Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry
Issue 10 - Evidence - Meeting of November 5, 2009
OTTAWA, Thursday, November 5, 2009
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at 8:05 a.m. to study the current state and
future of Canada's forest sector.
Senator Percy Mockler (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators and witnesses, good morning. Welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate
Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. My name is Percy Mockler. I am a senator from New Brunswick and chair of
the committee. I would like to start by asking senators to introduce themselves.
Senator Mercer: I am Senator Terry Mercer from Nova Scotia.
Senator Mahovlich: I am Senator Frank Mahovlich from Ontario.
Senator Finley: I am Senator Doug Finley from Ontario.
Senator Plett: I am Senator Don Plett from Manitoba.
Senator Rivard: I am Senator Michel Rivard from Quebec City.
Senator Fairbairn: I am Senator Joyce Fairbairn from Lethbridge, Alberta.
The Chair: The committee is continuing its study on the current state and future of Canada's forest sector. Today,
we are focusing on the use of wood in non-residential construction.
Honourable senators, we welcome two architects this morning, Mr. Larry McFarland and Mr. Lubor Trubka. We
thank you for accepting our invitation to appear. I invite you to make your presentation. It will be followed by a
question and answer session. Mr. Trubka, the floor is yours.
Lubor Trubka, Architect, as an individual: Thank you for the invitation. I would like to establish the level of
experience to give you an express-train view of some of the construction that is possible in wood. I will take about five
minutes and then I will be available to answer your questions.
I have categorized some of the examples you will see. None are residential and none are common or standard to be
built in wood. I concentrated particularly to select projects that were financed by the federal government.
The University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George had combined funding. The mandate was to
construct the entire university from wood. You can see the last building under construction is made entirely from
wood. The interior walls, floors and structures are all wood.
Universities and schools are the most difficult building categories because they are considered as places of assembly
by national and provincial building codes. Therefore, the codes and requirements on designers, engineers and
architects are very demanding.
A school in Bella Coola, British Columbia, was built entirely out of trees that stood on the site. The trees were felled
and milled on site by band labour to construct the school. The school was built in 1985. It still stands in pristine,
immaculate condition. Every single piece of timber in that building came from the site.
Many schools are being built, particularly in British Columbia. They are all funded by the federal government
through Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and sometimes in combination with Health Canada funding for health
clinics. They are always built for First Nation communities. By their demand or requirement, they have to be built in
wood. They always tell us, ``Do not give us one of those White man's schools.''
We use standard, conventional, off-the-shelf materials and products. There is nothing unique and exceptional about
Health clinics, administration buildings, and other types of facilities are generally also funded with at least partial
federal government funding. This building combines a health clinic and community and administration offices, and
you can see it is entirely built out of timber.
Of course, none of these projects is built or resembles anything similar to two-by-four house construction. They are
all designed as more or less prefabricated systems of construction.
Sport and recreation is another type of project that benefits exceptionally from being constructed in wood,
especially over ice rinks. Canada probably has hundreds of thousands of ice rinks. They are built out of steel as cages
or concrete bunkers, yet steel is the least suitable material for construction of roofs over ice. I could give a lot of details
and technical information about why that is the case, but the pictures speak for themselves. These projects have no
limitation in the code — structural design or engineering. The only limitation is the designer's mind or lack of
Some of the projects we have designed have in excess of a 350-foot span, all in wood construction. To make them
economical, they have to be designed as a maximum repetition of the same elements, as you can see on this structure.
You design one element, manufacture it, repeat it 120 times and you have the entire roof structure. It can be done
Another area is shopping centres. This is a current design for a large shopping centre for a First Nation in Port
Alberni. In order to be economical and viable, it is designed as a prefabricated system. All the columns, beams and roof
elements are repetitions of the same element. The construction cost is estimated to be approximately 30 per cent lower
than any conventional standard form of construction. With the wood, we also can give it the appropriate historical
reference to the tribal council's historical heritage.
Larry McFarland, Architect, as an individual: Thank you for inviting me to speak on behalf of wood and the wood
I have provided some handouts, and as I make my introductory presentation we can refer to those items.
I have been an architect since 1978. My practice is focused on sustainable building solutions that are site- and user-
sensitive. Like Mr. Trubka, I have spent a lot of my career working with First Nations throughout British Columbia,
and he and I have similar experiences.
Working with a First Nation group is often referred to as a ``cultural realignment,'' dealing with issues of spirit, site,
the forest and their culture. In essence, my career in sustainable design started when I began working with them,
because their values toward the land — as stewards of the land traditionally — taught me about the importance of the
site, how to respond to the site and how to respond environmentally appropriately.
Most of my commissions, besides the First Nations, are institutional in nature. They are not residential, or not what
you would necessarily call commercial either, but the issue is non-residential. They include schools, colleges,
universities and, occasionally, government buildings, including one for the Government of Canada, Parks Canada,
which was completed about four years ago in Sidney, British Columbia. It was Canada's first LEED Platinum
building, and it was built out of wood. LEED is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green building
Referring to your invitation, I tried to follow the points made to focus on the issue of promoting wood construction
in Canada. In 1978, I became a member of the provincial steering committee for Wood WORKS! British Columbia.
About two years later, I became an advisory board member of the Canadian Wood Council.
They were looking to me, as a builder and designer in wood, for my input into the issues that relate to their industry.
They have given me a good perspective. They have had incredible success in trying to develop, as it was in 1999
basically, a culture of wood in British Columbia.
Each province has its own Wood WORKS! program, and the Canadian Wood Council is an overseeing agent. Each
province is trying to develop the wood industry, because they each rely on that industry.
Another issue you raised is current developments in green building standards and building codes. Most current
sustainable building standards penalize wood forestry products, demanding a higher level of accountability than for
other products such as steel and concrete. The chain of custody of material to build a wood building is not onerous, but
it is a task that is not applied to any of the other major building products. The council has been indoctrinating me for a
while, so I have to pass on that message.
