Mass Timber Construction Podcast

Special Guest - Arnie Didier - International Mass Timber Conference 2024

February 14, 2024 Paul Kremer Season 4 Episode 192
Mass Timber Construction Podcast
Special Guest - Arnie Didier - International Mass Timber Conference 2024
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Get ready to traverse the innovative landscape of mass timber construction with Arnie Didier, as we celebrate our fourth year delving into the intricacies of the International Mass Timber Conference. Unravel the threads of this year's expanded event, held at the Oregon Convention Center, and discover an even larger exhibit floor peppered with interactive displays and educational tracks. As we reminisce about the conference's humble beginnings and its journey towards showcasing real-world projects, we highlight the immeasurable value of fostering a strong, interconnected community within the industry.

Step into a world where the fusion of architecture, sustainability, and ground-breaking technology paints a vivid picture of the future. This episode features the anticipation of insights from Emily, the architect with an infectious energy from her dynamic TED talks. We also celebrate the strides toward inclusivity with the successful Women in Timber Power Hour, ensuring the conference continues to attract a diverse spectrum of talent. From the practical ease of online registration to the early bird discounts, we've streamlined your experience to ensure you're plugged into the heart of innovation and networking through our new mobile app and social media interactions.

Join us as we raise a toast to four years of enriching conversations with Arnie, looking back at the evolution of both the conference and the mass timber industry. This episode isn't just about the anticipation of what's to come at the International Mass Timber Conference but also a nod to the transformative ideas that have sprouted from our annual gatherings. We're setting the stage for an upcoming event that's not just a conference, but a catalyst for change, inviting you to engage with the ideas and people shaping the future of sustainable construction.

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Bruce:

Ladies and gentlemen, we are live. This is the moment you all have been waiting for. It's time for the global sensation, the one, the only the undisputed heavyweight podcast in the world the Mass Timber Construction Podcast. And now here's Paul Kramer, your host.

Paul:

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening. Wherever you are in the world today, welcome to the Mass Timber Construction Podcast. Back again in 2024, it is February, it is nearly about, probably six to seven weeks out from the International Mass Timber Conference, and it is our yearly catch-up with the one and only Arnie and Arnie. It's now our fourth year of doing this. Can you believe? It's four years since we actually got on this podcast to promote the show? And I think you know from all accounts there's something big happening this year. It's a much larger event. How about you say hello to the folks, arnie, and tell us a little bit about what's happening in March?

Arnie:

Yeah, great to catch up and good timing. All Time goes fast, you know, since the first conference in 2016,. And then your involvement many different times, whether it's speaking or hosting and doing things like that. And then, obviously, your podcast draws attention from around the world and it kind of speaks, to quote, unquote, our tribe, and that's really exciting. But, yeah, the timing is good. You know, the conference is again at the Oregon Convention Center. It's March 26th through 28th and the I guess the importance of that is this year, for the first time, we have the entire conference center.

Arnie:

In the past, we've had pieces and parts and it was restricting and what it allowed us to do is add 30,000 square foot of space just to the exhibit floor, which is basically sold out. We actually have a couple of little spaces for last minute entrances, but it makes it fun. And then we've got a kind of a new thing. We'll have a large display area. We've got some pretty big items going in there. It allows us a lot of other things too. We tested a new feature this year.

Arnie:

Our co-producer again is Woodworks, so Bill Parson and Ricky McClain and Jennifer Kober and that whole group, so they were a big part of it, as always, but we're going to do an actual build this year again on the floor where we're going to erect a mass timber building and then deconstruct it as well. So that gets a lot of involvement in your having folks like the Tall Wood Institute and others doing some real hands-on activities, which goes hand in hand with all the educational tracks Similar concept in previous years. It's all about education, but it's given us some freedom to make some decisions around where the space is and a good problem to have in 2023. We had so many of the areas oversold and people couldn't get into them. How we're allowed to have a little bit more space, which gives us some flexibility, which is really exciting.

