I'd like to thank the standing committee for the invitation to appear today.
I'm Michael Loseth, the president and CEO of Forestry Innovation Investment. My colleague Sonya Zeitler Fletcher is our vice-president of market development.
Forestry Innovation Investment, or FII, is a crown corporation of the province of British Columbia tasked with developing and diversifying markets for B.C. forest products and with fostering innovation in the use of wood.
We're happy to appear before the committee to represent our perspectives and the experiences of Forestry Innovation Investment. It goes without saying that we're not here to speak on behalf of the provincial government of British Columbia.
In British Columbia and across Canada, forestry matters. In B.C., forestry is the largest economic sector. Thirty-six per cent of manufactured exports come from forest products. More than 60,000 people in B.C. are employed in the forestry sector, of which 12,000 are employed in value-added activities. Forestry supports over 7,000 businesses across British Columbia. These employees and companies are not just in rural communities. There are forestry jobs in virtually every community in B.C., from Vancouver to Vanderhoof and from Prince George to Penticton.
I believe it is fair to say that the 20th century was one that favoured concrete and steel. At the time, it was new. It allowed larger buildings to be built, longer distances to be spanned, and new architecture and designs to be realized. This was also a period of conspicuous consumption, often with little regard for the environment. Whether it was the buildings we built, the materials we used, how we insulated and heated those buildings, or the gas guzzling cars that we drove, carbon emissions and the environment were typically not part of our thinking.
I also believe that in the 21st century we will do things differently, and we already are. In fact, we know that roughly 30% of our carbon emissions in British Columbia come from the built environment, and that has to change. We need more energy efficient buildings. We need to look beyond fossil fuels for the energy to heat them. We need to pay attention to the products that we use to build them. In so doing, why wouldn't we want to use a product from one of our greatest natural and abundant resources? Wood grows naturally from the sun, absorbs and stores carbon dioxide, and releases oxygen back into the atmosphere. Wood use in construction extends carbon sequestration beyond the forests and into the products and buildings that we make with wood.
In any discussion of or accounting for environmental footprint, we need to look at both embodied energy and operating energy, ideally using life-cycle assessment and scientific tools. The operating energy relates to the environmental impact of the heating, cooling, and operation of the building over time. Embodied energy relates to the environmental impact of the products that go into the building. The science is clear, and there shouldn't be a lot of debate. The important take-away is that both embodied and operational impacts matter and need to be considered.
We're not here today to encourage you to ban using concrete and steel or plastic and petroleum-based products. However, we do encourage this committee in its consideration of this bill to take a step forward in establishing a new and responsible lens to procurement decisions for federal buildings, a step that will help commercialize new innovations in wood and showcase those to the world.
As you may be aware, in 2009, British Columbia passed the Wood First Act. I quote:
The purpose of this Act is to facilitate a culture of wood by requiring the use of wood as the primary building material in all new provincially funded buildings, in a manner consistent with the building regulations.
In our experience, the passage of this act did not eliminate the use of non-wood building materials. However, it does require government procurement officials and their design teams to ask themselves if they can use wood. Sometimes the answer is “no”, but often it's “yes” or “in certain applications”. In so doing, in British Columbia we have expanded the use of wood, not only in schools, universities, and government office buildings, but also in post-disaster facilities and first responder buildings where wood buildings are safe and resilient, meeting and exceeding the strictest fire and seismic requirements.
In British Columbia, the aspirational steps taken through the Wood First Act continue to make a difference today. Sure, some may grumble, but what I typically hear is that it doesn't hurt to look at wood and consider how it can be used. Use the right product for the right application, but look at all the alternatives, including wood. If it costs significantly more, or won't work for some reason, fair enough. However, projects should at least consider wood and the exciting innovations that are possible today.
In FII's world, fundamentally we work towards two key things. First, we work to help diversify markets for B.C. forest products, with a strong focus on expanding markets in Asia. Second, we work to foster innovation in how we use wood at home. In our experience, those two things are fundamentally and inherently linked. It's typically by first advancing innovation, using wood here at home, and demonstrating its potential that we then have the technical information and, frankly, the credibility to introduce those same innovations into our export markets.
Therefore, how do we support innovation in the use of wood in British Columbia? It includes advancing building codes and regulations to recognize today's modern wood products and the engineering and performance capacity that those products and building systems have. It includes educating and sharing knowledge with the design and construction community on what is possible with wood.
We support technical research and demonstration to overcome any impediments that may exist and to advance the business case for new products and building systems, and we showcase what is possible to help commercialize new products and construction technologies. Because of our Wood First Act, that includes showcasing wood use and innovation in publicly funded projects.
Our programs and efforts in B.C. are closely aligned with federal government programs. Most of the activities I just mentioned collaborate with, share costs with, or draw on the support of existing federal programs, and those federal programs are extremely helpful. What the federal government is not doing, however, is actively showcasing the use of wood and new innovations in government-funded buildings. In our view, that's a lost opportunity.
If you go to our naturallywood.com website, we have a sampling of more than 80 projects in British Columbia where the government's commitment to support innovation has been put into practice, and buildings have been built. If you look closely, you will see glass, concrete, steel, and a range of building products in each of those buildings.
As I mentioned earlier, in our experience, it's not about excluding other materials; it's about putting wood on an even playing field and showcasing what is possible with modern products, modern design, and modern engineering.
In the couple of minutes I have left, I'd like to quickly look at a few examples.
"The use of wood honours our local culture and heritage. It also confirms our commitment to the use of sustainable resources," said the school superintendent responsible for Westview Elementary School. Six hundred and five tonnes of CO2 are sequestered in the wood in the building, which is equivalent to taking 128 cars off the road for a year.
Built to meet LEED silver-level certification standards, the design intent was to create a welcoming space that would be incorporated into the urban fabric of the city and would contribute to a positive profile for the RCMP.
While not a huge building, 835 tonnes of CO2 are sequestered in this building, the equivalent of taking 177 cars off the road for a year. In first responder buildings such as this, resiliency and performance during and after natural disasters is a key consideration. Wood can meet or outperform other options.
The design is focused on creating a warm, natural facility to reduce the stress of the experience for patients as well as on meeting rigorous building performance standards.
"The use of exposed wood in a project is one of the ways that we can improve conditions for our patients. Wood conveys a sense of warmth and comfort that supports the healing environment and improves the overall patient experience,” said the VP of capital projects for this building.
It is not just about large medical buildings. Wood is used in small community facilities, like this first nations health centre. Universities are also embracing wood. After all, they are the brain trusts of today and are setting trends and training the leaders of tomorrow.
In addition to meeting regulatory requirements, this project minimized the environmental impacts by incorporating energy and water conservation elements as well as durable, non-toxic, low embodied energy materials, earning a LEED gold-level certification. This building is also designed to function as a post-disaster operations centre after a major seismic event.
We spoke a little about my last slide with some of the earlier speakers. Brock Commons Tallwood House is a mass timber hybrid student residence at the University of British Columbia, which at 18 storeys is the world's tallest contemporary wood building. Not only did this building allow for significant innovation, but it was built for less cost than a comparable concrete building. With advanced engineering and technology throughout, it's probably one of the safest buildings in the country today.