Huu-ay-aht is the proud new majority owner of a Port Alberni-based manufacturing business that creates wooden tiles for use in finishing homes and commercial spaces. TimberTiles is a specially manufactured product made from wood that is less desired in the construction market, in this case, hemlock.
According to Mark Anson, CEO of HFN Timber Tiles LP, the product started with a scientific understanding of wood.
“How we cut, dry, shape and finish the wood makes it exceedingly appropriate for use on interior walls,” he told Ha-Shilth-Sa. “We expose end-grain in a way that allows the wood to dry without internal stresses, absorb finish like a sponge and lastly remain stable through its life.”
The tiles are completed with a UV-cured commercial floor finish, making them water repellant and suitable for use in interior spaces, including washrooms and kitchens.
The first timber tiles were created in 2015 when FP Innovations, a not-for-profit group, explored ways to create value-added products to strengthen the forest industry in British Columbia. Mark Anson and partners ran with the idea and settled on Port Alberni as a suitable location to manufacture the product. They opened ReaplyWOOD in 2019.
Huu-ay-aht became self-governing in 2011 after they signed a treaty. To manage its resources and provide economic sustenance for its members, the nation developed more than a dozen businesses which operate under the umbrella of the Huu-ay-aht Group of Businesses.
One of those businesses is HFN Forestry LP, which manages four forest tenures as well as a log sorting yard. The tenures include private lands and Huu-ay-aht First Nations' woodland licence, a community forest agreement and treaty settlement lands.
All lands managed by HFN Forestry LP are subject to provincial standards under the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA).
“Our forestry plans respect cultural and environmental objectives of both Huu-ay-aht First Nations and those covered under provincial legislation,” says the HFN Forestry LP website.
With its forestry company, the Huu-ay-aht Group of Businesses has a steady supply of wood.
ReaplyWOOD approached Huu-ay-aht First Nations seeking help to operate the business.
“I knew Huu-ay-aht was forward thinking – the story of TimberTiles is so much stronger with this partnership,” Anson said.
“Huu-ay-aht is already invested in the forest industry, and this offers an opportunity to close the circle by getting involved in the value-added end of the business,” said Huu-ay-aht First Nations Elected Councillor Evan Cook. “TimberTiles is part of a move toward carbon-neutral home construction and addresses the consumer’s desire for socially purposeful purchasing.”
On April 25, HFN Forestry LP announced its partnership with ReaplyWOOD Research and Design Inc.
“Together the two businesses will continue to produce TimberTiles, a product that promises to challenge the dominance of ceramic in the wall tile industry,” they said in a prepared statement.
“Our story is really centred around social purpose and eco responsibility, both items are intrinsic to the formation of the company,” said Anson.
The special cut of the wood tiles also creates a sponge effect, allowing for uptake of fire retardant or termite repellent, which is important to commercial installations and global export, says Anson.
“Our primary target market is to export to the commercial/retail construction space and replace the specification of ceramics whenever possible,” he added.
HGB and ReaplyWOOD has support from Indigenous Opportunities, Innovation, Bioeconomy and Indigenous Opportunities as well as the Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation’s Aboriginal Capital Fund.
The factory, located on Second Avenue in Port Alberni, will employ up to 30 full-time workers. The finished tiles will be shipped around the world.