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Canadian building technologies conference

Tuesday 14 July, 2009

I checked out this Building Technologies conference organized by Ann Rosen from the Canadian Consulate in Chicago.  Here are the presentations made that the presenters decided to send over to me:

Sustainable  forest products were addressed byJoel Neuheimer of FPAC, who made this presentation:  Chicago_AIA_FPAC FPAC issues a sustainable initiative report every 2 years.  Canada is the world’s leading forest products exporter, sourcing from 30% of the world’s intact forest, 70% of which is uninhabited.  Canada is 3rd in total forest area behind Russia & Brazil.  The provinces have the most jurisdiction, owning 71%; the federal government exerts indirect responsibility by owning 23%; & private owners speak for 6% of Canada’s forests.  Canada’s regulation of forests is the most stringent in the world, which is verified by 3rd parties.  Forests lose more to natural causes than to harvests.  300 Canadian communities rely on forestry for their livelihoods.

Here are a few issues they are confronting:

  • legal harvests?
  • regeneration
  • reduce/re-use/recycle-to recover 65% of paper, 90% of fibre, & return 10% to biomass
  • reduce greenhouse gases to become carbon neutral  by 2015 without carbon credits (20% of greenhouse gases come from deforestation)
  • independent scrutiny/certification
  • green procurement
  • informational tools (see their website)
  • the Athena Institute claims that wood creates the smallest environmental footprint.

CMHC Chicago presentation

Q&A brought out:

  • The use of wood is restricted in Chicago, which has a building code “from hell.”  A representative from Wood Works Chicago said they are trying to enlist support of the unions.  New York has moved to the international code-Chicago is doing a study on it.
  • Engineered wood preserves & performs.  Yellow/Alaskan cedar actually kills termites.
  • Younger trees remove more CO2 when they are 20-80 years old, so there is good sense to replacing old forests with new ones.

My take:  there’s not a lot of high technology here, but it is important as environmental concerns are becoming more important.  It’s apparent we need to change building codes not to just reflect safety/PR concerns, (reknowned Chicago deck collapse a few years ago), but simply change with the times to reflect new technologies & methods.  I’m not sure wood is the end-all/be-all the Canadians purport it to be because new materials sciences are coming up with lots of innovative products as well.

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