Wood frame construction: low-rise solutions

Wood frame construction is already being used for housing in China, from single family dwellings in the suburbs of cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, to low-cost rural developments where land availability is not a problem. They have proved cost-competitive and perform well in comparison with concrete and steel frame housing.

But much more can be done. Wood construction is the solution to other building requirements in China as well. These include medium-density multi-storey apartments, small commercial and office buildings, schools, medical clinics, nursing homes, universities and research centres, sports arenas and other recreational facilities.

Wood frame construction: medium-rise solutions

Wood can make a significant contribution to solving China's housing shortagesthrough high density multi-family solutions. While these can take the form of two or three-storey apartment blocks, the future lies in the higher-rise buildings which are well-proven in Europe.

They have gained popularity in these regions because of the lower building costs, wood's suitability for highly efficient industrial building methods, better energyefficiency, better seismic performance and a growing environmental awareness. And, because of their low weight, multi-storey wood buildings can be constructed without the need for extensive pile foundations. This makes it possible to develop sites which would previously have been impractical.

In China, as of 2009, existing fire codes do not allow wood frame apartment blocks of four or more storeys. However, this may be an option for the future as these codes are often under review and the scientific experience supports more storeys.

Wood frame in China

At present, wood frame is used for single family and multi-family homes of two or three storeys in China. Wood members form a structural framework which issheathed with structural wood panels. Foundations are generally concrete. The floor above can be either wood or a concrete slab and forms the platform for the next storey. Roof and wall insulation and water-proof membranes provide energyefficiency and protection from moisture. Interiors are usually dry-lined with fireresistant gypsum board, and many different materials can be used for external cladding. Because the structure has multiple wood members, panels, fasteners and connectors, loads can be carried through a number of alternative pathways. As a result, wood frame buildings are highly resistant to sudden failure in earthquakes or high winds.

Multi-family units are built using the same techniques and under the same building codes as single family units, and are separated by code-required fire-rated assemblies. The units generally range in size from 100 to 300 square meters.

Multi-storey wood frame buildings are popular in many countries. Where five and sixstorey blocks are now being built, apartments are generally on a single storey,separated from each other by fire resistant assemblies. Horizontal stability in these taller buildings is achieved using engineering design which incorporates braced wallsand heavy-duty metal connections between assemblies. Noise is an important consideration, too. Solutions are available to effectively limit sound from transmission through the floors and walls.

Semi-detached wood frame house, Sichuan, China
Semi-detached wood frame house
Sichuan, China
Single family wood frame community, Beijing, China
Single family wood frame community
Beijing, China
Multiple living-unit wood frame construction, Sichuan, China
Multiple living-unit wood frame construction, Sichuan, China
5-storey wood frame apartment building, Europe
5-storey wood frame
apartment building, Europe

European Wood (in China)
C412, Beijing Lufthansa Center
50 Liangmaqiao Road, Chaoyang District
Beijing, P.R. China 100125
T +86 10 6462 2066, F +86 10 6462 2067
Sino-European Wood Center
Room 202, Engineering Department,
Taoliyuan Hou, Xuhui Campus of Jiaotong University,
No.655 Panyu Road, Xu Hui District, Shanghai