Equipping Engineers to Discover the Future of Wood Buildings

April 11, 2018
Dr. Thomas Tannert
Engineering Associate Professor Dr. Thomas Tannert will be among the researchers who will use equipment purchased with funds from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to discover new methods and materials to build tall buildings with wood and wood-based hybrid materials.

The federal government is investing nearly $800,000 to pay for new equipment at the University of Northern British Columbia’s Wood Innovation Research Laboratory (WIRL) in downtown Prince George.

The funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) will allow researchers, including Canada Research Chair in Hybrid Wood Structures Engineering Dr. Thomas Tannert, to discover novel new ways to use wood in the design and construction of buildings around the world.

“Researchers in the Master of Engineering program are discovering innovative, creative and high-tech solutions for using wood in the construction of new buildings and soon they will be able to test their ideas in the state-of-the-art new lab,” says UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks.

Tannert, an expert in hybrid design, is studying how wood can be combined with other construction materials to create composite designs that allow for more wood to be used. The pieces of equipment purchased through the CFI funding will give Tannert, and other UNBC researchers, access to state-of-the-art technology as they seek to discover stronger and greener building materials.

"This goal is to develop next-generation high-performance wood and wood-hybrid structural elements, joints, components and systems,” Tannert says. “The infrastructure will enable conceptual, experimental, numerical and analytical research regarding the development of novel wood-based hybrid connections, components and systems for structural applications in tall residential and non-residential buildings."

The equipment will be arriving at the lab over the course of 2018 and includes: structural testing equipment, consisting of actuators, a hydraulic power unit, service manifolds and a controller; a reconfigurable test frame; measurement equipment; universal test machines and accessories, including a climate chamber; and chemical analytical equipment.

“This funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation will allow UNBC to enhance its research culture by equipping the brand new Wood Innovation Research Laboratory with cutting-edge technology,” says UNBC Vice-President Research and Graduate Programs Dr. Geoff Payne.

The WIRL will be completed later this spring and will provide students, faculty members and researchers from UNBC’s Master of Engineering in Integrated Wood Design program with the ability to build and test large-scale integrated wood structures using engineered wood products such as Cross-Laminated Timber, Glue-Laminated Timber and Laminated Veneer Lumber. The over-height, single-storey structure features a high-head lab for tall projects and a portion of the building consists of a strong floor and wall to support testing equipment and a crane.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced more than $42 million in funding as part of the John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF), including more than $32 million dollars for capital projects and nearly $10 million to help universities with the incremental costs associated with operating and maintaining new equipment.

“Investing in a new generation of research talent is more important than ever before for Canada,” says CFI President and CEO Dr. Roseann O’Reilly Runte. “The Canada Foundation for Innovation is making it possible for our brilliant researchers to remain in Canada, to build our economy, and to contribute to solving the problems of the world.”

The JELF helps a select number of exceptional researchers at institutions across the country to conduct leading-edge research by giving them the tools and equipment they need to be or become leaders in their field.