Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Also, it's a pleasure for me to be here.
My role is on the value-added or specifying side of the chain. I've been a practising engineer for 30 years and have been designing with wood since I moved to British Columbia 23 years ago. The amount of innovation and progress that has been made on the technical side of timber engineering and manufacturing in the last 23 years has been astounding.
It is true that Canada has always, or for a very long time, been seen as a leader in the production of the fibre, of softwood lumber. On the engineering side, however, when I began designing with wood 23 years ago, we were playing catch-up with the Europeans, primarily. I'm happy to say that thanks to the support of the Canadian Wood Council and organizations like FPInnovations, which have been doing a tremendous job on the research side, we are now seen as being leaders in design as well. We're exporting our knowledge and expertise all over the world at this time.
These advances have included new products, many of which have been developed here in Canada, engineered wood products such as Parallam as an example, but also manufacturing with CNC fabrication, or computer-controlled robots. Most recently, as Rick mentioned, mass timber products such as CLT have really had a huge impact on the way we design buildings in wood today.
As you may know, we have been slowly, due to this innovation in the last two decades, been using wood in commercial construction more and more, and you can see structures in wood nowadays in hospitals, airports, and museums. Just about any kind of building you can think of, we can now build in wood. I think we have demonstrated that wood can be used successfully in all those building types, including more recently, in high-rises.
The use of mass timber, such as cross-laminated timber, has made it possible for engineers now to design high-rises in wood, and following the publication of our report, our feasibility study in 2012 called “The Case for Tall Wood”, the discussion around timber high-rises and the potential use of it for high-rises has grown very quickly, not just in Canada but all over the world.
We're at a point now where we are to move from demonstration to mass use, and there are a number of barriers that still stand in the way for this to happen. One is that the timber manufacturing and value-added sector is still relatively small, not only in Canada but all over the world.
There is a challenge on the education side. As an engineer, you cannot get an engineering degree without taking a steel engineering and concrete engineering course, but you can, in Canada, graduate without an introduction to timber engineering, and not only can you graduate without an introduction to timber engineering, but you may have a hard time finding a university in Canada that will teach that course. It is, I think, important for Canada, which is the largest producer and exporter of softwood lumber in the world, to pay attention to the need to educate professionals in the technology and the design of timber structures and other products.
The other barrier is that because the market in the value-added sector is quite small, there is a lack of competition and there is a lack of stability in the pricing, which is a challenge when you try to convince a developer or a contractor to use the product. We believe that we are just about at the point where we're crossing that line. Developers and contractors increasingly recognize the advantages of building with mass timber.
It's a lot faster than building with steel and concrete. It is sustainable and wood, of course, is a renewable material. With the development of mass timber we can now build timber structures that perform as well from a serviceability point of view as concrete and steel.
The advantages have been demonstrated. We now need to develop a supply chain that is reliable, both in terms of capability and expertise but also in terms of pricing or costing. In the United States right now there are companies that are building new CLT plants that are going to have very large output capacity, so I think there's going to be an increase in supply, which will probably help in stabilizing prices and also with bringing prices down. That will go a long way in increasing the use of mass timber in construction, but we shouldn't take for granted that it will actually bring us over the hump. Even if the supply side comes on online, we still have the issue of not having enough professionals to be able to keep up with the demand that we expect will take place.
One option we have been looking at, as designers.... I'm also involved in a not-for-profit design-build school called DBR. We've been teaching design-build courses. We invite designers of different kinds, architects, engineers, landscape designers, to come to the classroom, design a building or pavilion or some other small project, and then go in the shop and actually fabricate and install the structure. That's helpful in providing hands-on training to designers who may not get the opportunity in a university setting.
The requirement for knowledge is actually at the global level and it is significant, so we've been talking about trying to put together an online university course that will be not for profit again and will not be accredited but will at least make the information available.
When you design a building out of wood, the amount of information and the variety of information that is required to do your job is really quite surprising. We have to address structural issues, of course. We have to address issues of supply, manufacturing, fire protection, acoustics, and so on. It is a significant amount of work to catch up on the professional expertise side to meet the demand that we hope will actually come online very soon.
That is the essence of what I have to say. I look forward to your questions.