Paul:

It's grown immensely since 2016. And I think the thing that's probably been something that has grown alongside that is the culture of the people that come together at this time, and I think the most enjoyable part for me is, apart from actually speaking to people on the exhibition floor or in the sort of spaces in between the sessions, where the education is actually occurring, with people imparting wisdom about the industry and what they find and how to progress, it is actually just the impromptu moments of running into somebody that you hadn't seen for a while, or catching up over a bite to eat or a cup of coffee, or going upstairs to the rooftop bar and actually catching up and having some drinks and a laugh and some food as well. It's to me, the culture around the entire conference has grown commensurate with the way that the conference itself has grown, and I think that's something you spoke about as being the tribe. You must be very proud of the culture that you're creating as well.

Arnie:

Yeah, it's really a community that works really well together and shares a lot of information. You go back, you know my partner, craig Rollings everybody knows Craig Rollings and he's been doing this building sawmills, and that for 50 years, literally. And you know, in the old days, you know I've been doing it 37, 38 years. In the old days, you would go through a lumber mill and you had to sign an NDA and you had to keep your mouth shut. You couldn't say anything. And now we've got, you know, clt manufacturers sharing ideas, sharing thoughts, sharing numbers. You've got developers doing the same, and what's happened is the community has changed a bit from that early conference in 2016, where we had to explain what CLT was or what Mass Timber was, and now it's become, you know, real projects and real examples and those kind of things that are brought out.

Arnie:

Another thing that we've been able to do, which we tested in 2023 and will expand on this year, is so Tuesday we have the tours, which we expanded. Those are all sold out. But we also on Tuesdays, as you have an optional sign up when you register, to go to workshops, and so Woodworks and other partners from around the world come in and you have a kind of a basic 101, I'll call it a bootcamp per se that's offered, which a lot of people like to do. Exhibitors use it to teach their new folks maybe new engineering companies or architects or construction companies. They get a taste of it.

Arnie:

And then we're also having an advanced one, which you know you really can get into some details, and we've got a lot of leading 10 or 12 leading experts from around the world. You know, going to get really down in deep, which is is just an expansion to create an environment that it's all around the education and sharing, and then it plays into the networking piece like you talked about. You know, tom, my business partner is a total foodie. You've been there. So for a conference, which is weird is the food is awesome.

Arnie:

You know we have a full breakfast and we don't open the exhibit hall because we have people that want to do meetings, you know, and they can't get anywhere to do that. So we open that for an hour and a half they can have meetings. And then at lunch we're open for an hour and 15 minutes. They can have a bite to eat and do a meeting right there on the floor. It just makes it a social environment. And then, you know, on Tuesday night we have a longer one and Wednesday it's a little shorter. You know, kind of a happy hour.

Arnie:

Timberlabs, one of our big partners, you know, slyrton Timberlabs, provides a few beers for everybody, which is really nice. You're not paying 12 bucks for a beer or whatever. I'm a cheap man so I don't do that. But they, it's just a nice thing and it's social, and then you can go out and do your thing. You know we ended a little bit earlier this year so that people go out for dinner and and then on Wednesday night there's a bunch of events that are being hosted all around town.

Paul:

Yeah, it's an incredible culture and the food is magnificent. And it's actually very difficult to get to the food, I find, because you walk in at one end of that great hall where all the tables are located for people to sit, and I'm I constantly get stopped by someone on a table hey, it's good to catch up with you, you have a chat there, and by the time you actually get to the line, sometimes the food needs to come out again in the second serving to get there. But it's a consequence of having, you know, great familiarity with a whole lot of people in the program. And that's what that hall is about. It's a community catch up, you know, break the bread, break food with others.

Paul:

And I just wanted to touch on a point about the collaboration aspect. You know, mas, timberlabs in itself is also a process, and that process includes prefabrication, and included in prefabrication is collaboration. And so it's not surprising to hear that everybody who has some knowledge is willing to impart that knowledge for others. Because if we don't hold the value of collaboration ourselves, it's very hard to aspire to impart that to others. And I think, you know, to me that's one of the greatest loves of this industry and the event and the people that attend that event. Is that openness and willingness to talk. Tell us a little bit about what's the features of the event this year, ani. What's coming up, what's different, what's new, what's what can people expect?

