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Strategies for sustainable construction: Building with wood in China

The Chinese Government values highly the culture of building sustainably as a national strategy, and sustainable development of the economy and society saving energy, reducing emissions and protecting the environment. We are trying to make environmental protection and conservation the new engine of economic growth.
Premier Wen Jiabao, 13 November 20091

Cover images: Glulam structure footbridge with wood deck, Europe Entertainment park entrance building with shops, curved structural glulam, Chengdu, Sichuan province Single family wood frame community houses, Beijing A seismic-safe wood frame replacement for a brick and concrete school building destroyed in the Sichuan earthquake 5-storey apartment building, wood frame structure, Europe


Building with Wood addresses opportunities for the further use of wood in construction in China. It is written for the people of the Peoples Republic of China so that they might assess and discuss these opportunities, with full recognition of the advantages and the limitations of wood used in construction. Building with Wood does not pretend that wood construction offers a panacea to solve all Chinas construction or housing requirements. Rather, it focuses on areas where wood construction can offer real benefits to Chinese society at large and to the many individuals and families who will need comfortable and high performance housing within their economic means. As the Chinese government has stated, construction requirements in coming years will be massive. Over the next decade, an estimated 75 million multiple family housing units will be required to house the approximately 300 million people expected to migrate into major urban and adjacent suburban areas. And even more units will be required to upgrade the housing stock in smaller cities and towns,
Above: 8-storey wood structure apartment buildings, Europe

and in rural locations.

Wood construction can help address these needs, and Building with Wood explains how this can be accomplished. It points to significant advantages for wood construction in such areas as energy savings and total cost at both household and national levels, the inherent resistance to earthquakes which have devastated parts of China over the last century, and the major contributions to Chinas environmental objectives, including potentially substantial reductions of CO2 emissions. It addresses limitations of wood used in construction, but also and importantly, debunks misunderstandings about building codes, costs, fire safety, durability, land use, and deforestation. Building with Wood is intended to add to the debate on these critical choices facing China at this pivotal point in its amazing history. This Introduction provides a synopsis of each of the seven chapters. In that way, the reader can be guided to pursue his or her particular interest in wood and wood construction, or read the book in its entirety.

Above: 4-storey wood frame apartments, Canada


Building with wood

This Chapter focuses on both the range of opportunities and the limitations of building with wood. It notes, as well, certain advantages over traditional construction systems in China. Wood structures are not intended to support high rise buildings, although wood is used as components in tall buildings, including infill walls, roof structures, and other forms of hybrid construction combining concrete and steel structures with wood. Japan, Europe, Canada and the United States have a long tradition of wood construction, and have developed modern wood building into competitive solutions for the low to mid-rise segment. However, and as noted in the Chapter, China has a much longer tradition of building with wood than North America and most likely even longer than Europe. This Chapter looks to the immediate as well as longer term possibilities for wood construction in China, including exciting structural forms and the use of engineered wood products such as glulam beams and columns. Here, the architectural beauty and warmth of wood, which so many Chinese have noted, is open to view and on display.

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Reducing CO2 emissions and improving the environment

Energy efficiency

This Chapter explains why wood buildings are more energy-efficient than traditional forms of construction now being built in China, and how standard wood frame buildings can be upgraded for energy performance at very little incremental cost. It refers to studies and field tests that provide evidence for the order of magnitude of these savings. This Chapter also refers to Chinese government estimates of rapid growth in energy consumption reaching an estimated 3 billion tonnes of coal equivalent in 2010, and growing. There are concerns about energy shortages and the high national cost for the import of energy materials. Reducing energy requirements is a stated national priority for China. Because China has the largest construction volume in the world and because buildings in China, particularly residential buildings, consume a large portion of national energy output, choosing wood construction over traditional systems of construction will make a large contribution to achieving national goals set out in Chinas Conservation Plan.

This Chapter notes that China is making huge strides in addressing environmental issues, demonstrating that it can and will lead in contributing to international objectives. Wood construction can assist China in making further improvements in its environmental performance to benefit Chinese society, and help achieve national and international priority objectives, with no additional cost. This Chapter explains how, noting that the use of wood in construction reduces the impact on the environment in a number or ways. Firstly, as explained in Chapter 3, standard wood frame buildings are substantially more energy-efficient than standard concrete, masonry, or steel frame buildings. This means reduced use of fossil fuels for energy, less CO2 into the atmosphere from burning those fossil fuels, and therefore reduced impact on global warming and climate change. Secondly, the manufacture and transport of wood products not only require less energy, but generate significantly fewer air and water pollutants. Thirdly, wood construction provides the economic incentive to plant forests which absorb CO2 from the air. The captured carbon makes up close to half of the mass of the wood and is retained within the wood for the life of the product. The magnitude of these environmental benefits can be substantial. This Chapter provides the details, referring to sophisticated and modern measuring techniques, such as life cycle analysis and whole life costing.

