professions, property and real estate management, and the construction and renovation sectors.

BC Wood coordinated a centralized area for wood products manufacturers with 15 members joining us from the building and finished products sectors including Structurlam, Sitka Log Homes, Pacific Homes, Cedarland, SilvaPanel, Coulson Manufacturing, Woodtone, Masonite, Kettle River Timberworks, BC Timber Frame, Merit Kitchens, Brisco Manufacturing, Big Foot Log Homes, AWMAC, and Wideplank Flooring. Feedback to date has been very positive with respondents citing renewed optimism in demand for wood based building products.

We were very busy during the show as we met with over 40 architects, designers, and contractors; approximately 20 of which we knew and were afforded the opportunity of renewing relationships. The rest were new connections who we will invite to future BC Wood specifier related activities including the popular lunch & learn sessions.

We met with 12 international buyers looking for BC wood products. In each case, we requested they contact us with detail that we can pass on to our members. To date, 3 have done this.

We also met with companies that were both exhibitors and visitors to the show from the value-added wood industry that are not BC Wood members and used the opportunity to promote various association activities.

BC Wood plans to participate in the next Buildex show being held Feb 18th – 19th, 2014. For more information on this event, contact Scott Thompson at 604-882-7100.

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This week I had the opportunity to meet with a very interesting company; Vancouver Urban Timberworks. They specialize in producing products from hard and softwoods. What sets them apart is that their products are made from discarded trees around the local area.

In and around Metro Vancouver, there are hundredsof trees that are coming down for various reasons which could be quite costly for the individual or company to discard. Starting out in their North Vancouver driveway three years ago, Eric and Danny began retrieving these fallen trees free of charge. They then transformed these trees into unique wood products including large slabs, furniture, and other custom products.

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One of their projects included producing a boardroom table made out of reclaimed and salvaged timber from the Squamish Valley in BC. After retrieving the tree, they reclaimed the usable timber, milled it into slabs, transported it in their biodiesel powered trucks, kiln dried it, CNC’d it flat, and finished the table. Click here to watch a quick video on the production of the table.

With the support of their community, they have moved their business out of the driveway and into a retail location that will soon house an exquisite showroom. They are steadily adding and upgrading their equipment and inventory to increase their capacity and meet a high demand.

For more information on Vancouver Urban Timberworks, visit their website: http://vancouverurbantimberworks.com and their facebook page: facebook.com/pages/Vancouver-Urban-Timberworks/245145348849853

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Geo-Traceability: A New Marketing Tool

On February 26th, 2013, posted in: BC Wood Activities, Industry News, Resources by Comments Off

By Scott Buchholz

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This past week saw BC Wood and FPInnovations sponsor a well-received traceability workshop attended by a wide range of industry manufacturers and related Forestry based associations. The workshop broached the subject of the potential role of traceability systems, like ThisForest, as a marketing tool and as an addition or alternative to certification.

With consumers becoming increasingly interested in the origins and supply chains involved in a product, traceability systems are seen as an effective marketing tool, showcasing sustainable business practices and the heart of the company itself.

Traceability represents this missing link between producer and consumer. The fishing and farming industries have already adopted traceability as a viable medium to this extent; it seems the Forestry sector is poised to adopt similar strategies given traceability’s growing popularity, both in industry and consumer demand.

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Why is this good for your business?

Traceability is beneficial to business, big or small, for a number of reasons. International pressures are seeking proof of legal harvesting. For producers, this can be demonstrated through traceability, which tracks the supply chain back to the forest of origin. In addition, a company showcasing responsible business practice has the potential for financial return via an increased referral rate due to improved online presence through participation with ThisForest.

geo-traceability workshop pic3Traceability provides a bridge between company and consumer, whether B2B or B2C. It allows the consumer insight into the forest of origin where the wood was harvested, the story of the people behind the company, and something that can be shared between purchaser, family, and friends.

We all know word-of-mouth is the most effective tool in marketing. Studies show that people are more likely to purchase something that was recommended to them by a friend, than anything else. Traceability equips buyers with the tale behind the product and a more intimate relationship with that which was purchased. This motivates consumers to share the story of their purchase and proposes a greater likelihood of returning customers and referrals.

ThisForest is currently in its initial stages of development with a number of trial companies experiencing overall positive results. The workshop this past week allowed for industry input on this burgeoning field of traceability in combination with online marketing and social media. This mechanism doubles as not only a way of showcasing responsible Forestry practices, but also as an effective marketing strategy that people can relate to and share with their inner circles.