Arnie:

even yeah, your exhibit hall is going to be pretty robust with a lot of hands-on activities and opportunities to get behind the scenes to see what works. That's going to be really expanded on. That's going to be exciting. Our educational tracks are really the who's who. We, you know we, our committee is really dedicated to having new people come to the table, new ideas, fresh thoughts. That's getting harder and harder but you know we're proud of that. They I think it's pretty cool that I was looking at the numbers we have about 50% of our speakers this year are either women or people of color. That's very unusual. You look at any other event, it might hit six, seven percent. I don't take credit for that and they're all incredible people, incredible people, but I think that's a kind of a testament to the way the values we stand for. We have some unique things. We're totally going a departure with our keynotes and by design, and so the opening keynote is going to be unique.

Arnie:

The opening keynote is a kind of like a fireside chat, I guess I would call it, but it's to give an idea. The title is Will Mass Timber reshuffle our economy? We'll talk about a big-ass topic, right? You know you're into that space. You're looking at all different kinds of things, whether it's new open style buildings, and you bring and you bring in biominic mimicry to the table, those kind of things. So the moderator, I think, is just I was shocked to see this it's the VP and regional executive for the Federal Reserve Bank. I mean, who would have ever thought we would have somebody like that moderating?

Arnie:

And then we've got a variety of folks Angela Brooks, who's from the Chicago area, talking about some really unique things that they're doing with mass timber but supportive housing. Todd, from Mercer in Washington State's going to talk about some things they're doing in Spokane around affordable housing. We've got Sheba she can look kind of, you know, she with the Department of Commerce. And then a developer, noel Johnson, who's from Portland, who's done multiple buildings very well known.

Arnie:

So that's an example of we're going to start that out and kick off the conference and the whole idea is can we create some new dialogues during the day to solve some of these pretty big societal problems and what can mass timber and wood products do into that space to help facilitate that? So you know, it's all about education, it's all about that style of pushing the limits. Very unusual. Craig Rawlings was behind this idea and massaged it all the way through, and then we just happened to get five really, really big players in the space all at once, which is very hard to get. So it's exciting, and that's just the start of it.

Paul:

Yeah, I think the key thing that I have seen since we came out of COVID is if we look at breaking up the events that have happened since 2016 and our pause in the middle.

Paul:

I think when we were in 2016, we were just trying to start the conversation.

Paul:

We were just trying to make enough impactful statements that people would take notice of the sector, what it's trying to achieve, what the possibilities could be, and it really became quite aspirational.

Paul:

In us trying to create this genesis, we were asking people's opinions, we were looking for people to solicit an idea of thought that would support what everyone was trying to do around the world, and really then we sort of had this transition to a point where that ignition point hit a crescendo and then we had the great pause. And then what happened was, when we came back and we had the first conference back after COVID, there was fireside chats at the end of the day and those were actually to continue the conversation, and what it sounds like now is that's come to a point where it's come full circle and now we're bringing those conversation starters to continue the conversation and start the conversation in synchronicity at the start of the day, ready to go through the whole event and I think that is a wonderful thing. So congratulations to you and Craig and the whole committee for coming up with an innovative way to open up the event.

Arnie:

We think so. Everything's a little bit of a test. And another thing that's new that I think would touch a lot of your folks there's been a shift and developers and finance people have become such an integral part insurance all that we did a partnership.

Arnie:

This is the first year of it with the Urban Land Institute and then ULI Northwest. So the second fireside chat on the first day right before the big happy hour is hosted by Andrea Newton with ULI. And, to give the idea, the title is Developers and the Mass Timber Ecosystem when Do we Go From here? So one of the speakers this is an example is the innovation person from Heinz. Everybody knows Heinz and all the projects they've done worldwide in Mass Timber. And then there's going to be several others behind that on that panel.

Arnie:

But again, an opportunity right before you go, have a couple of beers to listen into these kind of experts from around the world and say, ok, this is what they're doing, what do I need to learn from? Where do I need to go? And then that gets followed up the next day with educational tracks that support those themes and you can get a little bit more in depth and see real life examples. It kind of goes hand in hand with our report. So we publish the International Mass Timber Report at the same time as the conference. Again, that's happening.

