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The changing nature of Canada’s forest supply as fires, bugs, and climate bite



Mills in the heart of Canada’s timber industry have fallen quieter this winter as wildfires and infestations made worse by climate change have made vast tracts of once valuable forest into barren stands of dead trees.

After seeing record high softwood lumber prices earlier this year, Canada’s forestry industry is facing an uncertain future due to falling demand from a cooling U.S. housing market, increasingly frequent and intense forest fires and the continuing damage from pests such as the mountain pine beetle.

“We’re kind of at that point in the cycle where, unfortunately, permanent reductions have to happen,” said Ed Sustar, a forestry products analyst at Moody’s Investor Service.

“It’s going to be a relatively sizable part of the B.C. lumber industry, but it’s not a surprise.”

British Columbia, home to close to a third of Canada’s wood manufacturing jobs, is showing the most visible effects of reduced supplies as numerous companies have cut back mill production in recent months.

Pine beetles

West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. cited timber supply shortages brought on by the mountain pine beetle for permanently cutting 300 million board feet of production, at a cost of upwards of 75 jobs in the new year, at its Fraser Lake and Quesnel sawmills. That was on top of production cuts in the last stretch of the year at a string of interior mills from log supply constraints.

Interfor Corp. cut about 20 per cent of production for this last quarter, citing escalating log costs, while Canfor Corp. curtailed B.C. production by 10 per cent due to log supply constraints. Conifex Timber Inc. cut production by 15 per cent at its Fort St. James, and then by another 10 per cent for the next half year.

A dead pine beetle is shown on the inside of a piece of bark peeled from a beetle-killed tree near Albany, Wyo., on July 12, 2017. (Dan Elliott/Associated Press)

The supply issue has, however, been looming for some time, as the large swaths of B.C. forest killed by a pine beetle epidemic decay into worthless dead stands. The tinderbox created by the outbreak, combined with warmer, drier weather, have in turn helped create back-to-back record forest fire seasons in the province.


In 2017 wildfires destroyed about 1.2 million hectares of forest. This fiscal year it’s estimated at 1.4 million, compared with an average of 151,000 hectares for the 10 prior years.

The decrease in the amount of healthy B.C. forest has pushed companies to expand further into the U.S. or abroad, said Sustar.

“All these companies where B.C. was their base, they’re all expanding and diversifying outside of B.C., and B.C.’s become a smaller portion.”

The provincially-set amount of timber that industry can harvest has already dropped by about 25 per cent in the past decade to around 52 million cubic metres, noted Sustar. B.C. government projections on the impacts of the 2017 fires alone are expected to reduce the mid-term supply by more than half in Williams Lake and 100 Mile House and by about 44 per cent in Quesnel.

“We do and we will have a mid-term challenge with respect to availability,” said Susan Yurkovich, president of the B.C. Council of Forest Industries.

“Fibre availability is a key issue for the industry, it’s our main product input, so of course it’s very significant.”

Climate change

The wild card in all of this continues to be the effects of climate change, and how much it will change the supply picture.

“It’s already really created huge problems in terms of timber supply,” said Sally Aitken, a professor at the University of British Columbia.

“Climate change will touch pretty much everything we do in forestry, and everything that lives in forests.”

She’s studying how to create forests that will be more resilient to climate change, by selecting genetic varieties of trees that could better withstand the changes coming.

The impact of climate change on the health of forests is hard to predict, however, as changing weather patterns lead to both wetter and drier conditions, while a variety of threats including insects like the pine beetle, fir beetle, spruce budworm as well as diseases and fungi get worse.

Barry Cooke, a forestry researcher at Natural Resources Canada, describes the trend as climate weirding, since so many factors are at play.

“You have climate changes percolating through this cascade of physical and biotic consequences,” said Cooke.

His research has focused in part on Canada’s far north forests, where melting permafrost has let to what he describes as drunken trees falling over in the waterlogged soil.

