Research centre needs serious debate

It is often said that election time brings out the “silly season” in our electoral process.

It is often said that election time brings out the “silly season” in our electoral process.

Debate increasingly is lowered and attention is frequently diverted to “missteps,” either perceived or real.

That is disappointing but is also sadly becoming far more common.

Recently there has been a fair bit of discussion on efforts to see a wood innovation design centre get built in the city of Prince George.

I am not looking to engage in the ongoing debate of the process and advocacy for the project but do believe that it is important we not lose sight on the importance of the wood innovation design center and how even though it would be located in Prince George, it can still be of great benefit to British Columbia and the South Okanagan.

In 2011 I had an opportunity to tour the newly opened Structurlam manufacturing plant in Okanagan Falls.

After the closure of the Weyerhaeuser Lumber Mill I am certain that all citizens realize the significant importance that this new Structurlam facility brings to both the economic and social fabric of the community.

But what is really exciting about this new operation in Okanagan Falls is that they are using a new technology that creates specialized wood panels that can be used in cross laminated construction.

Without getting too much into the technical side of cross-laminated construction technology, it can be used to build structures that are substantially stronger and lighter than anything previously on the market.

It is also more environmentally friendly to create and is one of the first commercial applications that can successfully utilize beetle-wood.

One other very interesting aspect is that while it offers near concrete levels of strength, having the added flexibility and resiliency of wood means that more earthquake resistant housing could also become a reality.

Given the many areas in the world near fault lines this also creates exciting export opportunities for our province.

One of the limiting factors right now is further refining the building technology uses of this innovative value added wood product and educating building engineers on the unique possibilities and properties of cross laminated construction.

This is where the Wood Innovation Design Centre would be a great educational asset for British Columbia.

The goal of this facility is to be an academic research centre to further develop advanced building systems, engineered wood products, and other value-added B.C. wood innovations working in partnership with the University of Northern British Columbia.

The intent of my comments this week is not to engage in partisan politics but rather to pass on a reminder that as the silly season approaches it will be important to focus on the issues that will be important towards the future of our great province.

The need to innovate and support important British Columbia industries can be as important to Okanagan Falls as it is to Prince George.

Let us never forget that when people work together we can achieve amazing things.

Bill Barisoff is MLA for the riding of Penticton.