Wood WORKS! and the Canadian Wood Council have actively promoted the sustainable properties of wood in the
past. They had major advertising programs about the benefits of using wood in construction and the benefits to our
forests. Industry, however, was more interested in measuring the success of selling more board feet. Therefore, their
efforts became diminished in promoting the use of wood as the only sustainable building material that we have on the
As a member of the Canada Green Building Council and Cascadia Region Green Building Council, my firm is
aware of the evolving standards. I expect eventually we will move away from what is referred to as a score card rating
system, as identified in LEED, and focus instead on the life-cycle assessment of the entire building over its lifetime.
That is the true measure of a sustainable building, not whether you have your wood floor made out of bamboo or
something like that.
Virtually every project my firm is working on is being measured in the LEED system. We are even working on the
Living Building Challenge, which is to have no carbon footprint on the earth. It is a challenge. One criterion of that
program, which is the next step beyond LEED by the Green Building Council's definition, is that you must use wood
that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Most of the forests in British Columbia — for instance, the beetle-
killed pine — are not FSC-certified. Here we have an incredible resource that must be used up, but because of
someone's interpretation of the forest, we cannot use that wood on that kind of building. However, we will lower our
standards a little and use it anyway.
One of the biggest aspects that sustainable green buildings has had on the impact of architecture and design is the
integrated design approach — the method by which the lead consultant, who directs the design, works with all of the
consultants on a consensual consultative basis rather than on the basis of a single leader. We listen to what the other
professions have to say. They have points to make. Such a process allows for better, more sustainable buildings.
Certainly, it is one way for us to achieve a high level of sustainability. We do not hand over problems for solving by
others. We consider the orientation and materials of the building.
Another concern of the committee was building codes. The National Building Code of Canada has a review process
whereby every five years they issue amendments. At the rate of sustainability, it will be probably 50 years behind by the
time they catch up to the changes in the design industry. It is a proscriptive system limiting wood use, which is being
challenged by my previously noted integrated design approach. As a group of consultants with a common goal, we
work around the code. There is a new industry of code consultants that we use to help us cope with the challenges of
building in wood. Most of my buildings are institutional, and the easiest way to build them is with non-combustible
materials. In the submission before the committee you will see photos of North Cariboo Community Campus in
Quesnel, B.C. It is a non-combustible building by definition in the building code, yet it is constructed almost entirely of
wood. The building code could be changed, but it would take years. It is easier to engage the integrated design team
and approach the problem from a different perspective. British Columbia recently gave third reading to a bill on
amendments to the B.C. building code that would allow up to six-storey wood-frame buildings. That would create
greater use of wood products and would provide greater density in our cities, reducing large-scale infrastructure costs.
This is an exciting bill. They have taken the lead. The premier was sitting at a meeting with the chair of the Wood
WORKS! steering committee. He heard that we could not construct buildings with wood in British Columbia that were
more than three storeys high and decided that the code had to be changed. They can do it in Europe but not across
Canada, only in B.C. My understanding is that other provinces are keen on following this strategy. Vancouver has a
goal of densification. We have the downtown core and a series of communities within the city of single family
residences of two or three storeys only. We need to build the residential density up by building up to six storeys in
wood. The building codes need to be changed, and initiative to that end is necessary.
Concurrently, there is an ongoing focus in the wood and forestry industry on cross-laminated timber, CLT, panels, a
technology that is used extensively in Europe. There are no manufacturers of CLT in North America. CLT is a system
in which pieces of wood are laid across each other. CLT panels can take on incredibly good structural acoustic building
envelope insulation properties. They use four to five times the amount of wood, which is a challenge for the
construction industry. I notice that the B.C. building code is focused on residential construction, and the CLT panels
will change how wood buildings are designed and built and how they perform in terms of sustainability, energy and
In terms of the specific role of the federal government in the promotion of wood construction, I have always wanted
to tell the government what to do but I will not. The B.C. building code amendments will provide considerable
opportunities to increase wood use. Other provinces are considering similar changes to their respective building codes.
I do not think it is the role of the federal government to do that. The federal government should not mandate the use of
one product, wood, over another product, such as concrete or steel. Everyone has a place in the building industry. The
federal government should focus on the big picture of reducing the carbon footprint of all buildings, in particular
federal buildings. In the case of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve Operations Centre, which is a small building
for Parks Canada, we reduced the carbon footprint by 32 tonnes per year over that of a conventional building. It is a
small step, but you build much larger buildings than that one. By reducing the carbon footprint of all federal buildings,
the government would promote implicitly the use of wood, because wood is the only building material that will store
carbon in its fibres. That choice would be made naturally, and the government would not have to tell people what to
do. Neither architects nor engineers like to be told what to do.
Supportive post-secondary education is another program to think about. When I was a founding member of Wood
WORKS!, one of our objectives was to fill the position of chair in wood for engineering at the University of British
Columbia. For nine years they have been trying to lure someone to that position. We need people in our post-
secondary education system who understand wood. It does not present as exciting as genome research, but we need
engineers who know how to deal with wood.
Support Wood WORKS!, the Canadian Wood Council and Wood WORKS! programs through their
communication programs. They need help. They operate on $3 million per year, a considerable part of which is
from the federal government, industry and the provinces. They do a wonderful job of communicating and educating
the public and industry about how wood can be used appropriately. When Mary Tracey became Executive Director for
BC Wood WORKS!, she came to Ottawa, and because the codes had to be changed to promote the use of wood, she
went back and changed them in British Columbia. It will happen across the country, but, as I said, I do not think that
is your role.
There is an important aspect to supporting trades in engineered wood construction. There are many engineered-
wood buildings, and if you do not have a skilled construction team, the effect of the wood is lost. You have a chain of
custody for the wood in terms of the sustainability, but once the wood is delivered to the construction site, it is abused
by the contractors. Working with CLT panels is unlike working with regular lumber. It is much heavier, and an entirely
new technique is required to move the material around. It will be important to learn that. Currently, we are working on
five projects using CLT panels. We hope they will be available in Canada by next summer. If not, we will have to
modify the design, but we want to lead the industry in the use of those materials.
