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