Tour of forestry operations in Timmins

Timmins Daily Press

Group of architects, engineers and builders from Southern Ontario take in harvesting operations and tour Timmins sawmill.

Joël Cantin, interim manager of the Timmins EACOM sawmill, led a tour of architects, engineers, and union leaders through the mill Thursday. Also seen addressing the group here before heading into the mill is Christine Leduc, director of public affairs for EACOM Timber Corporation. RON GRECH/THE DAILY PRESS jpg, TD

A group of professional architects, engineers and builders from Southern Ontario were in Timmins Thursday to get a first-hand look at forestry operations.

They visited the Gordon Cosens Forest and watched harvesting operations at work, saw forested areas that were harvested decades ago and have since regenerated and then toured the EACOM Timmins sawmill.

“The whole point of the tour is to get some of the folks from Southern Ontario, users of wood who are promoting wood structures, tall wood buildings, cross-laminated timbers and all that, to go up North and actually see for themselves forestry operations in the field,” said Rob Keen, chief executive officer of Forests Ontario, which organized the trip.

Why didn’t they go to view operations in Huntsville which could have been closer for these Toronto-area visitors?

“We wanted to get into some of the Boreal Forest type of forest management,” Keen explained. “Around Huntsville, it’s a lot more of the selection-method systems. I think some of the misinformation (about the forest industry) is usually associated with what happens in the Boreal Forest. That’s why coming up here, seeing that kind of forest, seeing the harvesting operations, and the regeneration efforts afterwards has made a fairly significant impression on folks today.”

David Moses, a structural engineer from Toronto, was among the 22 individuals on the tour.

He said there has been a resurging interest in the use of wood, particularly in mid-rise buildings since 2015 when the Ontario Building Code was amended to allow six-storey wood-frame building. Prior to that, it was limited to four storeys.

“Definitely, there are lot of buildings throughout Ontario that have been built that way using stick-frame construction primarily,” said Moses. “What we’d like is an even different type of building typology where we are looking at mass-timber products like glued laminated timber and other products that allow us to have greater spans and leave the wood exposed.

“In the six-storey building with lumber, we have to conceal all the wood as part of encapsulated systems so you have drywall everywhere and you don’t get to appreciate it.

“But if you pull that drywall away and have a mass timber product that actually has fire-resistance, has char capability, now you’ve got a nice product so people can see it.”

Keen said many of the architects and designers who went on the tour regularly promote the use of wood, but are still questioned by clients about its durability and even of its sustainability as a resource.

“This (tour) provides them with first-hand experience, so when a question is posed to them about forestry, they can say, ‘Hey, I’ve been up North, I’ve seen the operations in action, I’ve been out to the field, I’ve seen all the values that are protected, I see the utilization – we do excellent sustainable forest management in Ontario and here’s why,” said Keen. “That’s the gap we’re trying to fill here as opposed to just liking to use wood.”

A group of 22 Southern Ontario architects, engineers, and union leaders participated in a tour of forestry and mill operations in Timmins Thursday as part of an awareness initiative co-sponsored by Forests Ontario, EACOM Timber Corporation and Rayonier Advanced Materials. They are seen here inside the Timmins EACOM sawmill.RON GRECH/THE DAILY PRESS jpg, TD

Christine Leduc, director of public affairs for EACOM Timber Corporation, said the delegates first toured the Gordon Cosens Forest which managed by Rayonier Advanced Materials.

“We had to travel about an hour and a half from Timmins with this group so they could see some live harvesting operations,” said Leduc. “But it was critical for them to see the machines and they saw fellerbunchers, they saw road-building activities, they got to see some trees being felled and the operator drove the buncher onto the road and parked it. And some of our guests were able to go and sit in and look at the iPad so they could have a sense of how the operator is looking at the forest management plans and using technology to know where to harvest.”

After visiting some previously harvested and now replanted and regenerated forests, the group toured the EACOM Timmins mill.

Mike Yorke, president of the Carpenters District Council of Ontario, said he went on the tour primarily because he has an interest in the supply chain for wood and lumber.

“We recently participated in a round-table to determine how we can promote the use of wood in construction and one of the main challenges discussed by the cross-section of folks at that round-table — there were architects, engineers, builders, designers, union folks like ourselves — the main obstacle to more lumber and mass timber being used in construction was the supply chain.

“That’s one of the reasons why I’m here,” said Yorke. “We represent the construction side but we also want to see what’s happening within the supply chain.”

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