Making connections across the pacific

A Red Deer architect is building bridges between his firm and its counterparts in China. George Berry of Berry Architecture & Associates crossed the Pacific last month in hopes of developing relationships with Chinese architectural firms. He was accompanied by his friend Yi Yang, an electrical engineer from Edmonton who grew up in the Asian country and has family there.

A Red Deer architect is building bridges between his firm and its counterparts in China.

George Berry of Berry Architecture & Associates crossed the Pacific last month in hopes of developing relationships with Chinese architectural firms. He was accompanied by his friend Yi Yang, an electrical engineer from Edmonton who grew up in the Asian country and has family there.

Berry thinks his 15-person architectural firm can bring value to Chinese developers in several areas, including wood-frame construction.

“We understand wood-frame construction in Canada probably better than any place in the world.”

This was illustrated in Alberta last week by the passage of legislation allowing wood-frame construction for buildings up to six storeys in height.

“China is just developing wood-frame construction,” said Berry.

While in China, he conducted a half-day seminar at an architectural firm and met with officials from the Canadian Wood Council.

“They would be very interested in having some more education directly from Canadian architects to show them how wood works,” said Berry, explaining that the council is eager to grow the market for Canadian lumber in Asia.

Chinese officials do have concerns about fire, and because wood is imported it’s an expensive building material. But Berry said the risk of fire can be minimized, and unlike the concrete and steel that currently dominates construction in China, wood is a renewable resource that could be produced domestically.

“We want to show them that you can build with wood and it should be the cheapest of the three.”

Wood-frame buildings can also be built much faster — an important advantage in light of China’s rapid growth.

And they’re warmer and easier to insulate than concrete and steel, he said.

Berry also sees a market opportunity for his firm’s expertise in seniors’ housing and facilities. The traditional Chinese model of children caring for their aging parents is beginning to break down as younger generations become more affluent and interested in travel.

But alternatives are lacking.

“They’ve taken old buildings and repurposed them to be seniors’ apartments. But they don’t provide the services; they’re not senior friendly.”

Finally, Berry’s noticed that the Chinese are interested in his firm’s focus on environmentally sustainable design and building practices.

“A couple of the developers there are really starting to market environmental cities.”

He and Yang made good connections in China, said Berry, and appear likely to gain some projects as a result.

“I’m working with one firm in Beijing and two in Shanghai that we’re trying to create partnerships with.”

One project he’s negotiating on is a seniors’ complex with a couple thousand units, a shopping centre and recreational facilities.

There are challenges to working in China, he acknowledged.

“As a foreign architect we can only do design work. We can’t do any working drawings or construction administration or anything along those lines.”

He doesn’t consider the distance and 16-hour time difference to be a huge issue.

“A lot of it we’ll be doing remotely and through Skype.”

Berry said his decision to pursue the Chinese market was motivate by a desire to diversify his company’s workload, which can ebb and flow with the Alberta economy.

“I just felt we couldn’t have all of our eggs in one basket here.”

He praised Alberta International and Intergovernmental Relations, and Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada for their help in arranging meetings for him and Yang. Berry feels they’ve made great strides in forming relationships with prospective partners.

“Once you’ve got that relationship built in the Chinese culture, it’s very important.

“Their word means everything.”

The architectural firms Berry met in China are already urging him to return. And he’s hoping to bring members of a Shanghai company here this June to attend the Canadian Green Building Council conference in Vancouver and then travel around Alberta.

Berry thinks there could also be opportunities for Chinese architects here, explaining that some are doing very progressive design work.

“They’ve got a lot of expertise in architectural fields that we don’t have readily available here in Alberta.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Alberta hiring more paramedics and buying new ambulances, none for Red Deer

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer is not concerned the provincial government didn’t… Continue reading

‘My nightmare began again’: Close call as bus carrying Humboldt crash survivor rear-ended

CALGARY — A terrifying ordeal for Humboldt Broncos survivor Ryan Straschnitzki this… Continue reading

Halifax airport operations normalize after Boeing 747 runway overshoot

HALIFAX — The Halifax Stanfield International Airport has resumed normal operations a… Continue reading

Bentley family left without a home grateful for community support

Central Albertans are coming together to support a Bentley family left homeless… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP ready for new mandatory alcohol screening law

Red Deer RCMP are ready to enforce a new law intended to… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer and District Kennel Club Dog Show at Westerner Park

The Red Deer and District Kennel Club is holding a dog show… Continue reading

Pence aide out of running to be Trump’s next chief of staff

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top pick to replace chief of staff… Continue reading

Swath of South faces wintry mess: Snow, sleet, freezing rain

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A massive storm brought snow, sleet, and freezing rain… Continue reading

‘I killed my best friend’: Opioids’ fatal grip on mayor, pal

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

Brothers, 20, face second-degree murder charge in death of teen: police

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Police west of Toronto say two brothers have been… Continue reading

A young mayor, his friend, and a fatal attraction to opioids

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

GM fights to retain key tax credit amid plant closing plans

WASHINGTON — General Motors is fighting to retain a valuable tax credit… Continue reading

TTC union asks provincial government to step in on transition to Presto

TORONTO — The union representing transit workers in Canada’s most populous city… Continue reading

Small pot growers find roadblocks on path to microcultivation licences

Yan Boissonneault’s daughter was turning blue. Without warning, his baby had stopped… Continue reading

Most Read