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B.C.’s wood manufacturers boost partnerships to promote products in China

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by Richard Gilbert

On the anniversary of the devastating China earthquake, B.C. wood manufacturers are strengthening partnerships to help with reconstruction and earn a share of stimulus spending.

On the anniversary of the devastating China earthquake, B.C. wood manufacturers are strengthening partnerships to help with reconstruction and earn a share of stimulus spending.

Parts of Sichuan Province, China were devastated by a 7.9-magnitude earthquake on May 12, 2008, which left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing and more than five million people homeless.

“Schools, a rehabilitation centre and an elderly care facility are institutional projects that are critically needed, because the building failed during the earthquake,” said Paul Newman, Council of Forest Industries (COFI) executive director, market access and trade.

“We are going through the process as part of the Chinese national government’s stimulus package, which is reviewing the state of schools.”

The B.C. government, together with Canada Wood, visited the Sichuan earthquake area shortly after the May 12 quake.

Canada Wood Group is representing Canadian forest companies operating in China in partnership with the Council of Forest Industries (COFI), Forestry Innovation Investment (FII), a B.C. government agency, the department of natural resources (Canada Wood Export Program) and the department of foreign affairs and international trade (embassy staff in China).

After negotiations with Chinese reconstruction authorities, the following three projects were approved and are currently underway: Xiang’e Primary School in Dujiangyan, Mianyang Special Education School for the Disabled, Beichuan Leigu Town Central Elderly Care Centre.

Canada Wood is encouraging the use of Canadian wood and rebuilding in the Sichuan earthquake zone, as it is part of a four-trillion-yuan ($718-billion) stimulus package.

About 25 per cent of stimulus funds will go toward rebuilding in the earthquake zone.

“A company with a well-thought-out China strategy and a long-term commitment will have a much higher chance of benefitting from the opportunities in the stimulus spending,” said John Shou, managing director for the Canada China Business Council.

According to Shou, a prime example of this is the approach taken by Canada Wood and the B.C. government.

The structures will all be designed and assembled in China.

However, they will be made from Canadian structural lumber.

“Canada Wood College offers three-week full-time training for developers, architects and carpenters to teach the basics of wood frame construction,” said Newman.

“This training is offered in three different levels that get progressively more difficult. The latest training session began on May 18, (2009) and we have completed two already.”

The training was initially done at Canada Wood’s office in Shanghai, but it is now taught in the earthquake region.

“The local Chinese government was open to looking at new technology for the replacement of housing that would be safe and meet their cost requirements,” explained Newman.

“The government provided prototype floor plans for concrete and masonry structures, that were converted to wood frame designs. We have 52 projects (houses) underway and 80-100 in the pipeline.”

The wood frame construction of the Xiang’e School started in December 2008, and is scheduled for completion in June.

“They positioned themselves well by acting quickly in establishing local contacts and maintaining a continuous presence in the areas affected by the May earthquakes,” said Shou.

Last year, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and Gary Lunn, federal minister of natural resources, announced an $8 million plan to provide wood frame buildings to help survivors of the earthquake.

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