Log and timber frame homes are some of the nicest forest products made in British Columbia. There are over 120 businesses in the province – almost all of them family-owned – that can build you a home and assemble it pretty much anywhere on earth. These homes are comfortable, long-lasting, and as natural as it gets. And if the homes are nice, the stories of the builders and materials used to build them are equally inspiring.

House for international client by Brian Moore Log and Timber Frame Homes

Typically, thanks to specifications that require high quality logs and excellent handling procedures, the wood comes from some of BC’s best-managed forests. More than this, sources for the wood include brokers, community forests, woodlot licenses, and many other forests of origin, all of which care about what the wood was, where and how it was grown, and what and how it was cut. Indeed, it is a little known fact that there is an incredible amount of care and pride across the supply chain. To correct this lack of information on the principles being shown across the forest product supply chain, our traceability team was thrilled to attend the BC Log Home, Timber Frame, and Country Living Show, at the same time connecting folks who want to display or learn about the story of these homes all the way back to the forest of origin.

Talking with businesses and the public, it is clear that there is a general appetite for knowing more about the story of forest products. As Brian Hawrysh, President of BC Wood, commented, there are many great value-added manufacturers busy diversifying their markets, and British Columbia has a great story to tell about the province’s forest management efforts to build our international position: “Marketing the stories of our forest products from forest to market is increasingly important in addition to pricing, because a large part of our niche is about our values and quality proposition.”

Sure enough, it wasn’t hard to find businesses who understood the potential of highlighting the story and values. Damon Zirnhelt, who is currently building a home with wood from the nearby Likely Community Forest, is increasingly finding that clients want to know where the wood comes from, who benefits, and who is responsible for care from tree to house: “We and our clients like to work with folks such as the Community Forest, or the woodlot licenses. There is a strong sense of local participation and benefit that derive from building a house. We are able to say that we are building a great house, but also leaving a healthy forest and a stronger community behind.”

For Ben Cochlin at Secondwind Timber, a company that reclaims wood and gives it new life around Vancouver, it was surprising to hear that sometimes a client’s interest in the story is hard to answer: “We had this client who we told that their wood came from this old heritage building, but then they asked if we knew which forest the wood had come from before that!”

The benefits of knowing, and telling, the story of forest products can be huge, and can lead to powerful referrals. As one consumer we talked to put it: “People may not be able to tell their kids the price they paid for an item years from now, but they’d certainly like to be able to tell them an anecdote about that special piece of furniture or the home they inherit.”

Daniel Arbour is the lead behind ThisForest, an initiative of Ecotrust Canada, the BC Community Forest Association, and the International Model Forest Network. The initiative aims to promote traceability in the forest sector. Find out more about the initiative, and help out by completing the survey, at www.thisforest.net.