Pine beetles kill forests, builders seek to use the wood 

While the insect infestation continues, using the timber left behind is becoming easier

click to enlarge pine is fine A Brackendale company installed wood panels made from pine-beetle-infected trees at
  • pine is fine A Brackendale company installed wood panels made from pine-beetle-infected trees at

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It was developed in Austria and used in passive house technology, as well as the U.K.'s Murray Grove Building, the tallest wood structure in the world. Slabs used in Europe can be up to 24 metres long, but smaller wood presses in Canada means panels are on a smaller scale, around 7 metres long.

It is in these slabs that beetle-kill wood is integrated, slabs that are strong enough to replace concrete. Beetle-kill wood has been used throughout the interior of the bioenergy building, which is located on UBC's main Vancouver campus.

"The beetle wood is being used more and more... it depends on the structural requirements. In this particular project it was really only CLT panels that were MPB (mountain pine beetle) wood and the timber posts and beams were Douglas fir," Lutz said.

Brent Sauder, the director of strategic partnerships at UBC, said the bioenergy facility is part of the university's commitment to cutting greenhouse gases by 33 per cent by 2015.

"The intent was to use the building as a first North American demonstration of cross laminated timber," Sauder said, adding that the building was the first commercial use of CLT wood manufactured in Canada. Before this, CLT was only available if imported from Europe and did not use beetle-kill wood.

The B.C. Ministry of Forests and Canadian Wood Council contributed to the cost of the project because of this use of denim wood, and the federal forest products innovations research group FP Innovations in Vancouver and Pointe-Claire, Quebec, was also involved, he said.

"The technology behind this is very new... when we started construction two years ago we were really at the leading edge," Sauder said.

Lutz believes that beetle-kill wood, which sells for deflated prices because of the amount of beetle-kill timber now on the market, means that CLT panels can be cheaper, opening its use up to other opportunities including in residential construction. Other bonuses, he added, are its ability to withstand earthquakes and absorb sound.

"I think the part that is really missing (from studies into the viability of CLT panels) is how they can be used in residential construction for much more energy efficient homes and to meet the new building codes for seismic activity," Lutz said.

"It is absolutely so strong. They did a study on Canadian CLT panels in Japan and they built a building and put it on the world's largest shake table." The building was shaken and measured for shifting nine times, which has never happened, he added.

Lutz is due to work on a second project using beetle-kill CLT panels at UBC, on the new student union building. His work on the project starts in April 2013.

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