I do not have images of First Nations House of Learning, which we built at the University of British Columbia. It is
a totally prefabricated wood-built building with massive beams that are 70 feet long and 3 feet in diameter. All of the
material was pre-manufactured and precut. The wood industry needs to be trained in those techniques. The Gulf
Islands National Park Reserve Operations Centre is Canada's first LEED Platinum building constructed of wood.
North Cariboo Community Campus is the LEED Gold building. The Saanich native school is in the future. My future
achievements will be the Vancouver Native Youth Centre, which will be a wood building featuring First Nations
culture in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. We are using CLT panels for a renewable energy demonstration
project at UBC. Next year, we will build a gasification plant so that carbon waste can provide 10 per cent of the
electrical requirements at the University of British Columbia. One of the mandates for that building from the feasibility
study was to build it out of wood. It will be built out of CLT panels in a forest that will burn carbon. The forest is at
the University of British Columbia. There are big trees around the site. That will be a metaphor for the future — the
living tree, the tree at work and the tree being turned into energy.
Thank you for the opportunity to present my thoughts on wood. I am now open to questions.
The Chair: Thank you, witnesses.
We will now proceed with questions.
Senator Mercer: I thank you both of you for being here this morning. You are at the end of a series of presenters we
have had in our study on the use of wood. You have raised a number of questions.
Mr. McFarland, you talked about the use of cross-laminated timber. You said there are challenges for the
construction industry. What are those challenges?
If I understood what you said in the last portion of your presentation, it was that you are using cross-laminated
timber, but it is not being manufactured in Canada. Where are you getting it?
Mr. McFarland: To clarify, we are designing with cross-laminated timber. We have an engineering team that
strongly supports the program. There are pilot plants. For example, Canfor in Vancouver has a small pilot plant that
can produce it, but not at a commercially viable level.
I came from the Wood WORKS! national steering committee meeting in Toronto. One of its mandates is to get the
program under way as quickly as possible. The United States has a program where everyone throws a lot of money at
something and they make it happen.
Senator Mercer: That is called ``government.''
Mr. McFarland: It is called a checkoff program. If there is enough industry support, but no one is ready to take the
risk, then everyone pays a little, mostly in industry, and they set up a program to fund these things. That is one way to
On the other hand, one of the members at the Wood WORKS! council is the boss of a major glulam manufacturer
located in Penticton, British Columbia. They are committed to buying the equipment. He told me he will have his
equipment available by June of next year to be producing material for us.
The timeline for our projects is in that general vicinity. We are proceeding on that basis.
Senator Mercer: In about 18 months, you will be able to see the end product?
Mr. McFarland: Yes, you will. Some of these projects are part of the federal-provincial initiatives that must be built
by March 31, 2011. We intend to do that.
The other challenge is the builders' ability to build. Traditionally, one of the government's mandates is procurement;
projects are tendered. They will have no one that has constructed a building from this particular building material.
Either we will pay a fortune for the builder to learn or we should engage them early to have them learn how to build it
while we design it.
Senator Mercer: You have also talked about zero carbon footprint building using only certified wood. I am
confused by the term ``certified wood.'' We recently spent some time in the woods, and it all looked like wood to me.
How does a piece of wood become certified?
Mr. McFarland: You probably need the Canada Green Building Council to answer that.
The LEED standard identified that only wood from the Forest Stewardship Council would be considered acceptable
for building LEED buildings and getting that LEED point. You could use other wood, but you will not get that one
There are many certifications systems in the world. Canada has its Canadian Standards Association, CSA, system.
Our forests are well managed, but as few as 5 per cent of forests in Canada are certified by FSC. This is a means of
saying that the forest has been grown properly; the logs have been removed properly; and all various issues have been
addressed down to whether the land claim for the wood in that forest has been dealt with. This is a noble thing, but it
has nothing to do with the sustainability of the forest. It is a political issue, not an environmental issue.
Those things get in the way of the FSC rating system. Other systems that we have provide the level of care we believe
Senator Mercer: Mr. Trubka, you talked about the use of wood in arenas. Your pictures are marvellous, by the way;
they are fabulous buildings. You said that steel is the least desirable material to be used in a rink. Why is that?
Both of you do a lot of work with First Nations, yet neither of you appear to be First Nations yourselves. Do you
employ First Nations people in your firms as architects, engineers or consultants?
Mr. Trubka: I will respond first to your question about steel. There are many myths and misconceptions about steel
and wood. People say that steel will not burn; wood will burn. The timber and engineered timbers we use over arenas
or large sports complex floor areas are quite massive. If that is subjected to fire, it will scorch the surface and create a
layer of carbon that will prohibit access of oxygen into the wood and stop the fire.
However, if you have a steel structure, it has to be protected by mechanical means — sprinklers or coatings — from
a fire. In a fire, steel will become like spaghetti al dente and immediately collapse. The minute you warm steel, the
structural strength and capacity rapidly declines and the structure will collapse.
With a wood structure, however, you could have a fire burning for one or two hours. For arenas in Europe, we have
to design fire safety for a minimum of 90 minutes. That means everyone can vacate and firemen have plenty of
opportunity to extinguish the fire within 90 minutes.
This is one big advantage with wood. You are saving on the construction cost of sprinkler systems and other fire
Most North American architects and engineers fail to realize that if you have a wood structure, in order to render it
non-combustible, you cannot have steel connections exposed to the fire. A lot of architects in North America use large
steel blades on the wood as decoration or architectural detailing and expression. That immediately nullifies all the
capability of the wood. It will be the metal connecting plate that will fail in the heat of a fire, not the timber.
Regarding humidity, there are two different condensation or dew points on steel that happen at levels of low relative
humidity. In a wood structure, you need much higher relative humidity before condensation occurs. In a steel
structure, if you do not extract the humidity from ice arenas — at a great electrical cost — you get condensation on the
steel dripping on the ice surface and causing imperfections. This is not acceptable even by the NHL and particularly
not for figure skating or speed skating. You have to extract the humidity. If you walk into any steel-structured ice
arena, you will see a big box in each of the four corners of the arena. Those are the desiccant dehumidifying units. They
each run at a cost of about $40,000 annually. That is a big cost.