It is digitized word-of-mouth.

For further information please visit www.thisforest.info or contact  Natalie@ecotrust.ca or myself at Sbuchholz@bcwood.com

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The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), with support from the Government of Canada, has launched TheGreenestWorkforce.ca, a resource tool that provides information on the dynamic direction of the industry and career opportunities on offer right across the country.

The industry has also launched a competition to give eight promising students across Canada a paid Green Dream Internship that includes a four month paid summer placement at a forest products company, an iPad Mini and a chance to win $5000.

“The forest products sector is now a future oriented business that is brimming with opportunity.  It is now hiring and offering solid careers for those who care about their future, the environment and their quality of life,” said David Lindsay, President and CEO of FPAC, speaking at PAPTAC’s Annual Paper Week event held in Montreal.

Under Vision2020, FPAC has a set the goal of recruiting at least 60,000 or more workers by 2020 to meet the growing demand for such professions as millwrights, electricians, engineers, sales staff, truck drivers, foresters, chemists and many more.

“Our government’s top priorities are job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity, so it is imperative that we match the skills of Canadians, especially younger workers, with the needs of the employers,” said the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. “Through our partnership with the forestry industry, we are helping young Canadians to receive the skills and training needed to address skills shortages in the forestry sector and prepare them for future careers.”

“We invite Canadians to visit the Greenest Workforce website to see the exciting opportunities now available. We also want to encourage students to consider applying for the internships to receive job training, skills development, and real-world experience within our growing sector,” says Lindsay.

The contest requires students to submit a short video explaining why they would be perfect for a Green Dream Internship. Applicants receiving the most votes for their video attempt will get on a short list for interviews for the paid summer positions.

The contest and voting period starts today and ends March 31, 2013. For more information, visit TheGreenestWorkforce.ca. You can find more information on FPAC’s Vision2020 at: www.fpac.ca/index.php/en/vision2020/

 

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Japanese Housing Market Continues Strong Pace

On February 25th, 2013, posted in: Industry News, Japan by Comments Off

Timberframe house under construction

Timberframe house under construction

The housing starts for 2012 are in and are better than had been anticipated. Last year when the Japan Forest Journal surveyed 15 top home builders, the forecast for the year came in at 870,000. However, with starts rising 10% in December to total 75,944, the housing market for the year finished at an impressive 882,797 units. This was an increase of 5.8% over the previous year and also marked the third straight year of growth after the market began to recover from the Lehman Shock.

Demonstrating the soundness of this recovery, growth across all housing sectors continues to be seen. According to MLIT statistics, custom homes increased by 9.2%, rental units by 11.2%, and spec homes by 9.8%. Looking at the numbers by the type of wood construction method, we see that zairai grew by 6.3% to 31,840, 2×4 by 10.5% to 10,258, and wood pre-fab by 12.9% to 1,454.

Perhaps the best news for the Canadian lumber industry though was the fact that 2×4 starts were up 9.4% on the year to end at 107,487. This number is just shy of the record set in 2008 emphasizing the continuing strength and market penetration of the 2×4 system.

Going forward, high SPF prices and a weaker yen versus the dollar is creating some concerns. However, as all input prices in the Japanese construction industry are under pressure, this is not a problem unique to 2×4. In fact, wages of skilled labourers around Tokyo have jumped by as much as 40% due to the strong housing market combined with reconstruction work in Tohoku. The costs of materials such as concrete are even delaying reconstruction projects as budgets have been stretched.

Despite cost concerns, most of the industry people I have been speaking to since the beginning of the year are predicting a strong 2013. The major push continues to be the planned rise in the consumption tax in 2014, but favourable sentiment is now also being driven by the new Prime Minister’s economic policies. A similar survey of the 15 major builders for 2013 resulted in a projection of 920,000 starts. With the current positive climate in Japan it is quite likely that this forecast will also be easily surpassed.

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Conference Board of Canada outlook puts Vancouver near top of municipal economies

British Columbia’s manufacturing and forestry industries should enjoy respectable growth in 2013, a new report from the Conference Board of Canada suggests. The board’s annual Metropolitan Outlook suggests a revitalization of the province’s shipbuilding industry should commence later this year as Vancouver Shipyard completes $200 million worth of infrastructure upgrades needed to accommodate an $8-billion contract to build seven new vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard. Work on two smaller vessels is expected to begin later this year.

