It’s fairly obvious why the Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George, B.C., wants to build the tallest wood structure in the world, but it doesn’t take away the innovative how factor in the design and construction.

As B.C. pushes its own wood products and aims to better understand what value-added items it can offer the world in terms of wood construction, the province has partnered with private industry to promote the Prince George building project, looking to turn the structure into a testing ground and showcase for the new heights wood framing can take architects and engineers.

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The plan to build a 10-story wood structure using laminated engineered wood products should snap B.C. out of the traditional way to construct wood buildings and break the mold for the building codes that currently limit the use of wood framing to six stories or less.

By using the larger, engineered pieces, proponents claim they can mimic the properties of steel and concrete with engineered wood pieces 64 feet tall, four feet wide and seven inches thick, replacing traditional concrete and steel products in buildings up to 30 stories tall.

Architect Michael Green, part of the Wood Enterprise Coalition, is helping promote the system, one that the province has jumped on board with now that Jobs Minister Pat Bell says the province will look for qualified firms (34 have already expressed interest) to construct the Prince George test case. While no official cost of the project has been released, local media expect the project to reach $75 million.

If successful, the 10-story building would become the tallest wood structure in North America and possibly the world.

While using wood certainly fits in with the B.C. economy, the push for the natural substance also excites those looking for a lighter material with a more sustainable footprint, if done properly, and all meeting the same fire codes as concrete and steel.

Green told the Vancouver Sun that B.C. could turn into the world’s innovators in this area, using wood to tackle a host of issues facing the construction industry. Bell likes the idea of creating a value-added product for the wood industry, one that could be produced in Western Canada.

In a report on the importance of wood, Green says that challenging the century-old belief that steel and concrete are the only acceptable ways to build tall allows engineers to devise new building strategies. As is the case with any new idea, it must get tested. And that is exactly what appears likely in Prince George, B.C.

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