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Chinese students learn woodframe building at UFV in Chilliwack

Trade school instructors and building company representatives from China learn the skills of platform-frame construction at UFV Trades and Technology Centre as part of a three-week course, Aug. 20. - Greg Laychak
Trade school instructors and building company representatives from China learn the skills of platform-frame construction at UFV Trades and Technology Centre as part of a three-week course, Aug. 20.
— image credit: Greg Laychak

There’s a big shift happening in global demand for Canadian softwood lumber exports—one that will have important consequences for the B.C. economy.

China needs more lumber. With it, the country also requires the skills to use this abundant Canadian resource.

That’s where University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) came into the picture this summer, providing a three-week workshop on platform-frame construction for 16 visiting Chinese students.

“They know very little about wood structures,” said Liu Shen of his domestic construction peers in the industry. “They know a little bit about Chinese traditional wood building, but not light-frame construction.”

Liu, a trainer at forest industry coalition Canada Wood, spent a decade learning the carpentry trade in New Zealand and was at the UFV course to continue his education.

He acknowledged that China needs its construction educators to quickly adopt and transfer the practice to their building industry.

Mark Ryan, UFV carpentry instructor, sees earthquake resistance as one major benefit of wood frame structures in China.

He recently returned from the country having taught a similar course near Chengdu.

“While we were over there I got to tour a city that had been destroyed in the earthquake,” said the 20-year carpentry teacher.

“So you got to see how their building methods for houses over there are susceptible to earthquakes, of which they have quite a few.”

He added energy efficiency as another key reason the growing carbon-consumer should step up it’s adoption of wood-built frames.

Ryan said he’s excited about advances in wood technology and how these changes are leading to new construction feats. For example, it’s now possible to build 12-storey structures out of cross-laminated timber that are strong, easy to maintain, energy efficient, and incredibly earthquake resistant.

These are all traits that fit in with the needs of a densely-populated, earthquake-prone country like China.

As for the students, Ryan said that despite unfamiliarity with the tools, they caught on quickly to cutting and assembly techniques.

Sponsored by several Chinese vocational schools and building companies, the program was also a collaboration with the Chinese National Ministry of Urban and Rural Housing Development.

Another major contributor to the UFV program was Canada Wood, a government-sponsored non-profit organization that promotes and supports wood construction abroad, with a focus on China.

U.S. markets fell from almost 80 per cent to about 63 per cent of Canada’s total forest product export from 2002 to 2012, according to Natural Resources Canada.

In contrast, China’s share grew from nearly two per cent to more 16 per cent in the same period.

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