B.C. builder grows prov­ince’s base for en­gi­neered tim­ber

Vancouver Sun - - CITY - DER­RICK PEN­NER de­pen­ner@post­media.com twit­ter.com/der­rick­pen­ner

Struc­tureCraft built its busi­ness de­sign­ing and con­struct­ing beau­ti­ful tim­ber build­ings, but is now tak­ing a big­ger leap into man­u­fac­tur­ing its own en­gi­neered wood ma­te­rial, which it un­veiled Tues­day at a ma­jor con­fer­ence on wood de­sign in Van­cou­ver.

Struc­tureCraft has al­ways made its own cus­tom-de­signed com­po­nents, such as the unique wood-wave pan­els in the Rich­mond Olympic speed­skat­ing oval or the dis­tinc­tive roof trusses of the Guild­ford Aquatic Cen­tre in Sur­rey.

The idea of man­u­fac­tur­ing more of a mass-pro­duced prod­uct, in this case dowel-lam­i­nated tim­ber, was to ex­pand the busi­ness with a more con­sis­tent stream of rev­enue, said Lu­cas Epp, en­gi­neer­ing and 3D man­ager at Struc­tureCraft.

And the com­pany is leap­ing for­ward, with a new fa­cil­ity in Ab­bots­ford, dou­ble the size of Struc­tureCraft’s orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion in Delta that it’s mov­ing from, at the same time the prov­ince is try­ing to nudge its for­est in­dus­try into just such value-added, en­gi­neered wood prod­ucts.

Epp said the com­pany has gained in size in the past cou­ple of years with a re­newed in­ter­est in masstim­ber con­struc­tion tech­niques to start with, and as it ramps up man­u­fac­tur­ing, it will need more em­ploy­ees.

“What we’ve seen in con­struc­tion, is you have big ups and downs,” Epp said of the busi­ness cy­cles. “In 2008, we took a big hit (dur­ing the re­ces­sion) with many of our con­struc­tion prod­ucts stop­ping or slow­ing down.”

So man­u­fac­tur­ing dowel-lam­i­nated tim­ber would give it a prod­uct that Struc­tureCraft could use in its own projects, but also sell to gen­er­ate that “more steady bot­tom line of rev­enue,” Epp said, but it also fits the firm’s core val­ues with re­spect to build­ing in wood.

“Get­ting into dowel-lam­i­nated tim­ber is a big deal for our com­pany,” said Epp, who is the son of Struc­tureCraft co-founder Ger­ald Epp, one of B.C.’s pioneers in mod­ern mass-tim­ber con­struc­tion. Struc­tureCraft is hold­ing an of­fi­cial grand open­ing Thurs­day.

Dowel-lam­i­nated tim­ber is made by lay­ing strands of soft­wood lum­ber on their edges, drilling holes in them and in­sert­ing dried, hard­wood dow­els un­der pres­sure. The re­sult­ing ma­te­rial is dif­fer­ent from cross-lam­i­nated-tim­ber pan­els, which are also pro­duced in B.C., but Epp said it’s highly ef­fi­cient for use in one-di­rec­tion spans in floors or roof ap­pli­ca­tions.

Epp was re­luc­tant to say how big an in­vest­ment the new plant is for the com­pany, other than to say it’s sig­nif­i­cant.

The new prod­uct will be wel­come in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try, said Lynn Em­bury-Wil­liams, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Wood Works! B.C., a not-for-profit agency that pro­motes the use of wood in con­struc­tion.

Get­ting into dowel-lam­i­nated tim­ber is a big deal for our com­pany.

“The more sup­ply (of en­gi­neered-wood), and the more di­verse sup­ply you have with an­other player, just opens up the mar­ket,” Em­bury-Wil­liams said.

Hav­ing an­other man­u­fac­turer helps give build­ing de­sign­ers the con­fi­dence they will have lo­cally sourced ma­te­rial to work with, which will re­sult in more masstim­ber build­ings be­ing built.

And it fits in with Pre­mier John Hor­gan’s strat­egy of en­cour­ag­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing of higher-value en­gi­neered wood prod­ucts as a way of wring­ing more out of B.C.’s tim­ber sup­plies as they shrink over the next sev­eral decades while forests re­cover from the moun­tain pine beetle epi­demic.

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