However, if you have a wood structure, you do not need to dehumidify the air. On some arenas, we just do natural
air ventilation, or with the help of a big propeller on one end either push or pull the air through the space without the
This saves a great degree of energy, but it also has a secondary effect on the ice and on the athletes. The higher
relative humidity of the air produces a far better output from the athletes because they can breathe easily; they do not
get choked and short of breath because they are not skating in a dry air environment. The ice becomes much faster,
Those are the obvious advantages of a wood structure. You have seen some large structures that we did. They can
be precut, prefabricated and pre-fitted off-site in a controlled warehouse-type environment and then brought to the site
and assembled. Typically, a structure like this will be erected by a small crew of four or five people within three or four
The Abbotsford ice arena, for example, and the arenas that we did in British Columbia were done during the time of
the Combines Investigation Act, which prohibited municipal funding from being spent on singling out one industry.
We were required by the municipal council to design two systems — one in steel and one in wood.
In all cases, the wood structure was significantly cheaper than the steel structure, although the contractors who built
it had never built anything of that nature before. They had no previous experience. However, if the design is done as a
Meccano or Lego set or something that is made out of repetitious elements, they need only a little guidance on how to
connect the pieces together and erect it; it is very simple.
The Abbotsford arena was erected by two fathers, each with two sons. They came from Quebec. They were
carpenters. They checked into a motel for six weeks, and within that time the entire structure was up. It came in at
$640,000 cheaper than the lowest steel bid. There are definite advantages.
The biggest challenge I see is motivation. We live in an extremely competitive environment. Architects, engineers
and design teams are requested to submit proposals to design a project. It usually takes about one to two weeks to
prepare these submissions, with a lot of manpower and out-of-pocket expenses.
These submissions are then received by the potential client — a university, college, municipality, whoever it is —
who receives 15 to 30 proposals from 15 to 30 teams. They then shortlist five and invite them to interviews. They clarify
in all the documentation that the final price will be negotiated. That means that they bring it down to the two last
teams, and then they negotiate with them on fees. They cut and cut and eventually the two teams, after spending so
much time pursuing this project, will have their cost estimates cut and cut. They end up with a minimal or basic
skeleton fee. At that point, will they have the motivation to design something in a system or structural materials with
which they have no previous experience? No; they will go the fastest and easiest way they can do it in order to recover
whatever investment they made in that process.
The Chair: Mr. McFarland, do you have any comments?
Mr. McFarland: I did not get a chance to answer the question about staff and I thought I would clarify that.
I have had numerous First Nations staff in my practice, which has been going for about 30 years now. They move
on; they have ambitions to have their own practices. In fact, Alfred Waugh, who was the architect for the Lillooet
Cultural Centre in Whistler, is a former staff member who worked with me for about five years and then moved on.
One important aspect of working with the First Nations culture has never been to have a First Nations staff
member, but to be able to listen. One of the critical things about raising children — at least according to my wife — is
also being able to listen. Our experience in daycares taught us that being a good listener is helpful. We have gained the
confidence of our First Nations clients by listening. Sometimes, these listening periods may be for months. We are
being paid; we have a commission to do the project, but we have to gain their respect and trust. Therefore, listening is
important. We have never considered it a critical thing to hire a First Nations person as a member of our firm,
although it is nice to have.
Senator Eaton: I think your buildings are beautiful. I applaud everything you are doing.
Basically, you two have talked about British Columbia. How does climate affect these buildings? Could you build
the same buildings you are building in British Columbia in Northern Ontario, in Quebec or even in Ottawa? Would
they stand up to snow and ice?
Mr. McFarland: Yes. Wood is a traditional building material that is used throughout Canada. You have to deal
with the cold, which is a dry environment; we have to deal with shrinkage in wood, which is not a thing that occurs in
other building materials. That is a critical aspect. We make up for that by having a lot of rain in British Columbia, so
we have wet wood.
Anything I am proposing — and I am pretty sure Mr. Trubka would have the same attitude — could be built in any
environment in Canada, as long as you understand the climate. Do not think that because you are an architect that you
are superior. Listen to what the environment is telling you and you can provide the appropriate response.
Senator Eaton: We had two architects, one from Alberta and one from Quebec, who were strong promoters of
wood, as you are. The architect from Quebec, who does a lot of building and uses a lot of wood, maintained that wood
on the inside is wonderful but perhaps other materials on the outside are better. That is because Canadians have not
acquired the taste yet of, say, Austrians and Germans, who let the wood age. It goes grey. In Austria, they use a
technique of charred wood, so the buildings are black. He said we have not yet acquired the taste for this kind of look
on the outside.
Mr. McFarland: That taste is a cultural issue. It is learned over time. It has nothing to do with the performance of
the material to protect or hold up the building.
I agree with you, because Canadian standards in general, in their built form, are less than European standards — the
consumers. When you see wood buildings finished in Europe, they are well finished. In many cases, the wood is
covered up, particularly on the interior. You are correct, but that is a perceptual issue as opposed to a practical,
Mr. Trubka: There are no climatic limitations to using wood anywhere in the world. A large speed skating arena in
Obihiro, Japan, is subjected not only to tremendous earthquake potential but also to as much as three metres of snow
load. The local code does not allow them to remove the snow from the roof, so the snow load stays there for the
duration of the winter. Also, their climate is so severe that one day there will be a freeze and the next day there will be a
thaw followed by rain. Essentially, the snow becomes a thick layer of ice. Provided the wood structure is designed to
take that load — and you can see that this is a flat roof, which is the most challenging for any structural engineer to do
in wood — and provided the individual elements are exposed to compressive loads, the wood will be superior to a steel
structure. When it is designed and manufactured as a standard repetition of identical elements, it becomes as simple as
a Meccano set.
I would never expose a structure like this to exterior elements and weather elements. Wood must always be
protected. On the example of the university in Prince George, you can see that the buildings are built in wood.