Verne Tom photographs a wildfire burns southwest of Fort St. James, B.C., on Wednesday August 15. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

But he notes that government research is showing climate change impacts are coming to all areas of the Canadian woods, including the fires of the west coming east. He also sees a deterioration in the quality of the forests, as growth-rings thin and faster-growing but lower quality plants and trees mask the decline of core species.

“Yeah there are a lot of trees here, but they’re not as healthy as they used to be…the forest is in a process of transforming,” said Cooke.

Everything looks fine until it’s not.– Barry Cooke, forestry researcher, Natural Resources Canada

“We are seeing growth declines in Eastern Canada, and this wasn’t predicted to happen this soon. We thought maybe in 20, 30 years we might see this, but it’s happening already.”

The changing trends means lots of uncertainty for Canada’s forests going forward, said Cooke. Trees can endure wide fluctuations of weather, he noted, but their health can change suddenly once critical thresholds like moisture balance are tipped.

“Everything looks fine until it’s not.”

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A Look at TACT-Designed Interiors in Graywood’s Scout Condos




Just west of the construction site for Scoop Condos on St. Clair Avenue West at Old Weston Road, Graywood Developments will soon be bringing a new 12-storey, SMV Architects-designed condominium to Toronto’s West End. Last month, we took a look at Scout Condos‘ amenity spaces—appointed by TACT Architecture‘s interior design wing—and today we’re back for a preview of the TACT-appointed suite interiors.

Scout Condos, Toronto, Graywood, SMV, TACT, St. ClairScout Condos, image courtesy of Graywood Developments

The project is offering 261 suites in a wide variety of unit types and sizes. Standard suite features are set to include 9’ ceiling heights in principal rooms, laminate wood floors, smooth painted ceilings, and neutral colour-painted interior walls. Other features include stacked washer and dryer units as well as individually controlled heating and air conditioning systems.

According to TACT’s Michael Krus, kitchens at Scout will be “more appointed, larger, with some custom elements unique to the project. We’re introducing integrated pantries into these kitchens, part of the kitchen millwork but flows into the living room so the kitchen becomes an extension of the living room. The kitchen isn’t just the kitchen, It will be support.” 

Scout Condos, Toronto, Graywood, SMV, TACT, St. ClairSuite interior, Scout Condos, image courtesy of Graywood Developments

Kitchens at Scout will feature custom-styled kitchen cabinetry in a selection of finishes, quartz countertops, glass tile backsplashes, stainless steel sinks, over-the-range microwaves with built-in exhaust fan, as well as standard appliances and integrated dishwashers.

Bathrooms will include custom-styled bathroom cabinetry in a selection of door finishes, porcelain tile finishes for walls and floors, quartz counters, and a full vanity-width mirror. Other features include white bathroom fixtures, wall-mounted vanity faucet with backsplash, and the choice of a chrome washroom accessories package.

Additional information and images can be found in our database file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.

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To request more info directly from Scout Condos click here

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Costco-style membership for hay aims to modernize handshake deals




Cindy Wilinski says 100 years ago if you needed to buy hay for your livestock you tracked down a local farmer, by phone or in person, made a deal and hoped the product was as good as advertised.

She said nothing much has changed today, except now it might be purchased via an email or over text message.

“It’s still the old handshake kind of deal and hope you don’t get ripped off,” said Wilinsky, who owns an equine training and breeding facility near Okotoks.

Wilinsky said she first got the idea of bringing the hay business into the 21st century after a drought in 2015 left a lot of people scrambling to find hay. At that time she started a Facebook hay-sourcing group called the Haylist — a database that amassed more than 7,000 members — where people could list hay for sale, request hay and list trucking services.

The Haylist is still going but Wilinski felt she could do more to help livestock owners find good quality, affordable hay from a credible and trustworthy source. That led to the creation of the Haybank, a Costco-style membership business she launched in the fall.

And, the response has been overwhelming.

“We literally ran out of all the hay we had lined up that was on the yard as well as what was coming.”

Those who sign up pay an annual $500 membership fee, plus the cost of the hay they purchase and transportation if needed. (Contributed)

Rather than the handful of memberships she expected, 83 people signed up within weeks, including Priddis-area rancher, Danny Lansdowne.

