High Trees’n Costs

West Coast woods are regular fodder for political discussions. Sometimes it involves negotiations with trading partners. Sometimes it involves social topics centering on high costs of real estate and allied concerns over homelessness. Here in Vancouver, the mayor’s aims of making this city the ‘greenest’ on the planet stirs an electorate with each new bike lane that is announced. So it is that a 24 hrs Vancouver columnist’s concern over costs involving the removal of one tree atop a condo tower caught a lumber trader’s attention, though it had nothing to do with NAFTA or SLA negotiations. See: Condo Tree

The cost of planting one tree (not on top of a condo building) is estimated at around $75. This means condo owners at Eugenia Place could effectively plant 7,300 trees for the price of the one they’ll be installing on their roof.

UBC Brock Commons

Updated August 10, 2016: Video of the final panel, flown into place August 9, 2016.

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The following images offer beautiful hi-res peeks at construction of the towering 18-storey student residence at UBC. One of the tallest wood buildings in the world, Brock Commons will house 404 students in 272 studios and 33 four-bedroom units, and feature study and social gathering spaces. The images are posted with permission from Leda Chahim, Government Affairs Director, Forterra.

I look forward to learning more about the UBC Brock Commons project, mass timber solutions, and new opportunities for dimension lumber upon scheduled visit in September with Oscar Faoro, wood-WORKS Project Leader, Tall Wood Structures Initiative, at the Tall Wood Building Education Centre.

Beijing Branding

Vancouver Forest is a unique 900-unit residential development – in Beijing! We’re told here the site was designed to replicate a mini west-side Vancouver neighborhood complete with west-side Vancouver-style housing, landscaping, trees – and bidding wars, presumably. A Google search reveals the plan was hatched in 2002. By 2006, construction had stalled however, when the Chinese government determined single detached homes were not in the collective interest of the country’s more than one billion people. By 2009, construction had resumed, and it’s reported that 900 homes of approximately 4300 square feet each have been completed. According to Business Vancouver, “North American single-family home subdivisions started emerging in China early this century following successful projects such as Orange County, which created a faux Los Angeles an hour’s drive from Beijing.”

So I read with interest a report today in The New York Times. According to the report, this trend of tacking on foreign names to developments around China could be coming to an end. We’re told concern over the foreign names was raised when a recent survey revealed that since 1986, “60,000 township names and 400,000 village names have fallen from use as a result of development and urbanization” in China. The minister of civil affairs has said names that “damage sovereignty and national dignity” or “violate the socialist core values and conventional morality” would be targeted. Meanwhile, developers argue the “international flavor helps sell houses”.

Grass Huts for Homeless?

A story in this morning’s Maui News reports that Hawaiian lawmakers are considering a unique solution to the housing crisis there. A bill will be introduced in upcoming legislative session that would set aside land to build thatched homes aimed at alleviating homelessness. Senator Chun Oakland said “There is an interest in capturing some of the traditional ways of living among our people here in Hawaii.”

“This doesn’t make any sense,” said Shannon Wood, co-founder of the Windward Ahupuaa Alliance, a non-profit organization that advocates for smart growth solutions. “This is 2016, not 1616.” Wood asked whether there would be toilets in the huts.  Senator Oakland said that all details have not been worked out.
HT: Ernie Harder

Lumber Traders Obsolete?

Time to answer Question Number 7 for 2015: Is information technology rendering lumber traders obsolete?
While it seems reasonable to surmise the pool of lumber traders is getting smaller (consolidations in North America, vanishing lumber agents in China), information technology is not rendering lumber traders obsolete. It would seem that there are intangibles traders bring to the marketing function in the lumber business that, and we might have to agree with Donald Trump here, will always be necessary to fashion an effective deal! In fact the challenge of interpreting change in prevailing market uncertainties is probably greater than ever. Change no doubt calls for ever-shifting adjustments and demands of accommodation which of itself might be said to enhance the opportunities that a good lumber trader offers in today’s lumber market environment.

