SpotlightApril2018

for quite a bit more expressive design because you’re not con- strained by the need to notch horizontal logs at corners. You can create octagonal shapes or whatever. Post-and- beam got more and more sophisticated. We did a whole bunch of buildings for an interesting development North Carolina where we hooked up with a really creative architect who was good at doing sketches, but not much else. So we tried to realize his vision without him having to know how timber works or how log homes are built. So it worked out really well for both him and us. What is the process like when you meet up with client? Do you generally get drawings from them? Or does the creative generally come from you? It varies from client to client. Quite often we’re the first point of contact. They know they want a log or timber structure, so rather than going to search for an architect who might be specialized in log and timber, which is hard-to- find, they’ll come to us. We will have a discussion with them and send them our design questionnaire to try and elicit what they need by the way of design assistance. Do they have suffi- cient budget? Are they thinking about the project in a prac- tical way? We are there for the clients in the early days in whatever capacity they need us to be. Some need a lot of help right off the bat, others have a good idea of what they want. It really is different project-to- project. Your website shows a number of commercial buildings. Was that a conscious decision to move into the commer- cial market? Or did that kind of fall in your lap? Well we sort of got bored doing the log structures. Com- placency is your worst enemy in any business. One of the first jobs we did was for Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. It was their auditorium and it was a circular structure. No square corners. It was a great job to do, but it really taxed our abilities. We learned quite a bit from it, mostly in process and how to deal with publicly-funded projects. The challenge with commercial work is it tends to be high stress, high risk — and the low bid gets it, especially if it’s public construction. And often the low bid does not serve the public purse well. It’s not a smart way to build. You often refer to working smarter by employing new technologies. What’s new in technologies and materials that has revolutionized what you do? One of the things that is transforming the building industry around the world — it started in Europe — is engineered prefabricated timber. So, what I’m talking about here is cross-laminated timber. Basically you take lumber, 2x4s, 2x6s, and you glue it up into big sheets in alternating layers. Three ply, five ply, seven ply, nine ply, whatever you need. The result is, we can use an 8” x 40”

destined for the emerging Japanese market. In fact, because of the same Mackie School that I went to, a number of Japanese students had enrolled and they went back to Japan and created an industry. One of the Japanese students went back home and started a log home magazine and it created a buzz about log homes. The demand for the homes just exploded. And they weren’t able to meet the demand in Japan them- selves. So they came back to British Columbia and found some log home builders hanging out building one or two homes a year, like I was, and started ordering homes to be built here and shipped there. “The Japanese market was key to the creation of the log home building industry in British Columbia.” The Japanese market was key to the creation of the log home building industry in British Columbia. The Japanese revere wood, especially wood from other countries. They always drove us hard on quality and design. So we were focused entirely on the Japanese market in the early days. Your target market has changed significantly at this point though. When was the shift and why? To be honest, we started finding scribe-fit structures — you know, what you would stereotypically think of when you think log homes — we were getting kind of bored with them. We were building and shipping them all over the world, but I started to find there were too many logs being used in them for my taste. We want to build buildings that are really responsive to the way people live and responsive to the environment they live in. So we started switching more to a style called log post-and- beam. The Japanese market collapsed around the time of the big Kobe earthquake, and it never really recovered. So we sat down with our key people and figured out that we don’t want to be a large log building company. We wanted to stay small enough to be responsive to our customers. The second thing was we decided we didn’t want to grow up! And that was a business strategy! And it has served us quite well. You can see it in the variety of the work we do. We want to enjoy our work every day. Or at least 9 days out of 10… So explain “log post-and- beam” and why that appealed to you more than the traditional scribe log building? Well, we switched over to mostly log post-and- beam, but we still used organic shapes. But often mixing square timbers in with it. This kind of construction may have less log in it. But I love a mix of stone and plaster and glass and views. It allows

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SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE • APRIL 2018

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