The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Great Designs in Wood (63) - The Forest Sciences Centre at UBC

I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to travel out west to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. They had invited me out to participate in a review of their Wood Products Processing program, one of the degree programs available in their "Faculty of Forestry", as they call it. Based on the preliminary material I reviewed, I expected to see good things...but how good, I didn't even come close to imagining.

As I entered the building, a world of stunning timber construction opened up...and I felt right at home.

The Centre was built in 1998, I believe, a decade or so before our modern era of the wooden-framed tall buildings, so much of its structural core is traditional steel and concrete. However, with its engineered wood roof members and wooden cladding throughout, I have to believe that the building was the inspiration for much of the wooden building progress that has been at the forefront in British Columbia since.

The visit was not without its unique cultural memories. I had a couple of hours on the first day to stroll down to the beach opposite the dormitory in which I was staying. The place was called "Wreck Beach", and I'm guessing that in earlier times, shipwrecks on the point on which the beach sits were common. These days, the bay encircled by the beach is stock full of rafts of logs, awaiting delivery to local sawmills.

These logs give the beach a really unique character of its own, as many of them break free of the rafts and end up strewn along the beach, giving it a rough and tumble character.

But the biggest surprise to me was the "Naturalist" tradition of the beach, which I discovered only on the way down to the beach.

We're not in Pennsylvania any more, Toto!
So, these peaceful and fun-loving folks found thick fog, icy waters, boulders, and logs battering the beach, and thought...Nude Beach! A hardy breed, these Canucks.

I can't end this post without sharing my thoughts on the UBC Wood Products Processing program. What a great program it is. You can check out its curriculum here. The program is designed as a broad exposure to the critical components of wood products manufacturing, and with its optional minor in Commerce, students are ideally prepared for managerial positions in the forest industry the world over. The best component of the program is its optional "Co-op" program, in which students can take advantage of up to five different co-op opportunities with different companies, all coordinated with and monitored by the department. I witnessed first-hand the result of this interviews of current graduating students, I met the most mature, well-prepared, soon-to-be college graduates I've ever met. One of the department faculty members told me that the Co-op is a win, win...the faculty members are continually pushed to keep current with the techniques and technology that the students are experiencing in their time with the companies.

And as for the onsite education...the college has its own Centre for Advanced Wood Processing, which is right next door to the Forest Sciences Centre and filled with the latest in wood processing equipment, donated from their many industry partners. And best of all, the Centre was filled with students actually working at the many machine centers, a positive sign that students are getting the perfect mix of hands-on experience to go with all the theory they're learning.

Finally, the professors I interviewed were all highly professional, courteous, and open to any new ideas they could glean. They reminded me, to a person, of the best engineering and management professors I've met in my career. They were intense, but in a comfortable, confident way that inspires the same confidence in their students.

I came away from the visit thinking...if any child or grandchild of mine is someday interested in forestry or wood products, the University of British Columbia is the place I'm sending them.



Art Lee said...

Beautiful building!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful building, but I don't see any primary processing systems here (sawmill type equipment).

Anonymous said...

That is a snapshot of few of the many both primary and secondary processing equipment for teaching and research.

QC guy said...

Wish I was 50 years younger so I could go through this program!
Retired mill QC guy.