BY MATHEW LEITCH
'Wood is good" is the motto of the Lakehead University Wood Science and Testing Facility (LUWSTF).
The group believes wood is the answer to many issues we are having in the world today where growing trees will assist in global climate issues and the use of wood from renewable and sustainably grown trees will move us to a greener society.
On top of the carbon storage that trees and wood products do for society, wood has always had a warm, comfortable and aesthetically pleasing place in people's hearts.
Whether it be a piece of furniture, the structural members holding your house up and together or a warm fire burning to heat your house, wood is a versatile material that has literally thousands of uses in society.
My talk will look at how we use wood currently, how we can use wood in new products and how all this can bring us closer to a greener society. In Canada we have been a commodity producer of forest products (pulp and paper and lumber) for over a century.
This industry has served Canada well and has been a backbone industry to building Canada as a country. Global competition and open markets are increasingly cutting into our traditional product markets.
The Southern Hemisphere is one of the main areas we are seeing competition from due to fast growing eucalyptus and pine species that have rotations as short as five years for pulp and 20 years for sawlogs for lumber, compared to our 60 years for pulp and 100 years for sawlogs for lumber. We need to look at how we do business and how we value our forests to maximize returns and value for every tree cut.
In the LUWSTF we have developed a tree and landscape inherent wood properties mapping program where we can map the properties of trees for individuals or entire landscapes. This technology is non-destructive and can be incorporated into existing forest resource inventory methods that the government uses to create the maps without the timely and very expensive need for destructive testing.
This will show industry players where the different grades of wood are on the landscape allowing: reactions to market demand to be met efficiently and quickly; better planning on a landscape scale for managers; attraction of new investment to the area based on the quality of our forests and in particular create more opportunities for small to medium sized value-added businesses who have specific wood quality requirements.
In addition, this technology will enable better utilization of the resource where trees can be segregated into inherent quality based log piles and sent to appropriate mills that will maximize the value of the logs.
A good example of how this can be used is with the recent Building Code changes in Ontario to allow six-storey wood structures. These buildings will use a significant amount of lumber in CLT (cross laminated timber) panels, which is one of the new building systems already being used in B.C. and Quebec where code changes occurred years ago. CLT and Glulam products are high value and a very good export product.
Many new opportunities such as this exist in N.W.O. where there is a large wood basket, so the days of Canada and Ontario being a leader in forest products can be regained where not only can we lead in products but also in how we manage and recognize the forest resource for its multitude of values.
Dr. Leitch, associate professor in natural resource management, will hold this talk on today (Feb. 20) at 2 p.m. in the Waverley Resource Library. It is part of Lakehead University's ongoing In Conversation series.