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.

Just Posted

RDKB, province reach agreement flood clean-up fees

Flood victims will not have to pay at the landfill to tip flood-damaged goods.

MP Cannings’ long-awaited wood-use bill passes in House vote

The private member’s bill is his first to pass the House, a rare feat for rookie MPs in opposition

Rain, storms to hit Kootenays, Boundary amid flood crisis

Environment Canada is calling for 20 to 40 mm of rain by Friday

Missing Chilliwack man may be travelling to Grand Forks on motorcycle

Wilfred James Kilgren, 69, was last heard from by a friend on April 11

Thunderstorms headed to the West Kootenay

Environment Canada re-issued their special weather statement this morning,

Trans Mountain pipeline: Is it worth the risk?

Concerns range from the threat of an oil spill to the impact of tanker traffic on wildlife

B.C. to spend $181M to create 200 general practitioner jobs

Jobs will go to new medical school graduates

Federal leaders trade barbs about India trip at press gallery dinner

Justin Trudeau’s infamous trip to India earlier this year was the focus of many of the jabs

B.C. VIEWS: Our poverty reduction plan is already in place

NDP has another promise it needs to appear to keep

WestJet pilot strike averted as parties agree to mediation

Pilots had warned they could go on strike starting May 19

Most Read