~Dak the Halls~

First United Church doubles as Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) homeless shelter. A recent visit in support of First United, one of several Dakeryn charities (including Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, North Shore Crisis Services Society) brought home the realities of daily challenges many on the margins of society face. I had the opportunity this past Sunday morning to listen to Reverend Sally McShane, the minister at First United. Her reflection on recurrent theme that “we are possibility” reinforced an awareness of our own privilege and “possibilities” to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate.

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With Wendi Lawrence, Building Manager at First United Church Social Housing Society, and Chris Sainas, Dakeryn (Dec 10, 2015)

Roadkill

Talk about animal instinct. From our office window just last week, Dakeryn traders happened to witness a family of raccoons moving out of their evergreen headquarters in Lower Lonsdale. How were these critters to know that by Monday of this week, the twelve pine trees called home would be gone? In this breathtaking video taken in the wild and exclusive to Harderblog, the “kits” can be seen following Mom and Dad’s precarious pawsteps. Navigating those branches would have been a breeze however, compared to the four lanes of zooming cars and trucks between here and Waterfront Park.

In a report at Safebee.com, we’re told that “No one wants to hurt a raccoon, rabbit, or turtle. And certainly no one wants to collide with a deer or moose. But as urban development cuts into woodlands, it forces wildlife onto roadways, making them an easy target in traffic.” John Griffin, director of urban wildlife solutions of the Humane Society of the United States explains “As the number of roads and drivers increases, an animal’s risk of becoming road kill also rises.”

Recently, one of our truckers transporting lumber described the challenges associated with overcoming seemingly routine hazards of the road. It was surprising to hear the number of wild birds that are struck. Naturally, the question then arose: What about crows?!

According to a report received today from RCP Transit in Island Pond, Vermont, researchers for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority recently found over 200 dead crows near Greater Boston. There was concern they may have died from Avian Flu.

A Bird Pathologist examined the remains of all the crows, and, to everyone’s relief, confirmed the problem was definitely NOT Avian Flu. The cause of death appeared to be vehicular impacts.

However, during the detailed analysis it was noted that varying colors of paints appeared on the bird’s beaks and claws.

By analyzing these paint residues it was determined that 98% of the crows had been killed by impact with trucks, while only 2% were killed by an impact with a car.

The M.T.A. then hired an Ornithological Behaviorist to determine if there was a cause for the disproportionate percentages of truck kills versus car kills. He very quickly concluded the cause:

When crows eat road kill, they always have a look-out crow in a nearby tree to warn of impending danger.

They discovered that while all the look-out crows could shout  “Cah!”, not a single one could shout “Truck!”

Getting Started on Housing Starts

Since when does data on building chicken barns legitimately become part of housing starts analysis? In today’s Lumber Market Report, Random Lengths drew attention to what seemed like an unusual point in noting that “4×6-12’s on the westside got a boost from strong sales to builders of chicken houses”. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Certainly the roosters don’t care. So why should we?

There’s interesting stuff happening in housing construction in many areas that makes one wonder about the collection of data on starts. For one, does size matter? As part of Vancouver’s Eco Density Initiative, Laneway Infill Housing aims to increase density without disrupting neighborhood building patterns. No doubt the building materials used in construction of one of Vancouver’s many new monster homes is equivalent to five or six laneway houses or two dozen chicken houses. This morning The Vancouver Sun reports Hummingbird Micro Homes selling up to 31 housing starts at 300 square feet per home. Are these houses included?

The multi-family trends in ‘housing construction’ south of the border no doubt influence degree to which particular starts impact use of lumber, as traders warily scrutinize activity for June. Meanwhile, a recent string of local articles bemoan the sluggish lumber recovery in B.C. It has some wondering if it’s time industry focused a little less on what we can’t control (housing starts) and a little more on what we can (lumber production).

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