Bang On: Wood an alternative to concrete in mid-rise construction

Among the four- to six-storey mid-rise buildings under construction in London and area, you can see two different types of construction being used.

The traditional, most widely used construction material is concrete. According to the Ready Mixed Concrete Association, concrete has many benefits.

  • Concrete structures are designed to last for centuries. Concrete, unlike some other materials, gets stronger the longer it sits. It won’t rot, mold or rust, which makes maintenance minimal.
  • Concrete can be shaped into any design to achieve unique looks.
  • Insulated concrete forms (ICF) create walls that are reinforced with rebar which creates a strong, durable structure that stands up to fire, floods, and wind. ICF creates a solid wall with continuous insulation that provides increased energy efficiency.
  • Fire resistance is one of the most important considerations when building. Concrete’s fire resistance can even exceed building requirements.

Another option for mid-rise construction is wood construction.

In 2009, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to allow five- and six-storey mid-rise buildings to be made from wood. After years of study by technical experts with support from research organizations such as the National Research Council and FPInnovations, changes were made to the 2015 National Building Code of Canada.

Most people think of two-by-four framing, panels or flooring on single family homes when they think of wood construction, but with recent advances in wood science and building technology, there is now stronger, more robust and sophisticated product options for wood construction which allows for more choice for builders and architects.

According to Canadian Wood Products Ltd., there are many benefits of wood construction.

  • Mid-rise buildings made of wood are a less expensive construction option. With land prices rising, the changes to the building code allow safe, compliant buildings that would not otherwise be possible. The benefit of reduced construction costs can be passed on to home buyers or tenants.
  • With new economic opportunity, the construction of these units creates new construction jobs as well as supporting employment in forestry communities. Exports of wood products also could increase as other countries begin similar types of construction.
  • This new standard of engineering fully meets the same requirements of the building code as any other type of construction from the perspective of health, safety and accessibility. With growing pressure for building designers to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment, wood product based construction is a great choice, as it is a renewable building.

Researchers are continuously working on new innovations for both wood and concrete construction.

Sue Wastell is the president of the London Home Builders’ Association and owner of Wastell Homes in London.

 

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