Advisor recognized as "wood advocate"

The provincial government hired an engineering firm that was subsequently recognized as a "wood advocate" to provide structural engineering advice on its controversial decision to allow taller wood-frame buildings. On November 17, 2008 Read Jones Christoffersen Inc. was given the Ontario "Engineer Wood Advocate Award" by Wood WORKS!, a national campaign to "increase the use of wood in commercial, industrial and provincial governments across Canada."

The award recognizes "decision-making individuals who regularly specify, design or build commercial, industrial, and institutional projects with wood." And it acknowledges "those individuals who contribute to the selection of wood in a project, who overcome objections related to wood use in a project, and who lead the way for future projects in wood."

Asked why Read Jones Christoffersen was recognized, Wood WORKS! marketing coordinator Tim Buhler explained, "Generally, what we do is look at all of our nominations and see which engineering firm turns up the most and specifies the most amount of wood projects."

"Read Jones has a long history of using wood in the projects. So that's basically what the jury based their selection on for that year," he continued. In fact, between 2006 and 2007, Read Jones Christofferson won four Ontario Wood WORKS! awards in different categories.

Asked about the company's work for the government and its award wins, company principal Jeff Corbett declined comment. "I think I said earlier that I didn't want to answer any questions. It sounds like you're asking me the questions you were going to ask me. So goodbye."

Nor did he have much to say about the fact Read Jones Christofferson recently reportedly sponsored two Urban Development Institute presentations on the government's decision to allow six storey wood-frame buildings.

"We're a member of UDI and they ask their members to sponsor various events. So we spoke at one of their events and choose to sponsor it," said Corbett, adding that Read Jones Christofferson only sponsored one such event.

The government hasn't yet responded to a request for comment placed on Monday.

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