UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation of the new opportunities of wood in mid-rise construction in British Columbia Kwan, Jonathan


With the preference to use reinforced concrete and steel structures in modern time, it is easy to forget that wood was once the material of choice for mid-rise construction. In January 2009, new BC Building Code requirements were modified to increase the maximum height of wood-frame residential construction from maximum height from four to six storeys [32]. This brings a new opportunity to re-consider wood as a popular building material. A list of factors have contributed to this decision, including the limited supply of developed land especially in the lower mainland, an overall fluctuation of material costs and land costs, tighter working schedules, and a growing awareness on using sustainable material. Construction projects tend to move forward if the buildings are easily to design and quick to build. With the relatively low material cost of wood and high design options of engineered wood, wood definitively fits into these two categories. In 2011, there were approximately2.6 million people living in the Lower Mainland area, with about 2.3 million of them living in Metro Vancouver [10]. This number is up 9.2 % compared to a 2006 census which ranked Vancouver as third in the country [28]. As population has continued to increase, affordable housing has become a challenging topic to both immigrants and locals. In response to the massive growth in population, the lower mainland of BC is currently taking advantage of the recent code changes as mid-rise buildings are being rapidly developed and refined in cities such as Richmond,Survey, and Langley. In 2012, the first six-storey wood frame condominium was built in Surrey which offered more affordable housing to homebuyers. Despite all the advantages of light frame wood buildings, several key aspects of engineering designs and technical challenges should also be carefully considered when using wood. This includes fire resistance and fire safety, cumulative wood shrinkage potential, dead, live, wind and seismic load increases, and sound transmission. When the industry can overcome the above technical challenges, it will result in a better quality of sustainable neighbourhoods as height is no longer the limitation for wood buildings. Keywords:

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