January 15, 2014

Learning and teaching about wood

Wood First | Werner Hofstatter

What can we learn from - and teach - the world about 21st century wood design and construction solutions? The recipe for success may be more sophisticated than you might think.

At the root is the design community.

It takes architects, engineers, code specialists and technicians to re-sharpen their pencils towards taking advantage of the tremendous array of wood and engineered wood materials now available.

As you may know from reading this column, B.C. is endowed with world-class expertise, demonstrated by recent projects like UBC’s Earth Science Building, the Richmond Oval, the Surrey Centre Galleria and the soon to be completed, all-wood, Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George.

Designers need materials to work with, and B.C.’s many plants manufacture the complete range of classical and modern wood materials required to make sophisticated structures.

Werner Hofstatter

Wood First

Werner Hofstatter

Materials such as glulam and Parallam beams, cross-laminated timber panels and laminated veneer lumber, as well as high-quality dimension lumber, structural panels and heavy timbers.

Many of these now come prefabricated with computerized equipment, ensuring precision, reduced waste, timely delivery and fast installation.

B.C. is getting good at this.

Tying the wood elements together is a host of wood connection options.

Traditional methods including wood saddles and mortises/tenons, as well as a wide range of modern self-tapping screws and notched in and glued-in metal components.

Frequently, these are embedded and hidden within the wood, so that the natural insulating properties of the fibre will protect the metal in the event of fire.

On-site construction expertise is also key.

Buildings as high as 10-storeys or more are springing up around the world, many relying on various forms of mass timber panels.

Erecting these structures requires methods that were new to many B.C. builders.

Both cross-laminated timber and laminated veneer lumber panels are being used at the Wood Innovation and Design Centre.

Laminated strand lumber, which also goes by the name Timberstrand, panels were used at UBC’s Earth Science Building and the North Vancouver City Hall.

These components, up to 10 inches wide, 64 inches long and 12 inches thick, arrived pre-engineered and ready to install by a minimal crew.

B.C. is getting good at this too.

Of course, the future of sophisticated wood buildings will rely on developers and the markets to which they respond. The tallest wood buildings built recently are a mix of residential and commercial office spaces, and markets are responding well.

Offering affordable, beautiful and efficient spaces, with a minimal environmental footprint, seems to be a very saleable package.

Questions about these materials, how they are put together, the challenges developers and builders face, and how markets are reacting, will be addressed at the International Wood Design Symposium at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Jan. 23rd.

More information about this WoodWORKS! BC event, held in collaboration with UBC’s Centre for Advanced Wood Processing and Forum Holzbau, can be found at

The event will include speakers from Norway, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, Chicago and B.C. The registration deadline Jan. 21.

Werner Hofstatter is the New Products and Markets Advisor for the Canadian Wood Council's Wood Works! BC Program. Send comments or questions to

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