The soaring price of lumber has Vancouver Island sawmills running at full speed right now to turn out coveted building materials.
As the essential building blocks of B.C.’s skyrocketing housing industry, lumber now cost as much as three times what it did before the pandemic.
Nanaimo builder Marlon Brown, owner of Marnix Contracting, calls the meteoric rise of lumber prices mind-boggling.
“Yeah it’s hit us so bad it’s crazy,” he said. “You’re about $10,000 more for a house, just on lumber.”
The North American building boom has outstripped supply, just as southern U.S. sawmills struggle to get back up and running following loosening COVID-19 restrictions — resulting in B.C.’s mills attempting to feed the hungry demand.
One of those sawmills, the San Group’s new re-manufacturing mill in Port Alberni, officially opened Monday — taking wood right from harvest to home, to cut out transportation costs and waste.
“It’s not a traditional sawmill,” said San Group chief executive officer, Kamal Sanghera. “It’s not a traditional manufacturing facility. In this plant, you can do almost anything.”
Sanghera said the sawmill, which also acts as a finishing plant, is the most efficient plant ever.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in the world doing what we are here,” he said.
Although the Port Alberni mill only just started operating, it is already expanding.
San Group hopes to employ 150 workers by the end of 2021, which has Port Alberni’s mayor pleased.
“The vision and the mentality of the SAN group of getting more out of every log that’s taken out of our forest is incredible,” said Port Alberni Mayor, Sharie Minions. “I think it solidifies the future of the forest industry in our community,” she said.
Minions said San Group’s efforts are building hope for the community.
“At the end of the day, seeing this type of investment happening during a pandemic is amazing,” she said.