However, when you see the building from the outside, you do not see the wood. The wood is inside where it is
protected. It is on the inside of the walls, the roof and the floors. However, the outside cladding is non-wood to
withstand the Prince George climate, which can go to minus 40 degrees Celsius in winter and plus 40 degrees Celsius in
Mr. McFarland talked about First Nations projects. All the projects we have done with First Nations, 47 of them in
35 years, were funded by Indian Affairs and Health Canada. All of them were built under construction management
contracts and were not tendered, which created massive employment in these remote First Nations communities. The
buildings were built predominantly by band labour. Many of the young members of the communities would receive
apprenticeship tickets after completion of the construction. Instead of the funding going to outside contractors, it
remained in the communities and improved their financial well-being. Although we do not have First Nations
designers, architects and engineers, we worked with the communities, and they then became their own contractors and
Senator Eaton: To encourage the use of wood in buildings, how do we market it? Do we educate the architects or
educate the Canadian public to demand that architects build in wood? Which comes first?
Mr. Trubka: I mentioned motivation, which is the first step.
Senator Eaton: Is that motivation in municipalities? Those are the people who sit around the table and have to be
Mr. Trubka: I am talking about motivation among architects and engineers. Why should they use wood if they do
not know how to use it? About 95 per cent of Canadian architects and engineers have no clue or experience and have
never done anything beyond two-storey or three-storey two-by-four wood-frame apartment buildings. In all Canadian
universities, there is not one single chair or faculty of wood engineering or architecture. Why is that, given that Canada
is one of the largest wood-producing countries? In Europe, every major university has a special faculty of professors,
assistants, workshops, computer programs and many students learning compulsory wood engineering, wood detailing
Senator Eaton: How do we change that? What do we do to get universities to understand that wood is the best way
Mr. Trubka: Mr. McFarland mentioned a push to develop a faculty of wood engineering at UBC in Vancouver. It
started up about 18 to 20 years ago but ran on and off. Every few years there was a push for it, but it never went ahead
because there was never any funding for it.
Senator Eaton: Is there never any funding or never any demand for it?
Mr. Trubka: There is no funding.
Mr. McFarland: There is no demand, if I may say.
Mr. Trubka: I believe that education is the role of government, and the government should provide the funding and
establish a chair of engineering. Two professors were identified for that faculty at UBC. They were both from Europe
and willing to come to Canada and teach at UBC. However, for lack of funding, it never happened. Forest Renewal
BC provided $250,000 towards this faculty, but it will not go too far.
Senator Rivard: The question that Senator Eaton just asked completely changes mine. With a non-residential
project, people, whether private developers, governments or public institutions, come to see you and say, ``My need is
such-and-such, I want such-and-such a building of such-and-such a size.'' Your role is to advise. The more often you
advise the use of wood, the more wood will be used. But you have just told us that scarcely 5 per cent of architects will
recommend wood, either out of ignorance, or because they do not think about it, or because their interests lie
elsewhere. Can we hope that, in the short or medium term, architects are going to strongly recommend the use of wood
more and more in non-residential construction?
Seeing almost as many wood buildings as those built with traditional materials like concrete or steel is not going to
happen overnight. But I was starting to dream before I heard your answer. When a majority of architects suggest non-
residential buildings built of wood, would it also be possible to hope that, in the medium term, wood producers could
be exporting wooden structures to the United States, to Europe, to South America or to Asia? But now, if I understand
you correctly, with only 5 per cent of all architects seemingly preferring wood, I guess I should ask that question a few
years from now.
Mr. Trubka: Canada has the best engineered lumber products in the world. They are far superior to European
products. The invention of Parallam happened in 1966. The inventors received the prestigious Marcus Wallenberg
award in Europe for their invention. That product sat on shelves used by builders as a car port or garage post and
beam over the garage door for another 15 or 20 years. The ice arena that we designed in South Surrey was the first
project to utilize that product. The product has between 30 per cent and 50 per cent higher structural capabilities than
any other laminated engineered wood product.
Not a single engineer in Canada would support us to give confidence to the municipal council. Therefore, we
brought an engineer from Switzerland, Professor Julius Natterer. Following his input, the structure was built.
As a consequence of that success, the project was publicized all over Europe in technical magazines. MacMillan
Bloedel established a network of 55 distribution centres in Europe. European countries allowed the importation of
Parallam into Europe without duties because it was viewed as a renewable resource. For almost 10 years, they basically
flooded the European market with this product and many buildings were built, some of which we designed. Then one
unfortunate winter, a big wind storm swept through Europe and felled massive amounts of forest along highways and
railways in Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Germany.
An Austrian company, Kaufmann Holz, negotiated with the government to buy all the fallen trees that had to be
removed before infesting the forests. They bought all that cheap lumber for nothing, which killed the importation of
Parallam to Europe. After that, MacMillan Bloedel sold to Weyerhaeuser and two big American companies.
Canadian engineered wood products are highly sought and desirable in Asian projects in Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
I am always baffled when I go around the world and see other countries appreciating what we have in Canada. Yet I do
not find people in Canada who appreciate what we have, especially not among architects and engineers.
Again, it comes back to my comment about education and motivation.
Mr. McFarland: I will address that question as well. I may have glanced over this in my brief. I believe the best way
to promote wood construction is by requiring buildings — ideally all, but at least federal buildings — to reduce their
carbon footprint. You will push the design industry to think about the right material to be used.
Mr. Trubka is correct. Many buildings are built based upon the lowest common denominator. We have them all
over our country because fees have been chopped and developers want to spend the least.
However, if it becomes mandatory that all buildings have a reduced carbon foot print or meet a certain standard,
there will be no choice but to move into wood. They will educate themselves. It is not — if I can use the term — rocket
science. It is simply good common sense in most cases.
Regarding exporting prefabricated buildings, the Canadian oil industry in the Prairies developed module buildings
called ATCO buildings. They exist throughout the world and are residential in scale. There are very few fabricators of
wood products in Canada that would be capable of making building components for export as far as I can see.
Glulam manufacturers cannot meet the demands we have in a declining construction industry. There are one in
British Columbia, one in Alberta and two in Quebec. I do not know whether there are any in Ontario. We look to
importing from the United States.
