by Mark Nielsen, Prince George Citizen

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Original Source: The Vancouver Sun

PRINCE GEORGE – Work will begin in the next few weeks on the tallest wood building in North America as the winning bidder to construct the long-awaited Wood Innovation and Design Centre was announced Friday.

With the project first announced in the February 2009 throne speech, Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Pat Bell expressed relief at seeing the proposal now so close to going ahead.

“This has obviously been a long road and a hard road for us, but I think the result is going to pay off for many, many decades to come,” Bell told a throng of local dignitaries and media who gathered at the Ramada Hotel, across from the construction site.

PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc., which built the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North, also in Prince George, has been chosen to build the centre, whose cost has been capped at $25.1 million.

Construction will start “towards the end of April,” said company vice-president Anibal Valente and the project will take 16 months to complete.

At the peak of construction, about 50 local workers will be on the site.

Other than a concrete foundation, the building will be constructed entirely of wood and incorporate species from across B.C., including Douglas fir, cedar, hemlock, pine and spruce.

And while the minimum requirement was about 800 cubic metres of wood, Valente said the final figure will be 2,000 cubic metres or nearly 850,000 board feet.

“So we exceeded the minimum requirement by quite a bit,” Valente said. Once completed, commercial office space will be available and a new masters of engineering in tall wood design program, delivered through the University of Northern British Columbia, will occupy the bottom three floors.

Bell said much thought was also given to making it home to a full-fledged undergraduate program in engineering, given the high interest in the community, but a masters program will produce expertise in building and designing tall wood projects much more quickly.

To stand six-storeys or 27.5 metres tall, it was designed by architect Michael Green.

Green played up the project’s environmental benefits, saying it will spare the atmosphere about 2,000 tonnes of carbon compared to if it was built out of concrete, equal to taking about 500 cars off the road in one year.

Bell said the building “will advance the cause for wood construction not just here in British Columbia and not just across Canada but in fact across the world and will have a meaningful impact for our forest industry,” Bell said.