UNBC gets tall wood research chair

The University of Northern British Columbia now has a research chair who will focus on engineering tall wood and hybrid structures.

Thomas Tannert was introduced to dignitaries and local media during an event Monday afternoon at the Wood Innovation and Design Centre.

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Previously the associate chair in wood building and design construction at the University of British Columbia, where he earned a doctorate, Tannert moved to Canada from Germany in 2003.

He said he was drawn to B.C. by its commitment to design, manufacturing and construction involving wood.

The sector is not only important to the province economically but to the world as a whole because of the looming climate crisis, Tannert said. The building industry is responsible for at least a third of the world's carbon emissions, solid waste production and energy consumption, he noted.

"Increasing the amount of wood we use in buildings will contribute to solving one of the most imminent and biggest challenges we face," Tannert said.

Tannert will establish an interdisciplinary research program at UNBC, aided by a $2.25-million commitment from the provincial government's Leading Edge Endowment Fund, which is distributed through the B.C. Innovation Council, a provincial Crown agency.

As a trained structural engineer, Tannert said he will focus on the structural aspects of building tall buildings with wood. But while fire safety and structure usually first come to mind when most people think of tall wood buildings, Tannert said building physics, acoustic separation and thermal insulation are "topics that we have to properly address."

He called WIDC a "great testament" to wood engineering and construction.

There are currently four students in UNBC's Masters of Engineering in Integrated Wood Design program "with more to come" next year, according to Tannert.

UNBC president Daniel Weeks praised the provincial government for investing in facilities, finding "first rate scientists" to use them and "not letting the skills mandate be competitive with research."

The provincial government has been emphasizing technology as part of its jobs growth plan.

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