There is a gap in our fabrication industry. Again, I was speaking to the gentlemen from Structurlam Products about
creating CLT products. His goal is to manufacture them. Once they go out of his yard, he does not care. We have to
pick up that particular piece of the chain and ensure that the people who are building with the product are doing it
correctly, but he does not want that responsibility.
That is not the case in Europe. Maybe it is lack of initiative or they are making too much money; I do not know. I
will try to talk them into it.
Senator Rivard: Thank you for your comments and for your suggestion about government buildings.
Senator Mahovlich: You mentioned that Europe is building wooden buildings six storeys high. Why did we allow
only three storeys? There must have been a reason.
Mr. Trubka: I asked the same question 40 years ago when I came to Canada. I started to learn to build apartment
buildings in wood. In my mind, there is no limitation with wood. I was told by municipal building departments that the
height limitation is the length of the fire truck ladder.
I designed my first four-storey building 38 years ago. I built a raised berm around the perimeter of the building that
was about 15 feet away from the building. That way, the fire truck ladder could reach the top of it and meet the three-
storey height requirement. I fought that campaign in a Laurel and Hardy slapstick movie manner. However, I have no
other answer, unless Mr. McFarland knows something more tangible.
As Mr. McFarland mentioned, the building codes are really not an obstacle. They are not an issue to change. After
all, architects and all the design team have to sign off with their life and neck by the schedules that everything is fine
and we will assume full responsibility for the buildings.
Mr. McFarland: My understanding of the three-storey limitation is the ability of fire-fighting equipment to reach the
upper level. Remember that these codes have been around for 45 to 50 years now. My point in my original presentation
was that they do not change fast enough. In some cases, it is good to have slow change; but when we are facing the
issues of sustainability, a lot of it is tied in to how we build buildings.
Senator Mahovlich: Did the Europeans have ladders that could reach six storeys?
Mr. McFarland: Maybe they did not use that as a criterion. We have developed strengths and protections in our
buildings that have enabled them to get larger in wood, but there is still room to manoeuvre.
Senator Mahovlich: You mentioned that wood construction is healthier. I was over in Davos, Switzerland, years
ago, and they had a rink there made out of wood. I was amazed; I had never seen anything like it. This was 40 or 50
years ago. I played hockey there and I did breathe a lot easier.
Do you think it would be advantageous to have our airports made out of wood, because large crowds gather in these
airports and it might be healthier for us?
Mr. Trubka: Absolutely. I was quite disappointed that we lost the opportunity for the new airport in Vancouver. It
is built all in steel — steel columns with steel branches reminiscent of a tree.
The engineers who designed that structure had an office next to my office for about 15 years. I was always teasing
them and making jokes, saying they are incompetent if they cannot design it, because they wrapped the columns with
wood veneer afterwards to make it look like wood. However, they said they could not make it work. I do not buy that
Again, it comes to the point that they had never done it before. They were at the end of the competitive process.
Their fees were cut down to the bare bones, so they designed it with the technology that they were very comfortable
with, and they knew they could do it very fast.
In answer to your question, yes, any of the large public buildings are prime candidates for using wood structures.
Senator Mahovlich: I know that the architect who designed the Ottawa airport wanted to build it in wood, and they
did not think it was feasible; but you say it is cheaper.
Mr. Trubka: Yes, if you know how to do it. It keeps coming back to the same thing. Many European airports,
especially in Scandinavian countries, are all in wood.
Senator Mahovlich: Most of the buildings are made out of wood in Finland.
We were talking about the Aboriginal peoples. Did you know that during the construction of the Empire State
Building in New York, Mohawks were hired from reserves in Maniwaki and Montreal? For working at heights, the
Mohawks had more balance than anybody else; so you can start hiring them.
Mr. Trubka: My first project and very first contact with First Nations was in 1975. At that point, I came to a
meeting with all kinds of sketches and ideas and they were very quiet. There were about 50 or 60 of them and I could
not get a word or comment from anybody.
I said, let us have a coffee break and write down what you think about those sketches, which were all on the walls.
After the coffee break, I came back and it was written, ``When you will smell like us, we will talk to you.''
However, I found them extremely capable. They have an inherent ability to feel and understand wood and work
with wood. They have no formal training — they are not carpenters — but the minute you give them a piece of wood
and some tools, they have tremendous ability to do an exceptional quality of work.
All these buildings are in locations where they are subjected to severe climatic conditions. They put an enormous
amount of attention on the detailing and finishing, either inside or particularly on the exterior, and they last. There is
no vandalism or window breakage because they build them themselves.
Mr. McFarland: I will respond to Senator Mahovlich's comments about the health he felt in the wood arena. I
mentioned the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve Operations Centre built in Sidney for Parks Canada. I know most
of you have been to the West Coast and seen the Gulf Islands. One of the most gratifying things about completing that
building was the reaction of the people using it.
It is an office area for the wardens in the field. The field out there is in a boat on an island with the eagles and fish
swimming around. We have been complimented to the extent that the people who work within the facility enjoy
working in our building. It is wood, naturally ventilated and sustainable; and when they have the opportunity of going
outside and working, they are just as happy to be working inside the building. A well-designed, sustainable wood
building is a pleasure to be in. It makes life, education, whatever is going on in it, better.
Senator Plett: Thank you for coming out and giving us another great presentation. My appreciation of wood
products has certainly changed in the last weeks and months.
Senator Mercer already talked about us stomping through the forest last week. We did everything from planting the
tree, to watching it grow, to chopping it down and seeing it go through the mill.
You talked about certification of wood. I agree with Senator Mercer that, to me, it looked like wood was wood was
wood. There was a lot of it there and it should all be able to be used.
Senator Eaton and Senator Mahovlich both touched on why we are not using more, where the education is needed
and so on. We have had a number of witnesses who all seem to put the blame on a different level somewhere. Some
people said the architects and engineers did not want to do this. Some architects and engineers said there was not
enough education at the universities when they went through.
You touched on the codes today. I would like to take Senator Eaton's questions a little further and ask how we can
effect some positive change in codes. Is it lobbying that is being done to keep the codes where they are with concrete
and steel? Obviously, the codes are set to a degree by government, but surely to goodness whoever is setting these codes
wants the best product and the best buildings as well.
