Further to last week’s issue in your Madison’s Lumber Reporter about the most recent earthquake in China, this week the government of British Columbia signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a province in China for the import of BC lumber and wood products.
Efforts to expand export markets for BC lumber took a major step forward Tuesday night with the signing of the MOU designed to increase the use of wood-frame construction in China, the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced Wednesday. Minister Steve Thomson and Tan Yueming, Minister of Housing and Urban Rural Development in China’s Zhejiang province, took part in the official signing ceremony via videoconference.
The ceremony follows through on a commitment the two governments made last autumn during Thomson’s trade mission to China. In China, MOUs are the first step toward increasing commercial activity.
BC – China Wood Trade Lumber
Cement construction is much more common in China than using wood, but officials in Zhejiang province have agreed to promote the use of wood in the construction of tourism facilities, resorts, and multi-family residential housing. The memorandum calls for the two governments to promote use of wood-frame construction, develop timber construction codes and standards in China, and organize exchange-of-knowledge visits between the provinces.
BC will also increase co-operation with Zhejiang on wood-frame construction research, with a specific focus on local construction needs in Zhejiang province, including government-funded public building projects and home renovations.
Forests Minister Steve Thomson says the agreement is an important step in BC’s growing relationship with China. He says the deal will also encourage the Chinese province to set aside land for low-density housing.
The minister says the value of wood exports to China this year is up 6.6 per cent, and in 2013 BC exported a record $1.4 billion worth of lumber to the country, an increase from $1.1 billion in 2012.
The deal, which remains in effect for five-years, also allows BC to provide Zhejiang with wood-frame construction research with a specific focus on the province itself. Wood-frame construction is new to China, but quickly growing.
Zhejiang in China’s tenth largest province by population.
Quick Facts from BC Ministry of Forests:
• Zhejiang Province is a wealthy area located in the Yangtze Delta region. Its GDP is the fourth-highest in China at over US$600 billion.
• By 2020, Zhejiang plans to have more than 40 million people residing in its cities.
• Zhejiang is well-known in China for its rolling hills, rivers and lakes. The province wants to pursue sustainable development to maintain its reputation as an eco-friendly tourism destination.
• Wood-frame construction is a relatively new but growing technology in China. For example, use of framing lumber in China’s growing resort construction sector was almost non-existent five years ago.
As for the earthquake damage, the Chinese government says it will take three years to repair the damage from the 6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck Yunnan earlier this month, according to CRI English Thursday.
A 200-million yuan reconstruction fund (US$30 million) has been set up. Officials say the earthquake, which flattened an estimated 22,500 homes, has caused direct economic losses of some 60 billion yuan, and left 617 people dead and over three thousand others injured. A relief coordinator says the initial phase of relief work in the quake zone has been completed.
The tragedy has highlighted the difficulties China faces in extending safety standards for homes in remote areas of its countryside. According to the China Earthquake Administration, most of the homes in the mountainous area of Yunnan, where the quake hit, were made of bricks, wood and mud walls, said Voice of America Monday.
The structures were too old and weak to resist an earthquake, the agency said in a statement. As a result, the overwhelming majority of those killed in last month’s 6.1 magnitude earthquake died under collapsed houses.
In Yunnan province, devastated by the 2008 earthquake, a local official told the Beijing-daily Xinjingbao this week that a provincial plan to renovate houses in the countryside has had little success in the six years since it was announced.
In 2008, Edward Ng, a professor of architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, helped rebuild a quake-hit village in Sichuan using local materials – including rubble from previously demolished homes. The structures would withstand the quake’s main shock, leaving residents a few hours to escape before the home collapsed.
Ng told Voice of America local governments are open to these solutions. “They can’t solve the problem themselves, and the local villagers are crying out for help.”
The government has said it plans to extend anti-seismic standards to all buildings in China by 2020.
But analysts believe that while it is possible the government will be successful in cities, there are still enormous challenges for that goal to be realized in the countryside.