The wood industry can expect to benefit from the Province’s Wood First program, according to Minister Pat Bell.
“I think oriented strand board (OSB) is very well positioned to take advantage of this initiative, in fact of any sector it has the most to gain,” said the Minister of Jobs, Tourism, and Innovation.
The Province has invested over $2.3 million in its Wood First program to broaden the use of B.C wood products in commercial, government and mid-rise buildings.
Bell said the aim of the initiative – which began in 2009 – is to diversify the market use of wood-based products and expand its use in high-value projects.
He feels OSB producers in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, and forest industry as whole should benefit from the program. He noted that while the Peace Region plants are just producing panels at the moment, the companies would be able to take advantage of newly developed markets.
Mary Cohn, corporate affairs manager for Louisiana Pacific – operator of the Dawson Creek plant and the Slocan-LP plant in Fort St. John – views any plan that promotes wood use as constructive.
“Obviously anything that builds the market for wood products is going to be good for the region, in particular building preference for wood products in things that are a little more non-traditional, like multi-story buildings, is stepping out in directions that will hopefully be positive.”
“Oriented strand board is an engineered wood product, and engineered wood products are the future of the commercial construction industry,” Bell said.
“I think the next step in the process is producing very high-grade structural engineered building elements that can support heavy stresses, and allow weight loads to be carried over a greater span,” he said adding that the OSB industry is situated to take advantage of this transition.
The 2012-13 Wood First Investment Strategy objectives are to establish a culture of living and building with wood in B.C. and beyond; maximize the use of wood in public and private projects; strengthen B.C.’s capacity to produce high-quality wood based-products and building systems; accelerate adoption of existing and emerging wood-based products and building systems; and position B.C. as a world leader in sustainable and innovative wood-based products and building systems in design, production, and application.
The directives are on the advice of a wide-ranging expert panel of builders, specialists, and industry representatives.
“Under the leadership of the advisory committee, we will see a growing awareness of the benefits of wood use in building, and of the role our innovative industry can play worldwide,” said Bell.
He reiterated that the primary areas of focus will be constructing larger buildings out of wood, promoting wood use in unique applications for higher added value industry, and researching techniques for new innovative uses of various wood products.
He identified new OSB techniques that create higher structural integrity of their panels and allow for different applications and uses.
Bell feels that Wood First could reflect what the government has accomplished in recent years promoting B.C. wood products to China.
“It used to be that less than 5 per cent of our timber sales production was going to China. Today as a result of a concerted effort we’re selling over a third of lumber production into China, so it’s a huge impact on the industry. I think this initiative could have a similar impact.”
The focal point is the commercial market.
“I’m sure that it is less than five per cent of the total volume of lumber consumed is going to the construction industry, I think if properly executed this strategy within eight or ten years could see a much larger volume of wood in commercial construction, and that is all high-value.”
“Is there a market for the product? Or is the product for the market? And that’s what this money is used for is to help develop that market, and the industry follows it when there is a viable market proposition in front of them,” he added. “That’s what we did in China, and that’s we are trying to do here.”
“Our goal is to set an example for North America that the rest of the continent can follow in terms of shifting to a higher degree of commercial construction out of lumber.”
“We want to set the example, and we think that’s appropriate given our stake in the forest industry being such a huge economic driver in B.C.”
He addressed last year’s curtailment of the OSB plant in Dawson Creek saying that Wood First isn’t a quick fix, but views it as a step in the right direction.
“I’m not expecting an instant turnaround in the fortunes of the wood products industry. It will take time but consistent investment and collaboration will get us there and it could look quite different, six, seven or eight years from now.