Is that where the real problem is or is it that architects and engineers do not want it? If it is the codes, what can we as
a committee do? Can the government do anything to affect change in building code requirements for four-storey and
six-storey buildings constructed of wood? There must be a different solution.
Mr. McFarland: I have been an advisory board member of the Canadian Wood Council for 10 years. Every year we
have a code review by technical staff of the Canadian Wood Council, which is associated with the American Wood
Council. They provide a report that often deals with the issues of code changes. I think you hit the nail on the head
when you said that code changes are an issue of lobbying. An incredible amount of lobbying is related to code issues —
everything from plastic to glass to combustibility. The big players are the wood, steel and concrete industries. The
wood industry is small by comparison and does not have high-level lobbying by big organizations. The forest industry
in Canada is comprised of many small players in the great scheme of things.
The technical staff of the Canadian Wood Council monitor code changes and make presentations on issues of code
changes. Recently, the wood industry was to be excluded from some of the discussions, but after much protest to the
agency that writes the National Building Code, they were allowed back in. They were fearful of losing their position in
the building of wooden buildings and losing ground by facing more limitations.
The code is clearly in place to protect people. That is the bigger picture. I disagree with saying that one player is the
problem, because it is more a matter of changing our culture and making us appreciate everything from charred wood
to the aspect of wood being the solution to sustainability of a building.
I commented on making a building's footprint neutral. It is necessary to make everyone sit up and listen and deal
with this. If we cannot use wood in airports or high-rise buildings, we will have to be creative in what we do, and no
one area will solve the problem. A thousand little things must be done. I cannot say enough about what the Wood
WORKS! people have done to educate on the issues of sustainability.
I do not know that I can answer more questions. I would like to have a simple answer to the question, but everyone
points a finger at everyone when, in reality, we all have a stake in this and must do our best. Over the past 10 years,
Wood WORKS! architecture and building quality have taken off in British Columbia, and it is happening in Ontario as
well. I will attend the Wood WORKS! gala tomorrow night in Toronto. Very exciting urban buildings will be built with
a considerable amount of wood, which would not have happened 10 to 15 years ago. The initiative shown in the design
and build of the Richmond Olympic Oval in wood came from the tremendous creativity of many designers, fabricators
and engineers. Someone with vision must lead such a team, whether the owner, the architect or the engineer. In my
work, the biggest challenge is to find the vision for the project. Once you have that vision, you make it happen. If the
vision is to build it out of wood, then we will figure out a way to make it happen.
Mr. Trubka: I would agree with Mr. McFarland. I have never seen the code as an obstacle. You have seen the
projects that we do. The code is not the obstacle. Changing the codes will not encourage the architects or the engineers
to design in wood. Something else must motivate them, because they can do it in steel or in concrete or in wood.
Currently, 95 per cent of architects and engineers do not think about a trio of materials; they think steel or concrete.
The idea of building in wood enters the minds of only a few fanatics, such as Mr. McFarland and me and a few other
engineers and architects who are passionate about wood. Most architects and engineers would not even entertain the
idea of considering wood.
However, the idea is growing in British Columbia, through the Wood WORKS! program. Many young architects
are trying to embrace the concept, because through the Wood WORKS! program, young architects can be recognized
and appreciated. I have done many lectures and presentations in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan to architects and
engineers. These have been organized by a Wood WORKS! program and the Canadian Wood Council. The attitude
seems to be that the wood is beautiful but it is more suited to British Columbia and that it cannot be done elsewhere. I
ask, ``Why not? What is stopping you?'' They reply, ``We have not done it. It is not being done.'' Something needs to
motivate them to think about wood as an alternative to steel and concrete. That would be a good start.
Senator Plett: Are there enough buildings to be built in wood under the present codes? If we put our collective mind
to building in wood, we would not have to change the code immediately.
Mr. Trubka: No.
Senator Plett: I am looking at this photo of a building that is 110 metres by 220 metres. What is the height of the
building? What is the seating capacity of the building?
Mr. Trubka: It is 25 metres high from the ice surface to the highest point, and it has a seating capacity of 5,000.
Senator Plett: You said your building in Abbotsford came in at $640,000 less than it would have cost had it been
built of steel. Is that because you had access to local material? If that arena had been built in Regina where there is not
a tree within 100 miles, would you have saved that much money on the building?
Mr. Trubka: It would have been the case still because it utilizes Parallam and TimberStrand. They are engineered
high-profile materials with high structural properties. They are manufactured in British Columbia and in Georgia,
U.S.A. The engineered-wood product is transported economically, especially if the structure is prefabricated in
elements and transported in containers. Some of these structures are designed to fit into 40-foot containers to go to
Japan or Europe.
The steel would have to come from Ontario to build the same type of structure somewhere in Saskatchewan or
Manitoba. I do not see that there would be much difference between transporting the steel from Ontario or the wood
from B.C. The cost depends on how it is designed and engineered to put together the simplest combination of elements.
It can be erected with a minimal labour force and crane deployment.
This slide shows a building where the first day we had four cranes erecting the first frame. Timbers had to be held by
four cranes with cable staging in place so they would not collapse. The next day, we had only three cranes because we
erected the second frame and the two frames were immediately braced together. Once we had two frames, we reduced
the number of cranes to one. The biggest cost in construction is the big equipment and machinery. We kept it to one
day with four cranes, a second day with three and, thereafter, only one crane. In three or four weeks, the entire
structure was up and the rest was erected with a forklift or cherry pickers. You can see that the lumber is all precut. The
connections are all pre-fit, then assembled, bolted and screwed together on site. If it is designed and engineered as a
simple structure, it is simple, economical and quick. A steel structure would be far more complicated.
Senator Plett: I think you have answered my question.
Mr. Trubka: I find it far easier and simpler to design a structure in wood than in steel.
Senator Eaton: I have a quick remark. Have you seen Frank Gehry's wonderful new wood room at the Art Gallery
of Ontario in Toronto?
