2012 - The University of Northern BC's recent invention of wood concrete is creating an entirely new and innovative construction material that can be manufactured from pine affected by the Mountain Pine Beetle. Known by the product's inventors as 'beetlecrete', the wood concrete product uses pine as a substitute for rocks and stones in forming a hybrid wood and concrete product that is lighter in weight and equally or more resilient than traditional concrete products. Having a unique aesthetic, beetlecrete is already being used in kitchen counter top applications but can also be used as as gypsum, drywall, or flooring.
Under this project, the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) has undertaken comprehensive market research that has explored the market development and product commercialization that is needed for this innovative new type of concrete. The university engaged focus group research with the construction industry, national retailers, and home consumers from local, regional, and US markets.
An additional aspect of this project that was supported by Northern Development was market commercialization research focused on determining optimal product types, places of distribution, price levels, and promotional attributes.
"We have accomplished a great deal with the funding Northern Development has provided us in terms of employment, skills training, raising more funds, product development, publicity and business development. Throughout the past year the University of Northern British Columbia team has been very successful in accomplishing all its objectives and goals, and the following year should see continued success!"
Dr. Alex Ng, Assistant Professor Finance, University of Northern BC
Positive Economic Impacts in Prince George
The University of Northern British Columbia's focus on commercialization and market research for Mountain Pine Beetle Wood Concrete under this project has already seen a number of successes including development of two new product lines.
In 2009, the university tested market acceptance and promoted wood concrete at the National Green Builders Products Expo in Las Vegas - a major industry event attended by all the largest building supply and construction companies in North America. Coaster samples created from wood concrete were produced specifically for this event and were provided to 10,000-15,000 attendees. Through the product sample promotion and also via the tradeshow booth at this event, the university was able to secure feedback from many of the stakeholders that can potentially drive market development for the product.
The second product that has been developed under this project is an innovative new countertop design using wood concrete that can be tinted in a variety of hues that suit the home construction and decor industry. The first countertop installation was made in the brand new Gold LEED certified Union of BC Municipalities Building in Victoria, BC. The wood concrete countertop product was selected as a green material within the overall LEED construction plan, having incorporated reclaimed Mountain Pine Beetle affected timber not suitable for traditional applications with the additional environmental benefit of using a renewable resource to displace the volume of concrete used in the overall construction.
More recently, the university has collaborated with a local Prince George business, White Moon Castings, to expand further into new product development while also increasing production output for the developed product lines. This is having a positive effect on product commercialization while also creating new sales opportunities for this entrepreneur. In partnership with White Moon Castings, Mountain Pine Beetle Wood Concrete has been produced for application in the following construction projects: the River Market Project in New Westminster BC, a Pilot Picnic Table Project, UNBC Bus Shelter, UNBC Garden Wall, countertops at the Union of BC Municipalities' Municipal House, and the newly renovated Ramada Inn in Prince George. The university in partnership with its local supplier continued to develop counters, benches, and planters in different colors and various forms for the target markets that have been developed under this project.