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Sawmill owners optimistic about changes to building code

A worker at Williams Brothers Ltd. in Barneys River marks the length on a board produced at the sawmill.
A worker at Williams Brothers Ltd. in Barneys River marks the length on a board produced at the sawmill.

BARNEYS RIVER - Changes to the building code in Nova Scotia will hopefully give a boost to sawmills, said a local operator.

“Anything that uses more lumber is a positive thing for any sawmill,” said Eric Williams, a co-owner of Williams Brothers Ltd. in Barneys River.

The province recently announced that it would align its building code with the national one, allowing for the maximum height of timber structures to increase from four to six storeys. Fire Safety Act and Regulations will also be changed to enhance safety requirements for the taller wood buildings.

“Six storeys is going to make a big difference,” said Williams.

As a member of the Maritime Lumber Bureau, he said he was aware that the organization was pushing for the legislation change. “We knew it was taking place in other jurisdictions and we were hoping it was going to come through.”

Williams has been in the sawmill business for 37 years, while his company has been operating since 1910. The dimension mill produces lumber of varying lengths and widths, mostly from spruce. Williams Brothers sells lumber all over Nova Scotia, as far west as Ontario, and in Newfoundland.

Williams said anything that uses more lumber is a “plus for anybody in this industry,” and he said it will also generate economic spinoffs in other industries, such as harvesting and trucking. He said if more wood is being cut, then replanting will also occur.

A worker at Williams Brothers Ltd. in Barneys River saws a piece of wood at the sawmill.

“The more industry we can get in Pictou County, the better.”

He said wood is one of the province’s few renewable resources, and is also good for the environment as trees put oxygen back in the air with planting and take carbon dioxide out. “It’s all a plus.”

The change became effective April 1.

“Our sawmills are vital to the rural economy but they are often at the mercy of ever-changing lumber markets in North America and offshore,” said Jack Kyte, executive director of the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce. “The announced changes offer the opportunity to increase lumber sales right here in Nova Scotia and provide more stability for producers.”   

Nine per cent of the province’s annual wood harvest is done in Pictou County, said a press release from the chamber, which also noted that the forest industry provides 11,500 direct and indirect jobs to Nova Scotians, contributing an economic impact of $2.1 billion and $800 million to the provincial GDP. 

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