Arnie:

The biggest difference with that is we have I think it ended up 30 or 32 case studies of buildings around the world with real numbers that people can look at and dig in, and it's all kind of continuous, with the conference, the newsletter and then the report, kind of joining into that hub, if you will, to create an opportunity for dialogue. It's again, it's just all about. That is what's the network look like. To your point, who can you meet with after you hear something, to ask a question, and then the mobile app allows you to connect with people. You know, obviously, with the rules out there and rightfully so privacy rules we do this mobile app. That's almost like a LinkedIn or whatever, where you can connect with people and then you can keep dialogue going afterwards if you're willing to share, and a lot of people really make a lot of connections that way virtually that they can touch on down the road.

Paul:

Yeah, I've used the app extensively and actually the strange thing was that I actually put the app in place before the conference and so when I was traveling to the US and even while I was sitting in the hotel, and I remember it vividly because the Grand Prix was on that same weekend and I was very disappointed because I'm watching the Grand Prix on a Sunday afternoon back in Australia, but it's like a Saturday evening when I arrived at the conference. But I'm getting messages coming through, going. Can we catch up, can we connect? Can we have a discussion? And I think I must have had five or six different connections before the conference even started. And I think the conversation starters through the different events that are happening in the conference.

Paul:

The report, which gives you tangible support and evidence to walk away with something in your hand, and the connections that you've got really do combine to create a perfect outcome. And for anybody who's working for a company, who's listening to this and going, how am I going to validate or verify that I got something out of this to my boss, that he'll let me come to the conference? Those are the three things that you can validate it from. So please do put you know you'll have to get in quick for the hotels as well, but please do book your tickets, do get on a plane, do head to the conference and I think all the early bird registrations and everything finished in January. But there's certainly tickets still available. One more Okay.

Arnie:

One more early bird so you can catch that. It's a 20% discount. It ends February 21st, so good timing. You know they can still get in. The tours unfortunately did all sell out. The workshops have some space because we expanded those. But yeah, we've got plenty of space in the rooms this year. It's a huge thing.

Arnie:

The other thing, paul, that you know we get asked or we get suggested and we go to people like yourself. We do all these interviews after the conference and throughout the year is what do we need and what are companies looking for? You know a big part of that is case studies and they want some real numbers. That's one part. Another part is you got to have time for networking and then visualizing new products. You know we're gonna have on the floor Mercer's new prototype product on the floor that they're making to. You know, do modular mass timber housing very quickly, which is very cool. So that's an example.

Arnie:

But one of the other big topics that comes up is what do we do about our workforce? Where do we get the future workforce in construction, engineering, architecture, where is that? You know I mentioned our diversity of our speakers, but I am jacked for our keynote speaker on Thursday morning. You know we've had the big names Shigeru Bond, michael Green, jeannie Gang, jason McClendon Jason McClendon you know huge names and those are all these awesome and they're very received. Well, this year it's a departure, but there's a very incredibly gifted speaker who I found kind of through a weird way. Her name's Emily Lamb. You'll have to look up her bio, but I'll give an example and I'm gonna read this to you. Her presentation will highlight architectural projects by youth, the value of community driven design build in stories of young women who are poised to lead the construction field. She will inspire and invite you to reimagine the industry's fundamental structures and embrace a brave, inclusive and audacious future. Her title of her presentation, which is on 8 am on Thursday, march 28th, is how to Build the World we Wanna See. And she's an architect by training. She's a project manager. She's got real world experience. She's done two TED talks. Those two TED talks just hit 3.8 million views. She's really dynamic and she wants to be interactive. I can't wait to see what she's gonna bring to the table. It's exciting to see to try something new. An old dog can learn new tricks, so Emily's gonna kick that off. And then that goes right into a thing we tested this year called the Women in Timber Power Out. So this year, in 23, we had 100 slots and it sold out literally in 20 minutes.

Arnie:

Right now, the event is gonna be a special event. It's all inclusive. It doesn't have to just be women. It's all inclusive, but it's focused towards that. I think the latest that I saw is we have 275 signups already. It's just an hour social right after the keynote. Emily's gonna be there, but I bring that out probably because it's all new. It's going away from status quo.

