Tall Wood Buildings and Mass Timber Show Growth in Canada’s Forest Product Industry

Tall wood buildings and the expanded use of mass timber show significant potential in growing the market for Canada’s forest products industry, according to a new report from Branching Out: How Canada’s Forestry Products Sector is Reshaping its Future, by Eric Miller.

Photo Courtesy of vancouver.housing.ubc.ca/residences/brock-commons/

The report examines how the sector is responding to its challenges, and recommends key policies that will help expand its contribution to the Canadian economy. The recommendations include:

  • Scale up the government contributions to FPInnovations, a non-profit innovation hub for the forestry industry, and other vehicles with a successful track record of commercialization.
  • Consolidate the early product and process innovations supported by the federal government in partnership with the industry to make Canada a global leader in the emerging “tall wood building space.”
  • Endeavour to ensure “regulatory neutrality” for the use of emerging wood and wood-based products.
  • Create a window supported by carbon tax revenues to drive local solutions to forest management, adaption and utilization.
  • Develop a sectoral arrangement on trade in forest products with China, focused on the construction sector.

According to the C.D. Howe Institute report, the external forces buffeting Canada’s forest division have challenged the sector to become an innovation leader. These forces include: price swings; US trade protectionism; and shifting market demand for its core products.

As a natural resource-based sector, it has had to come to terms with the challenges of sustainability and associated changes in the regulatory environment.

“Today, Canada’s forest sector shows potential as a leader in innovation, environmental sustainability and international trade,” said Miller.

Miller suggests that Canada has been more exposed to the dwindling demand for newsprint than many of its competitors, who have been able to expand their exports of other types of paper and related products more rapidly.

While expansion by Canadian companies seeking to diversify and jump over protectionist barriers has proceeded in the United States, and Europe, investments in new capacity have decline in Canada.

“To open new markets for Canada’s forest products, a priority should be developing a sectoral arrangement on trade with China, focused on the construction sector,” said Miller.

Canadian innovations in wood products are now being used as an important component to the nation’s fuel supply and base materials for tall buildings, such as condo towers.

According to the report, extensive research on fire and the structural performance of wood products and systems has been conducted in and outside of Canada. The results demonstrate that wood buildings can be designed to be as safe as other types of construction, and can meet the building code requirements.

Buildings such as the 18-story Brock Commons Tallwood House in Vancouver, B.C., and the 13-storey Origine Eco-Condos in Quebec City, were built with prefabricated components and specially designed assemblies developed by Canadian engineering and manufacturing firms.

“As the universe of tall wood buildings grows, these suppliers are now well-positioned to take these products and expertise global,” said Miller.

Branching Out reports that sound forest management practices lead to better environmental and economic outcomes, including greater levels of carbon sequestration, and increased biodiversity.