“This year hay is all over the map and I can’t afford the $200, or $180 [per bale],” said Lansdowne, who purchased hay for his five horses and cows.

“It’s a blessing.”

Wilinski attributes the higher than expected demand to a prolonged drought pushing up the price of hay, while any lower priced hay is being snatched up, and in some cases, she says, it’s being turned around and sold at a higher price.

“You know it’s just one of those things that turns your stomach.”

Those who sign up pay an annual $500 membership fee, plus the cost of the hay they purchase and transportation if needed.

The fees allow Wilinski to purchase bulk amounts of hay, in some cases entire crops,  and keep the transportation costs down. She’s sourced hay as far east as Ontario, and south to Montana.

“The problem has always been in making the trucking affordable so it’s not landing here being priced higher than what they need locally for it,” she said.

From the feedback Wilinski’s received so far, she says people are appreciative of having a secure way to buy hay.

“And you’re not sending an e-transfer to somebody you’ve never met for hay you’ve never seen.”

Wilinski said she tests the quality of the hay once it arrives, and only after she confirms the amount and quality does she put it up for sale.

In the months since opening the Haybank Wilinski says she’s managed to work out some of the kinks, address some of the growing pains and put a more balanced system in place.

“(We’re) just trying to make sure everybody gets the feed they need for this winter,” she said. “Because by the looks of things so far we’re going to have another year that’s not looking so grand unless we get an awful lot of rain or some late snow.”

Wilinski said she’s already heard from people who want to invest in her business and hopes to get more trucks rolling in order to service her customers even better.

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Excavation Progressing at Waterfront Innovation Centre Site




It has been four months since September when Menkes Developments marked the start of construction for the Waterfront Innovation Centre in Toronto’s East Bayfront area. Shoring activity that began the first stage is now wrapping up, and excavation has now begun for the new 12-storey, 400,000 ft², Sweeny &Co Architects-designed office development.

Waterfront Innovation Centre, Menkes, Sweeny &Co Architects, TorontoShoring at the west side of the Waterfront Innovation Centre site, image by Forum contributor Full Metal Junkie

The site is bisected by a short north-south stretch of Dockside Drive. Shoring activity is now proceeding on the smaller footprint of the western portion, where a drilling rig (above) continues to bore holes for the site’s caisson wall shoring system. Meanwhile, excavation is now progressing on the much larger eastern portion east of the road (below).

Waterfront Innovation Centre, Menkes, Sweeny &Co Architects, TorontoExcavation for the Waterfront Innovation Centre site, image by Forum contributor Full Metal Junkie

Crews are digging to a three-storey depth for the building’s underground garage, to hold 197 spaces. The dig is furthest along just east of Dockside Drive, where the pit has been excavated roughly two levels deep so far, and requiring a horizontal drilling rig to install a first row of tiebacks to anchor the shoring walls to the surrounding earth.

Waterfront Innovation Centre, Menkes, Sweeny &Co Architects, TorontoExcavation for the Waterfront Innovation Centre site, image by Forum contributor Full Metal Junkie

Tieback drilling has since progressed to the east end of the site, closest to Knapp Lane. The image below shows the horizontal drilling rig used for tiebacks sitting idle, while tubes for the site’s de-watering drape over the fence.

Waterfront Innovation Centre, Menkes, Sweeny &Co Architects, TorontoHorizontal drilling rig at the Waterfront Innovation Centre site, image by Forum contributor Full Metal Junkie

The project—part of a larger regeneration of the area overseen by Waterfront Toronto—is targeting a 2021 completion date, set to house at least 2,000 workers upon opening. WPP will be the building’s lead tenant, with the the Canadian head offices for the multinational e-commerce, advertising, online media, public relations, communications, and branding services giant to occupy 260,000 square feet of the building.

You can get more information about and see more renderings of the Waterfront Innovation Centre in our database file, linked below. You can get in on the discussion in our associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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