Mr. McFarland: Yes. That is an example of one of Canada's leading architects moving from his traditional material
of steel into wood. To me, that is what is truly exciting about that particular building.
Senator Eaton: Senator Rivard can also tell you about many exciting buildings in Quebec being constructed from
Senator Fairbairn: This has been a wonderful, visual morning for us.
You spoke about connecting with colleagues or students in Alberta. Is there any place in Alberta where you built the
kind of glorious discoveries you have shown us today?
Mr. Trubka: We have been asked by architects and engineers from Calgary and Edmonton to work together when
they were responding to requests for proposals to different projects. We teamed up with Sahuri + Partners
Architecture. They have offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Medicine Hat. We have not been successful, because the
contract always goes to the lowest bidder.
The mentality of the parks board asking for proposals is that they have been getting these steel structures for the last
20 years and that is all they are expecting. There is a lot of mistrust among municipal clients regarding the use of wood.
There is a lot of misconception that wood burns, rots and will do all kinds of bad things to us. They have not seen an
arena like this, so they ask why they should be the guinea pigs.
The arena shown was the first one I designed. It was for the City of Surrey. At that time, the mayor and council
asked me to declare publicly on camera that I was not making a guinea pig out of the project. I had to clarify that this
had been done many times, maybe not in Surrey or in British Columbia, but many times in Europe. I was, perhaps,
stretching the facts a little, but if that is what it took to construct in wood, we were prepared to do it that way.
Senator Fairbairn: Thank you. I would love to see these kinds of building from these beautiful pictures in my
province. They are outstanding. I can imagine what you might do with the mountains, and so on. I wish you were
The Chair: If there are no further questions, I have two questions before the witnesses leave.
We have a program called the North American Wood First Program. You talked about a university chair in wood
engineering. What would be the most efficient way to convince that 95 per cent — we have 5 per cent according to your
estimates — of architects and engineers who barely work with wood to start having a wood-first approach in their
Mr. Trubka: You have many federal government buildings. If the use of wood as an essential structural element for
those buildings were part of the requirement, you would be amazed at how quickly things would change. We live in a
fiercely competitive world. Quickly, architects and engineers would realize that there is a certain type of structure that
they must learn and get experience with. There must be motivation for them.
As Mr. McFarland was saying, do not single out wood over other industries, but make a requirement for the lowest
carbon footprint. Then it would be obvious that it must be wood.
Mr. McFarland: I will repeat what Mr. Trubka said. I think mandating material is something our provincial
government does, but I do not think it is necessarily the right way to do. It is a good way.
To address the issue of the environment, if you believe, as I do, that wood is the only sustainable building material
that sequesters carbon for hundreds of years as long as the building is still standing, make it a requirement to reduce
the carbon footprints of federal buildings. They will learn quickly the importance of wood.
It will not necessarily always be appropriate for a structure; sorry, but it may not. However, there will be other
places that the wood can be put into that building that will help to achieve a reduced carbon footprint.
The Chair: We have seen different stakeholders, mainly industries, sawmills and hardwood and softwood
operations. They have shared with us their certification, such as the ISO and international standards that I know you
are aware of, the sustainable forestry practices and community sharing — for example, with First Nations and the
communities aligned around the forest.
We also have seen the collapse of the residential lumber market in the U.S. That is one reason we are faced with the
challenges that we have presently in the forest industry to find new ways and products that are value-added.
I have a question that I do not know how to ask, but I will wing it. We know that present commercial buildings use
metal studding on their inner walls. If we look at metal studding versus wood studding, looking at just the federal
building markets, what percentage of the market would that represent? That is, to use two-by-fours rather than steel
Mr. Trubka: If I were to give you an answer, I would be like John Wayne, shooting from the hip.
Senator Plett: He never missed.
Mr. Trubka: I would miss.
Mr. McFarland: That was because he shot the person who asked the question.
The Chair: Can you attempt to answer that? I know the magnitude of our country, but if I were to say to you, as
architects, let us look at Vancouver, Winnipeg and Ottawa, could you provide us with a guesstimate of a building that
would show what we use now? What would be the wood studding versus metal studding? Is that possible to answer?
Mr. Trubka: It would have to be somewhat reasonably, logically and scientifically calculated. We have done similar
calculations of cubic volume of board measures of lumber for our First Nation clients when they applied for a timber
licence that they wanted to build their project out of wood; but it would have to be somewhat calculated. I cannot tell
you without doing that.
Mr. McFarland: I have the same concern. There are so many variables in the question you have asked that I cannot
get my head around giving you an answer.
If you would truly like an answer, I would be happy to take that question back to Toronto with me and ask it of the
Canadian Wood Council. I am sure that they could give you an answer quickly.
The Chair: Would you please do that? Also, witnesses, if you feel that the answers you given to the questions asked
by members of the committee could be expanded on, please do so. If you have recommendations for the government,
ways and means of utilizing wood-first products in our non-residential construction, we would appreciate that.
Do you have anything to add in closing?
Mr. Trubka: I would love to see one day one of the Canadian universities have a chair of wood design and wood
engineering. I have already been delegated by the federal government, through the embassy in Prague, to attend the
International Wood Construction Conferences on two occasions, five years apart. That conference, which takes two
days, brings in close to a thousand engineers, architects, scientists, researchers and professors from around the world,
from all kinds of universities.
The level of science, knowledge and competence that I witness when I am there makes me feel inadequate. Here I
feel like I am a one-eyed person among the blind. In those conferences, I feel that I have nothing to contribute. They
know everything and I have so much to learn.
We need a university chair that would bring two or three experts of this magnitude who would start training and
teaching young architects and engineers, exposing them to the wealth of knowledge and science that already exists
Mr. McFarland: I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of wood and our profession. I
would close by reminding you of the positive impact sustainable building design can have on Canada's commitment to
climate change. I think that is the way to deal with it; because society, as a whole, wants to do the right thing in that
direction, and Canadians generally do the right thing.
You can use that as your lever. No one will deny the merits of building buildings with reduced carbon footprints.
The Chair: If there are no other questions, I wish to thank you very much on behalf of the committee.