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

BC BUDGET: New spaces a step to universal child care

Fees reduced for licensed daycare operators

BC BUDGET: NDP cracks down on speculators, hidden ownership

Foreign buyers’ tax extended to Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Vancouver Island

BC BUDGET: Payroll tax replaces medical premiums

Health spending to increase $1.5 billion for drugs, primary care teams

B.C. freestyle skier wins gold

Cassie Sharpe of Comox shines in the halfpipe

Suspect caught after village-wide search

Midway and Grand Forks RCMP were involved.

VIDEO: Top 10 B.C. budget highlights

The NDP is focusing on childcare, affordable housing and speeding up the elimination of MSP premiums

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Team USA beats Canada 3-2 on the shootout to take home Olympic gold

Americans win their first gold medal since 1998

Two Haida men detained for crossing U.S.-Canada border

Edenshaw and Frisby travelled from Alaska to Prince Rupert for the All Native Basketball Tournament

Alberta takes out full-page ads in B.C. over strained relationship

It’s the latest move between the two provinces over progress on Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

B.C. teacher suspended over allegedly using N-word in worksheets

Trafalgar Elementary teacher under investigation by Vancouver School Board

Toddler swept away in Ontario floods

Toddler missing as flooding forces thousands from their homes in Ontario

BC BUDGET: New money helps seniors’ care shortage

Job stability for care aides key to recruitment, union leader says

Mixed messages on B.C.’s efforts to cool hot housing market

Economist says undersupply of homes in Metro Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna will keep prices high

Most Read