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UNBC Wood Innovation Research Lab opens

The UNBC Wood Innovation Research Laboratory, a modern facility geared to building tall, large-scale wood structures, officially opened on Tuesday afternoon, with an announcement of additional funding for equipment by the provincial and federal gover
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The new state-of-the-art UNBC Wood Innovation Research Lab officially opened Tuesday. The wood science and engineering research facility is located in downtown Prince George. Citizen photo by Brent Braaten May 1 2018

The UNBC Wood Innovation Research Laboratory, a modern facility geared to building tall, large-scale wood structures, officially opened on Tuesday afternoon, with an announcement of additional funding for equipment by the provincial and federal governments.

The new research lab will complement UNBC's Wood Innovation and Design Centre next door at George St. and 5th Ave., and includes a wood conditioning and processing room, a 1,070 square-metre lab and classroom space for research and teaching.

Advanced Education, Skills & Training Minister Melanie Mark topped off a day of post-secondary funding announcements in Prince George by announcing a $799,000 grant for state-of-the art tools and equipment. The grant will be provided by the Province's Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology and will be matched by funds from the federal government, resulting in a total investment of $2 million.

"UNBC's wood innovation research lab is one of the most energy efficient buildings in the province and is on track to meeting strict, passive house criteria," Mark said.

Passive house criteria ensures the building requires very little energy for space heating and cooling.

Mark said the facility will allow the province to offer post-secondary students in the region a chance to study at a university that will be leading research in tall wood construction.

"Our government wants wood to be the building material of choice. Supporting innovation and increased use of wood in construction helps keep the forestry industry vibrant and globally competitive," Mark said.

UNBC President Daniel Weeks said the construction for the Wood Innovation Research Lab proceeded at an accelerated space. Funding for the facility was first announced only 20 months ago.

"We quickly pulled together a partnership with the city and the province to put a bid forward for this and to get the funding," Weeks said.

"We are on time, on budget. I know many other projects across Canada, that were funded like this, are probably a little slower than we are. But it just speaks to Prince George. We can get it done here."

Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall said the existing Wood Innovation and Design Centre has attracted the attention of researchers and industry players throughout North America. The WIDC building was the tallest wood building in Canada when it first opened, but it has since been surpassed by the 18 storey Brock Commons student residence at UBC.

"B.C. is recognized across North America as a leader in wood construction and as a result of innovative building codes, which allowed for tall wood construction before any other provinces or states," Hall said.

Hall said the opening of the new lab, as well as funding announcements made earlier in the day for upgrades and new construction at the College of New Caledonia, were a positive sign for students in the north.

"This is a big, big day for education in our community," Hall said.