B.C. has announced $3.3 million for a new mass-timber training hub in the Lower Mainland.
The British Columbia Institute of Technology, which launched its mass timber program in 2022, will be home to the training hub. Two new courses are expected to be piloted in the fall in addition to the existing program, which has seen about 400 students already go through it since the launch.
Announced by Trade Minister of State Jagrup Brar Tuesday (July 25), once construction of the “state-of-the-art” trades and technology is complete at the Burnaby campus, a mass-timber training programs will be housed there.
Brar said with typical construction, materials are brought to the site and assembled there. Mass timber is described as a sustainable building material that is engineered through fastening multiple layers of smaller dimension wood together with glue, dowels or nails to create solid, structural load-bearing components, such as columns, beams and panels.
“But with mass timber, much of the work is done in factory. They actually construct a lot of stuff in the factory and they assemble at the site … It could be quick, it could be cheaper, it could be affordable.”
He added B.C. needs to keep growing a strong, competitive mass-timber sector, train the right people, such as tradespeople, technologists, architects and more.
BCIT president Jeff Zabudsky noted the school offers an associate certificate in mass timber, along with a micro-credential, with more than 400 students coming through the program since the 2022 launch. He added BCIT had a groundbreaking for a new 470-unit student housing project in April, which will be the largest mass-timber building in Burnaby.
The province says that by expanding mass-timber education in B.C., it will help fill current gaps in the industry.
Jeff Lovett is the general superintendent for Smith Bros. & Wilson Ltd., and is a graduate of the program himself. He began his construction career in 2003 and within a decade saw the introduction of mass-timber construction on buildings, but back then it was difficult to find skilled workers.
“The innovation and change in building types does not come without it’s challenges. Mass timber structures are unique in their installation requirements: tight tolerances, sensitivity to moisture, susceptibility to damage during handling and complicated logistical planning are a few of the hurdles faced by contractors and installers when working with timber products.”
Lovett said this training hub will fill a void, while taking expertise from tradespeople and people with non-traditional construction backgrounds adding in the skillset to create a “dynamic workforce to push a new wave of green technology into a functional reality.”