Lifecycle of a Log: Visiting Kalesnikoff Mill and Mass Timber Plant

Visiting the Kalesnikoff Mill and Mass Timber Plant

Last month we had the privilege of touring the Kalesnikoff Mill and Mass Timber Plant. We traveled to Kalesnikoff’s home near beautiful Nelson, BC with our friends and project partners from Mortenson and Perkins&Will. The visit was inspired by our work on the WWU Kaiser Borsari Hall project, which uses mass timber supplied by Kalensnikoff.

Sidenote: If you’ve never been to Nelson, wow. What a neat part of the world! You’ll find Kalesnikoff in the West Kootenay Wet-Belt, about halfway between Calgary, Alberta and Vancouver, BC. There, wilderness abounds and it’s impossible not to be inspired.

We toured two different facilities: Kalesnikoff’s Sawmill and Mass Timber Facility.

The Sawmill

It was interesting to see a sawmill up close, and so impressive that Kaleskinoff handles the full lifecycle of a log. Each is milled, processed in the sawmill factory, then shipped a few miles down the road to the mass timber facility before ultimately being delivered as a custom, fabricated product.

At the factory, we were captivated by the scale – raw lumber coming in the door, plunging down a huge conveyer belt, and being processed by computer-controlled saws. But even more impressive was understanding the amount of sophistication that goes into the process. For example, every single log is scanned and analyzed to optimize the cuts. This analysis evaluates each log’s characteristics, then determines which cuts make the most sense. It’s an impressively speedy, and very sophisticated process that was an eye opener to us. Overall, it maximizes use and minimizes waste. Even the byproducts are used as much as possible.

We’re also especially appreciative of Kalesnikoff’s approach. They are distinct from huge lumber manufacturers, uninterested in spitting more lumber out into the market, but instead focused on creating a quality product, responsibly. Their philosophy, which is aligned with most mass timber manufacturers, is to treat lumber, and forests, with extreme care. (They call this process “Seedlings to Solutions.”) They’re committed to getting more out of each harvest, and finding utmost value in the timber they are producing.

This is entirely different than the greater market, which emphasizes speed and quantity. Since the lumber produced needs to be suitable for their CLT and Glulam products, the mill optimizes their processes specifically with that use in mind – including moisture content, structural properties, and visual grades. At times it requires slowing down, even when the tendency for some producers is to speed up. For example, when drying the cut pieces in the kilns, they have to slow down their process, otherwise, the wood won’t be suitable for the mass timber plant. The experience gave our team a great picture of how it all comes together.

The Mass Timber Facility

Kalesnikoff’s Mass Timber Facility is a feat, and reigns as the “most advanced, vertically integrated, multi-species mass timber manufacturing facility in North America.” It’s here that Kalesnikoff produces all the CLT products, and glulam beams and columns. Our underway WWU Kaiser Bosari project will be using Kalesnikoff CLT floor and roof panels as well as glulam beams and columns.

We were able to check in on our columns, beams and panels! As engineers, we are probably the ones who work most closely with the lumber supplier during the design phase. Together, it’s our job to get the details right. They were currently slotted for final touches and finish work, and it was so cool to see them up close.

We loved getting to share the enthusiasm of the Kalensnikoff tour guides who helped bring these pieces to life. And it was impressive to witness the level of fabrication, and appreciate every little detail. Each hold is cut, drilled, and routed. Each cut is precise. Sure, we know this is the whole idea of prefabrication, but seeing the puzzle pieces in this phase was fun – and reassuring!

The facility is set up well for transparency and sharing. A tour guide took us on an elevated walkway through the plant, which allowed for a bird’s eye view and amazing vantage point from a viewing platform. From that perspective, it was easy to appreciate Kalensnikoff’s position, fully committed to this method and controlling every step of the process from beginning to end. With such a robust operation, and full control over the product, it’s easy to be optimistic about mass timber and their ability to continue to grow and increase production.

WWU’s Kaiser Bosari Hall

The new Kaiser Bosari Hall will support the expansion of WWU’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science programs. The facility utilizes cross-laminated timber (CLT) floor and roof panels supported by glulam timber columns and beams, all supplied by Kalesnikoff.

The project is anchored by WWU’s unwavering commitment to sustainability and ambitious goals. The WWU team was an advocate for mass timber from the project’s onset, and together with Mortenson, Perkins&Will, and the full project team, their vision is coming to life in an impressive tribute to sustainability and forward-thinking design. It’s a testament to what a clear vision can achieve.

Currently, at Kaiser Bosari Hall, the concrete is poured, and the site’s structure (steel and wood), will be arriving in the coming months. Kalesnikoff confirmed that they’ll be shipping to the jobsite soon!

For our team, this means it’s detail time! Working very closely with Mortenson, Kalesnikoff, and the subcontractors onsite, this phase is for making sure the panels will have a seamless install. It’s been a huge effort these past months, as the team coordinates every detail: the layout of the panels, floor penetrations through the panels, the moisture protection plan, and so much more. Each trade communicates exactly where their pieces will go, and each panel is customized accordingly. We’re looking forward to seeing the fruits of this labor come install day.

We learn more about the process, product, and best practices each time we execute a project with mass timber. We extend a sincere “thank you” to the Kalesnikoff team, not only for the warm welcome and great opportunity to learn, but for their exceptional partnership throughout the Kaiser Borsari project. We’re grateful for your communication, attention to detail, and of course, incredible product!