Canadian Wood Council Seeks to Expand Wood Markets
By Catherine Lalonde
People working at the processing end of the industry may not be too aware of the problems that harm the marketability of Canadian wood, but the main obstacles -building code resistance, a lack of knowledge or confidence to use wood and environmental concerns - are very real. The Canadian Wood Council (CWC) has been around for 40 years and has traditionally been a behind the scenes organization. That's still the case to some extent, but it is changing. We're being noticed because, more than ever, we're taking on the marketing obstacles through our work in codes and standards, education and communications. We have engineers who work in the areas of national and provincial building codes and design standards, both in the structural and fire areas. Why? Because the codes regulate how wood can or cannot be used in construction.
They can help you or hurt you. If the codes do not allow the use of wood, it does not matter how good your product is or how competitive your price, wood will not be used. Building code work can be a long and tedious process, but it can open up big opportunities for the industry. Years of work by the CWC has resulted in recent code changes in Canada that have increased the size of buildings permitted to be built with wood by 50 per cent in many cases. This, combined with new engineered wood systems, are allowing wood to compete in larger commercial buildings-a market where wood was previously shut out. In the US, the Canadian wood industry is represented in the code area by the CWC's membership in the American Wood Council (AWC). This past January, the three US regional Building Codes were combined into a new single code entitled the International Building Code. Five years of work by the technical staff of the AWC ensuring that this new code would be favourable to wood has resulted in a $2 billion a year increase in the potential market for wood products in the commercial sector in the US.
The CWC's code work is not only directed at expanding where wood can be used but to defend the challenges brought by the steel and concrete industries to the traditional advantages that wood enjoys in the residential building code. This requires constant vigilance as substitute materials aggressively challenge wood's position. The CWC's experts must demonstrate technically what we have long known-that wood is the best material for building a house. Increasing the areas where wood is allowed to be used by the building codes is only the first step in increasing market access for wood products.
In order to translate this into increased wood sales, this needs to be communicated to the industry's ultimate customers-the homebuilders, architects, structural engineers and building officials who either use or decide how wood is being used. In addition to letting architects or engineers know that they can use wood, it is important for the CWC to make it easy for them to design the buildings in wood. We do this through a series of design manuals and books that are highly respected by building professionals and students. We also produce state-of-the-art wood design software to help engineers design wood buildings efficiently for both the Canadian and US market. The CWC keeps our industry in touch with its ultimate customers-the building professionals.
We do this through our magazines, Wood Design & Building for the US and Wood Le Bois for Canada and our websites, www.cwc.ca and www.wood.ca In 1998, the CWC initiated a new national program, Wood WORKS!, to promote the increased use of wood in nonresidential construction. Started on a pilot basis in northern BC and Quebec, the project is spreading across Canada. Wood WORKS! builds on the new opportunities presented by code changes and new engineered wood products to demonstrate that wood can be the best choice. The program works with industry and government partners to create a "Build with Wood" culture. Important successes include the adoption of
Build with Wood policies by the BC provincial government and over 240 municipalities in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and BC. This has led to the construction of millions of dollars of wood buildings that were originally planned in steel and concrete. Wood WORKS! is also promoting the use of wood by the industry for their own buildings. Many companies are following Tembec's example of considering wood for all their buildings and using wood where it is cost-effective. This led to the construction of the Crestbrook Value-Added Centre with its 140foot clear spans and 25foothigh walls using engineered wood products produced by Tembec. Years of technical code work by the CWC mean that buildings like Crestbrook's Value-Added Centre can now be built with wood.
The CWC's software and design manuals make it easier for engineers to design these facilities and CWC's education and communication programs ensure that building professionals are aware of these examples to inspire them on other projects. This results in the ultimate output, wood buildings and increased markets for wood products. And that is what the Canadian Wood Council is all about, using technical expertise to expand markets for your wood products
Catherine Lalonde is the president of the Canadian Wood Council, the national association of the wood products industry. The council exists to expand markets for Canadian wood products in North America and ensure that Canadian wood products have full access to markets. A professional engineer, Lalonde joined the Council as building codes engineer seven years ago, after spending several years designing wood buildings and working in the truss industry.
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