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Cost efficiency

Safety and durability

This Chapter addresses the cost-competitiveness of wood frame buildings compared to concrete and steel frame buildings. It explains why in a number of instances a wood building is less expensive to build and to operate over the buildings life cycle. It refers to cost comparison studies in Europe, North America and China to provide evidence. It also points to opportunities ahead in China for further cost reduction as builders and designers become more familiar with wood building practices and techniques. The Chapter notes the predominance of wood buildings throughout the Unites States and Canada and in regions of Europe and Japan because they have proven cost advantages, as well as performance advantages. In Europe particularly, new applications of wood in construction are proving to be cost-effective. These include wood roofs and wood infill walls in concrete structures, and cross laminated timbers for the structure of mid-rise buildings. and Canadian scientists. building constructed from concrete, masonry, or steel.

This Chapter explains why wood is safe, both structurally and with respect to fire safety, and why it is durable indefinitely, providing correct design and building practices are followed. All these areas have been subject to extensive research involving Chinese, European The Chapter notes that wood platform frame construction has inherently better performance in earthquake zones. This has been observed in investigations following severe earthquakes, including those in the Sichuan region in 2008. The Chapter also notes that fire safety statistics in Europe and North America show that people are as safe in a code-compliant wood building as in a code-compliant

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Sustainable forestry

Codes and standards

This Chapter establishes the linkages between wood construction and sustainable forestry practices, which include the importance of legal harvesting and forest renewal. The use of wood products in construction provides the economic base for forest renewal and sustainable development. The Chapter describes the benefits to the Chinese economy from international trade, including trade in wood products. Whilst the science of forestry began in Europe, and Canada leads in the percentage of forests certified as sustainable, China leads the world in plantation forestry. In a matter of decades, forest cover will have increased from 6 per cent of land mass to approximately 25 per cent. These accomplishments are truly outstanding and serve as a model for other forestry nations. In addition to wood construction, sustainable forest development provides another area of common interest to strengthen relationships between China, Europe and Canada. and sound control. comprehensive in nature.

This Chapter describes the framework of building codes and standards that regulate wood products and wood construction, and clarifies any misunderstandings that might exist in the public mind. These regulations assure life safety, structural integrity and durability, as well as high performance in such areas as energy conservation These building codes and standards are, for the most part, relatively new to China, but are based on years of experience and research. Chinese specialists worked closely with those from Europe and Canada in their development. Codes continue to evolve to meet new opportunities and requirements. The overall system of codes is

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Building with wood

Building with wood has a Chinese tradition and is proven over the centuries Wood construction offers solutions for China, including seismic performance and energy conservation

It is popular for single and multi-family housing And suitable for commercial and public buildings It is appropriate for medium-rise buildings which address Chinas wider housing needs It can be used in combination with concrete structures to improve new and existing buildings Structural glulam, with its strong aesthetic appeal, is ideal for large span construction

Building with wood is proven over the centuries

Using wood in building structures is nothing new - China has been building with wood for thousands of years. It has been used as a building material throughout the ages wherever forests grow. And today, the international timber trade provides countries which do not have extensive forest resources with wood from sustainable and certified forestry to build with. Experience, research and product development have resulted in a range of effective building codes and standards. Building with wood is becoming increasingly popular as countries round the world seek more sustainable construction; already 70 per cent of the housing constructed in the developed world use wood frame. Although concrete and steel are more common construction materials in China, the government is looking at different solutions, like wood building, as part of its sustainability strategy. And considerable advances have been made in the development of the codes and standards required to ensure safety, structural integrity, and durability (see Chapter 7 Codes and standards).
Previous page: Re-roofing of medium-rise apartment building, downtown Beijing Top left: Traditional Chinese wood houses, Sichuan Top right: 4-storey wood frame apartment buildings, Canada Above: Single family villa, wood-frame construction, Europe

Is it OK to build with wood in China? There are many misunderstandings among consumers, developers, and policymaking authorities. In fact, wood frame construction has a lot of advantages. There is a rationale for most countries of the world to build with wood It is necessary to analyze opportunities and issues calmly and scientifically, and then move forward to fill this void in Chinese architecture and construction.
Mr. Zhu Guangian, President, China Timber and Wood Products Distribution Association, 2010


