The University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) is getting a downtown laboratory to test out new uses of wood as part of their engineering program in downtown Prince George.

The Wood Innovation Research Lab will be used by students in the master of engineering in wood design program being run out of the Wood Innovation and Design Centre.

"We really needed a much larger lab facility in order for our students to build much larger wood structures to do everything from testing how wood is put together to seismic events to large-scale wood models," said UNBC president Daniel Weeks. 

wood lab

The Wood Innovation Research Lab will contain a wood conditioning and processing room as well as office and classroom space. (B.C. Government Communications)

The Wood Innovation and Design Centre was created by the B.C. government in an effort to spur on research into new uses for wood and help create new markets and jobs in the forest industry.

The master of engineering in wood design program was created in 2016 for the same reason.

Weeks said it's already succeeding.

"[Students] are using wood to build things that to this point we've never used wood for," he said.

Eleven students are in the program now, with Weeks projecting up to sixty in the next few years.

"We're getting interest from students all over the world," he said. "I was in China ... they've heard of our wood engineering program so we're already making a name for ourselves."

Student housing next step

The one-storey building will be constructed on a city-owned lot in downtown George Street next to the Innovation and Design Centre.

Mayor Lyn Hall said it fits into the city's overall strategy of bringing student life to the downtown core.

Wood lab site Prince George

A city park is also slated for creation. (City of Prince George)

"We're trying to redevelop and revitalize downtown," he said. "It's going to start to populate the downtown with students and it's going to give us an opportunity to continue that redevelopment."

 He said the next step is to add student housing to the area.

"We do have our eye on tracts of land downtown," he said.

The $4.5 million building is being funded by the federal and provincial governments.

Construction is expected to begin in spring 2017.


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