Arnie:

But how important is it for us to have really smart young people of color women, everybody inclusive of hey. What do we need to do to get that talent? And we're facilitating ways to do that in front of an audience of we'll have over 3,000 people from 30 plus countries. It's here, maybe 4,000 people. We think it's really important to set that stage. Craig Rawlings, tom Waddell, bill Parsons, brian Brasch, sandra Lupien those kind of people have pushed us to go here and we think we're onto something and we think it really is gonna set some standards and we really hope people see that and follow and lead themselves.

Arnie:

But that's just an example of new things that are going on at the conference. To your comment earlier is I'm in business. If I'm gonna go somewhere, you're spending money on airfare, on a hotel and the conference fee or whatever. You've gotta get your investment and we think by having all parts of the supply chain, everything from loggers to equipment manufacturers to tools, to engineering firms, architect firms and money, people construction people all the way through that supply chain. We think that's really critical and it makes it valuable for somebody to attend.

Paul:

Thanks, arnie. Emily sounds like she will be an amazing speaker and I think everyone will get something out of a different way of looking at the future, and we've gotta remember that's exactly where Master came from. We all thought differently, which is why it's here, so let's keep thinking differently so that we can get a different future, and the genesis of that will be borne out over time as the industry gathers behind the movement. So I think that's a very special way of looking at it. Impressive 3.8 million for the, or thereabouts for the TED Talks. Well, that puts you on either shame, because we don't even have TED Talks, so we're not gonna get up on the stage there. Although you do, though, arnie, you're up on the stage, so it's good to see you up there. Thanks so much for an overview. Can you give everyone just a few key, important points to take away? So when is the event, you know, when does the registration closes, et cetera.

Arnie:

The International Mass Timber Carpenter. You can just pull it up easily online and we make it real easy to register Through February 21st it's called an Early Bird. You get a 20% discount and on that registration you can register for the workshops, which there's a small fee for those to cover the woodworks folks. That's part of it. You can register for the Women in Timber Power Hour. That's free, and there's a few other things that you can do. That gets you signed up to get your electronic PDF of the International Mass Timber Report that comes out the 25th of March, but so that all of that, and then your food and you'll see that in your registration is included all in that fee and then you can start getting a sense of what the agenda looks like and how to chart that out. We also have some new systems available. I mentioned the mobile app for the conference and then we've got a new social media interactive system. It's called Glean-In. That you'll see during your registration and it's a way to help set up and facilitate meetings if you want to meet people.

Arnie:

But we expect 3,000 plus people, maybe 4,000 from 30, 35 plus countries. It's just an exciting, fun event. The biggest thing is that I would make sure that you know is set your time up ahead. Hotels are pretty hard. We added three more hotels and those are getting close to sold out. We keep adding rooms, which is nice to get a discount, but so there is some available. But again, just go on the Mass Timber Conference website. That's where you register. It makes it's real easy to do that. There's drop downs. Again, it's in Portland, at the Portland Convention Center. We have the entire facility this year. A lot of things go and it's all around education and right up your alley, Paul, which you've been a leader in for years.

Paul:

Thanks, arnie. It's so good to have you back on. I still can't believe it's four years we've been on this podcast spruiking the same thing and through some really interesting times, that the conference and the industry has evolved, and it is always a pleasure to catch up with you. Any parting words? Maybe is there a word that we might want to hear on the stage? That isn't what is good, is that? What is something else this year?

Arnie:

It always can be what is good and what is cool. You know that, paul. So, but I'm looking for some new blood and I think Emily, our speaker, will will do that for us and along with these others, but Paul, I can't thank you enough. Your podcast is always informative and really top notch. Thank you very much.

Paul:

No, you're welcome, Arnie. Thanks for coming on again. I appreciate it and we'll catch up again, either post conference, where you might put a call out for more ideas, because more ideas means that we can actually start to transform what we're doing, or we'll see you again next year on the podcast for the next iteration of the International Master Tember Conference, but don't forget the one that's coming up, and the details will be in the show notes to promote the event. So thank you so much for your time, arnie.

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