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A Cut Above

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New Advanced Testing Proves that Pacific HemFir Has Superior Design Values

Looking for large structural timber with greater environmental, economical and performance benefits? New research conducted by the Department of Wood Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC) proves Pacific HemFir is a wood that works. 

In fact, these findings were so compelling, they led to a code upgrade by the Technical Committee on Engineering Design in Wood, the Canadian Standard. Of course, HemFir has been tested for design value before, so what made the timber industry sit up and take notice this time? Simple, the study was based on a substantially more comprehensive methodology.

Previous testing measured the bending and compression of a particular species, using only small 50 mm by 50 mm pieces of clear wood, specially chosen without knots or checks. While this is an adequate way to measure the power ranking of standard 2 by material, it’s not the most precise way to determine the true strength of oversized wood used in heavy construction.  

Timber Strength Backed by Hard Science 

Headed by renowned timber engineer, Dr. Frank Lam, the UBC research team developed an updated mode of measurement designed specifically for industrial-size dimensions. It’s called the In-Grade Test, and it tests large swaths of solid-sawn timber cut directly from the log.

“With this method, the specimens are full-size timber,” explains research engineer, Tom Zhang, who recently discussed the team’s findings and methodology at the 2022 Global Buyers Mission. “Not only one size, but different representative sizes are tested. So you are measuring the actual performance of the products. Then the measured values for different sizes are adjusted to a standard size and standard moisture content. Pretty straightforward.”   

How HemFir Timbers Stack Up Against Other Species 

For this particular program, the research team left no stone unturned. They tested over 1000 specimens and over 400 m3 of wood, nine different sizes, three grades, and collected sample material over a significant period of time for temporal variance. Their findings? 

“The HemFir design values are getting close to the Douglas-fir-larch values,” says Zhang, adding, “In some categories, even exceeds it. This offers a new perspective when architects and engineers are making the decisions which one to choose.” 

Tom Zhang at Global Buyers Mission. Photo: Courtesy of BC Wood.

Indeed. Now, building professionals sourcing out strong beams and stringers for projects where superior strength is needed can factor these findings into their decision-making process. 

“The increased specified bending strength properties of HemFir (N) Beams and Stringers grades opens up opportunities for structural application of the product,” emphasizes Lam. 

As one of the most readily available timber resources in BC, HemFir also offers high value when it comes to products for bridges, decks and all heavy construction. Likewise, if incredibly strong, cost-effective posts, columns and struts are required for projects such as warehouses, docks or other large structures, HemFir has the proven muscle for the job.

Environmental Benefits of HemFir Timbers 

Pacific HemFir Timber is also one of the most eco-friendly materials you can choose. For starters, it’s a renewable resource that helps mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon from the environment. No man-made material can make that claim.

Secondly, it’s harvested from British Columbia, a world leader in sustainable forestry management. With strict legislation, rigorous monitoring and strong enforcement practices in place, BC’s forestry program ensures that surrounding ecosystems are protected for future generations. Every year, 200 million seedlings are planted and only a fraction of 1% of forested land is cut annually. So it’s a choice you can feel good about. 

What the Study Didn’t Cover

For obvious reasons, the UBC team kept their research focused on structural integrity. But it’s important to note that Pacific HemFir timber is not just a performance product, it’s also an appearance product with a fine pattern, warm texture and a luxuriously golden colouration. Try as they may, but composite materials just can’t replicate what nature perfected. 

In addition to being naturally beautiful and versatile, Pacific HemFir timbers are manufactured to the highest standard to ensure consistent integrity and an unsurpassed visual appeal for interior architectural applications and design, custom timber homes, and industrial use. And due to its exceptional receptiveness to preservatives, HemFir is also ideal for outdoor projects. 

Furthermore, HemFir is resin-free, which means it accepts and holds stains exceptionally well. Ergo, architects and designers have the option to alter HemFir’s tonal range to match premium woods such as Western Red Cedar and Douglas fir. 

So it’s only fitting that award-winning architects would turn to Pacific HemFir to elevate their projects. Take the Whistler Public Library* and the Audain Art Museum, for example. It’s hard to imagine what these stunning structures would look like without Pacific HemFir timbers. The timbers add an elegant distinction that few, if any, building materials could pull off. 

To learn more about how Pacific HemFir timbers can enhance your next project, download this brochure.

  • *Whistler Public Library Case Study used with permission from naturallywood.com
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