B.C. looks to China as U.S. lumber lobby retaliates

Chinese government's pollution targets may give edge to wood construction over steel or concrete

Chinese construction worker uses a hand saw to build wooden roof trusses on top of a concrete apartment building in 2009. Mass urbanization in China has created urgent new problems

One of a series of articles on the future of the B.C. forest industry. For more #BCForestFuture stories see index below or search for the hashtag on Facebook or Twitter.

SHANGHAI – Six years ago, B.C. forest companies were selling large volumes of lumber to Chinese builders for concrete forms or earthquake-resistant roof trusses assembled onsite using hand tools.

After the U.S. housing market collapse of 2008, rapidly urbanizing China briefly passed the U.S. as B.C.’s biggest lumber customer. Western-style suburban homes began to catch on with an expanding middle class.

Now, as the U.S. lumber lobby presses for import duties on Canadian lumber for a fourth time, China has changed course again. A mass movement from rural areas to cities has pushed urban sprawl and choking air pollution to the top of the government’s worry list.

That’s a threat and an opportunity for B.C. forest companies, executives were told as their annual trade mission began its China visit with a wood conference in Shanghai. The Chinese government no longer wants suburban villas on scarce farmland, and has directed cities to adopt prefabricated building systems, whether they be concrete and steel or wood.

Derek Nighbor, CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, and Susan Yurkovich, president of B.C.’s Council of Forest Industries, attend conference on wood marketing in Shanghai, Nov. 30, 2016. Tom Fletcher photo

One opportunity is resort construction. Urban Chinese are looking to get away from polluted cities, and lakeside or mountain resorts are increasingly in demand.

On a China scale, that translates to four billion domestic vacation trips in 2015, twice as many as five years before. Pre-fabricated accommodations are needed, and wood is lighter and cleaner to manufacture and move than concrete and steel.

“We’ve seen years and years of urbanization here, and now people need an opportunity to remove themselves from an urban setting,” said Susan Yurkovich, president of B.C.’s Council of Forest Industries. “Last year’s trade mission we were in Beijing, with probably the worst air quality they’ve ever had.”

For Derek Nighbor, CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, one important shift is the central government’s order to cities to meet new pollution targets. That gives an edge to wood construction over concrete and steel.

And while the B.C. industry faces a squeeze from its largest customer, the U.S., European wood producers such as Finland are gaining market share in China while Canada’s has been declining, the conference was told.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon family shares story of son’s cancer recovery to encourage blood donation

Finlay Ritson’s parents can’t donate blood, but hope his story will encourage others to do so

Technology brings joy of dance back to Salmon Arm centre during pandemic

A full range of dance classes to be held with students a very safe distance from each other

COVID-19: Upcoming season a question mark for Enderby drive-in movie theatre

Starlight Drive In Movie Theatre says it’s working on limiting capacity among other safeguards

WATCH: North Okanagan seniors stay fit in self-isolation

Residents have taken to their balconies to follow along in exercise class

Woman raised in Salmon Arm on COVID-19 frontline with field hospital in Italy

Bev Kauffeldt is leading a medical team at the temporary hospital run by Samaritan’s Purse

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

‘Always look on the sunny side,’ Okanagan senior says

Heaton Place resident shares story of growing up in Roaring Twenties

92-year-old Vernon woman crochets 1,000 toques for donation

Daisy Ferguson has been working on the toque project for the past six years

COVID-19: ‘Think before you click,’ north Okanagan city says

City of Armstrong urges residents stay safe online as phone, email scams on rise amid pandemic

North Okanagan district discourages campfires amid COVID-19

Campfire ban in effect for RDCO but not for neighbour district in the north

Vernon Superstore sees long lineups amid COVID-19

Long lineups Saturday evidence customers following social-distancing protocols

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Most Read