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'Wood is good' for provincial buildings, but not necessarily made in B.C.

Forestry Minister Pat Bell he is confident that his Wood First legislation will build this province's forest industry, even though there are no requirements to build use B.C. wood or wood products.

Bell tabled the legislation, which requires the use of wood in all provincially-funded buildings, last week in the Legislature. He repeated the provincial "wood is good" motto at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, and told delegates the legislation would build the value of B.C.'s forest resources by promoting value-added manufacturing.

"People for a long time, including me, have talked about getting more value from our wood resource. And when you build larger wood buildings, the components that you use are far more complex. You have increased labour that goes into the manufacture of those components."

But those components don't have to be made in B.C. from B.C. wood, Bell told The Tyee.

"There are no requirements to do that, I want to be clear," said Bell. "We are open-market traders, if we were to set restrictions on our jurisdiction in terms of not allowing other people's products to come in, we would have to expect that they would do that externally as well," said Bell.

"We export about 90 per cent of our total product in B.C. so we need those external markets. But we’re confident that people will be consuming B.C. wood products and the product will be used here and consumed internally."

BC Wood CEO Brian Hawrysh, who represents wood product manufacturers around the province, said he is "not at all" concerned that the legislation does not mandate the use of B.C. wood products.

"The economics of it will dictate that the vast majority of these products will be sources from local manufacturers, I'm sure of that," said Hawrysh.

Ministry of Housing policy analyst Roger Lam addressed safety concerns around wood structures.

In 2008, the Campbell government raised the allowed height of wood buildings from four to six stories. Although there are environmental advantages – wood has a lower carbon footprint than steel or concrete – investigative reporter Sean Holman uncovered safety concerns about the structural stability of taller wood buildings.

Lam told delegates that the building code has been adjusted to make six-storey wood buildings safe, and that full-scale models have undergone seismic testing in Japan.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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