From Farmer to Foreman
Mr. Zhao Tianchang named himself Charlie after being laughed at by other trainees that his name was too difficult for Canadians to pronounce. Since then, the 52-year-old Chinese grandpa adopted the English name of Charlie.
Charlie comes from a farmer’s family and learned Chinese traditional carpentry since childhood. In China, most carpenters (and all construction workers) are uneducated farmers who learn craftsmanship from family members orally but are not able to continue any professional training because of poverty and the Chinese education system. After high school, Charlie became a businessman and earned his fortune by importing Denmark Velux skylights, thereby involving himself in construction of concrete buildings, the main building form in China. While installing skylights for wealthy families who live in single family homes (called villas in China), Charlie’s love for wood reignited and he established a small decoration company which specialized in villa renovation. Since 2011, Charlie began to send his staff to learn more wood building technology at Canada Wood’s training programs in China. In 2014, Charlie decided to make a major investment in learning more about wood frame construction for himself.
His 21 days professional training in UFV strengthened his commitment to use wood in construction and right after his return from Canada, he won the contract for construction of the Huanglong Jian Visitor Center project in Nanjing, capital city of Jiangsu province. After 10 years of working on villa renovation, Charlie realized most Chinese customers have concerns on wood in durability. It is very difficult for builders to change the opinions of the market. So his strategy was to make changes step-by-step. Charlie decided to start his new project as a steel and wood hybrid system to overcome the customer’s concern of durablilty of an all wood project. This approach brought him additional projects and greater profits. The visitor center in Nanjing consists of 2 buildings, the smaller building is a renovation of the original structure and the second building is new construction with a total area of 735 m2. Construction started early November, the structure was completed after just 1 month and all decoration done in 2 months (last photo taken Jan 13th).