“Right now it will be the construction (sector) that benefits,” board economist Greg Sutherland said in an interview. “Then you will see it more in transportation and manufacturing, once the construction finishes.”

The manufacturing sector will also benefit from a recovery in U.S. housing, the primary market for B.C. lumber. The board expects total manufacturing output to rise 3.6 per cent this year and 2.1 per cent in 2014.

However, within a couple of years, the forest sector will face ongoing supply constraints arising from the ongoing pine beetle infestation, the board warns.

“Supplies of salvageable pine beetle-infested wood will start to run out. This is expected to tip the industry into a downturn as it adjusts to the significant reduction of available timber,” the report said. Sutherland said the sector’s short-term prospects are better than many would expect.

“Housing starts in the U.S. have come back. Sometimes you wouldn’t know it if you watched the news but the data does show that they are building again, significantly, south of the border. So that increases the demand for B.C. lumber. But there is definitely a supply constraint because of the beetle, more in the medium term, but it’s coming.”

Overall, the board expects B.C. to achieve 2.7 per cent real GDP growth this year compared to 1.8 per cent in 2012, and then hold at 2.5 to 2.6 per cent per year through 2016.

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The Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) is taking a closer look at requirements in the 2010 National Building and Fire Codes of Canada that currently limit the height of wood buildings to no more than four storeys. The initiative was undertaken as a result of code change requests from the Province of British Columbia and the Canadian Wood Council asking that the current height limits for combustible construction be increased. Doing so would move the National Model Construction Codes towards harmonization with various code development initiatives and market access policies being established in jurisdictions across the country.

A joint task group encompassing several CCBFC standing committees was established in 2011, led by the Standing Committee on Fire Protection, to review current requirements and make recommendations. Four specific areas were examined: fire protection (building elements); emergency response (fire code requirements); building and plumbing services; and structural and earthquake design.

The task group determined that height and area limits for buildings constructed of combustible materials could safely be increased to six storeys by either introducing new and/or modifying various protective measures. These proposed changes would apply to residential and office-type buildings (Groups C and D occupancies, respectively, in the Codes). They would also include mixed-type occupancies where Group C and D buildings, depending on the top occupancy, may have office, residential, mercantile, assembly, low hazard or storage garage-type occupancies (Group D, C, E, A2, F2, F3 respectively) on the lower levels.

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If you simply set up your trade show booth and collect business cards or scan badges of everybody coming by, you’ll get a lot of leads, but they won’t be very good leads.  Sure, you might get a hot prospect or two, but you’ll burn through a lot of suspects along the way.  Can you afford to spend that time?

Worse yet, you’ll miss those list-building attendees who never even made it to your part of the show floor.

The secret to generating higher-quality leads – as with any form of successful marketing – is to offer a highly relevant message to a highly targeted audience.

That starts with a creative message that compels your target audience to learn more about you.  Ask a provocative question, make a challenging statement or suggest a different reality.  But make sure to let your audience know that you understand their situation and have a solution that solves their problem.  Remember, however, your goal with pre-show marketing is to earn a spot on the attendee’s must-see list. Nothing more.  It’s not the time to share your company’s history, list every feature, share prices or ask for the sale.
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Research to Help Push the Limits of Mass Timber in Canada

On February 25th, 2013, posted in: Industry News by Comments Off

The Large Wood Structures Symposium, held on February 20th at the Vancouver Convention Centre, started with a seminar entitled “Research to Help Push the Limit of Use of Mass Timber in Canada.”

Presented by NewBuildS! Scientific director Dr. Ying Hei Chui, the seminar delved into the many ways research is being implemented to tackle large wood builds.

Chui pointed out that in 1941, the national building code did not allow for wood structures above four storeys. Some European countries based their code on performance and not on arbitrary storey requirements, but Canada’s building code remained fixed on hard limits for wood structures.

Government is conducting a research program via the NRC construction portfolio to study the feasibility of large wood structures. But in the realm of industry-led research, a project to study mid-rise wood buildings is well underway.

FPInnovations has an Advanced Building Systems Program focusing on CLT (heavy timber.) Their program also touches on fire durability and sustainability.

Structures covered by the program include light frame, post and beam, CLT and hybrid.

Planned activities for 2013-2014 include a focus on sustainability, as well as studying building envelopes and creating a set of energy efficient building enclosure design guidelines.

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