It has many benefits

It is practical to build wood frame housing, despite the high Chinese population density. Wood frame houses are generally low-density, because of current code restrictions on the number of storeys. As a result, some may think it is not suitable to build low-density housing in China, with its large population and limits on land use Japan is one of the highest population density countries. Its population density is 2.5 times higher than China. Yet, its light wood frame construction and lowdensity housing are a high proportion of total housing.
Mr. Zhu Guangian, President, China Timber and Wood Products Distribution Association, 2010

Wood has many benefits as a building material. It is naturally beautiful and widely available. Its low thermal resistance and capacity to insulate economically provide excellent energy-efficiency. Strong and light, with exceptional load-bearing capacity, it is easy to handle and transport. It reduces the need for massive foundations. Fast, flexible and simple to renovate, it is easy to work with on-site using simple tools, yet ideally suited to factory pre-fabrication. It is available as solid wood lumber products, graded to meet performance requirements, or can be engineered into panels, columns and beams manufactured to meet precise performance characteristics. Above all, it is a naturally renewable, organic material that makes a significant contribution to the reduction of the earths emissions of carbon dioxide. Wood construction has major advantages in severe seismic zones because of its light weight and natural flexibility (see Chapter 5 Safety

and durability). Pre-fabrication makes wood buildings even faster to erect, which is another reason why they are cost-effective. And they are built to the same code requirements and performance levels of fire safety and durability as concrete and steel buildings. Chinese national codes and standards (see Chapter 7 Codes and standards) have been published to ensure appropriate design and detailing to resist potential vulnerability to fire, microbial activity and movement due to changes in moisture. Wood housing, particularly multiple family units, is consistent with Chinas land use and zoning policies. And there are different wood construction systems appropriate for the different needs of urban, suburban and rural districts.
Above: Wooden roof of Richmond Olympic Oval, Canada


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.

Above: Single family wood frame community, Beijing Right: Semi-detached wood frame house, Sichuan


Wood frame construction: medium-rise solutions

Wood can make a contribution to solving Chinas housing shortages through 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 and North America. They have gained popularity in these regions because of lower building costs, woods suitability for highly efficient industrial building methods, better energy-efficiency, better seismic performance and a growing environmental awareness. And, because of their low weight, multistorey 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.

Above and right: 5-storey wood frame apartment building, Europe


Wood frame in China

Sheathing board Gypsum wall board Sheathing membrane Insulation Wood framing Preservative treated vertical strapping Rain screen drainage cavity opening

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 is sheathed 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 energy-efficiency and protection from moisture. Interiors are usually dry-lined with fire-resistant 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.
Above: Multiple living-unit wood frame construction, Sichuan Left: A typical wall assembly for wood frame construction Facing page: Multiple living-unit wood frame construction, Sichuan

Paper backed lath Stucco Perforated casing bead Insect screen over cavity opening Metal flashing


Multi-family units are built using the same techniques and under the same building codes as single family units, and are separated by coderequired 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 six-storey 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 walls and heavy-duty metal connections between assemblies. Noise is an important consideration, too. Effective solutions are available to limit sound transmission through floors and walls.


Hybrid construction: wood frame storeys on concrete structure

Hybrid construction, where wood construction is combined with concrete and/or steel, is a promising opportunity for the future of China. This includes the construction of buildings which have the lower storey or storeys (or parkade) in concrete, to which a light-weight energyefficient wood super-structure can be attached. In Europe and North America, wood frame buildings of up to six or seven storeys are achieved using a concrete lower storey. And in China, buildings of up to three wood frame storeys on top of up to four concrete storeys may soon be accepted. These hybrids can combine commercial space, such as stores and offices, in the concrete portion of the building, with housing in the wood frame part. In some settings, hybrids may be the most practical, efficient, and cost-effective option.

Left: Light-weight wood frame storeys on multi-storey concrete building, Europe Above: Multi-family wood frame apartment building on concrete parkade, Canada


Hybrid construction: wood frame walls in concrete structures

The main benefits of exterior wood infill walls: Outstanding thermal properties and energy conservation Reduced wall thickness maximizes usable living space by a typical 2 per cent Shorter on-site construction time through pre-fabrication Reduced foundation load Improved seismic performance

Chinese fire safety codes allow the use of infill wood frame exterior walls in concrete structures up to six storeys, soon likely to be extended to seven storeys high for residential, offices, and certain factories and warehouses. These structures have been built cost-competitively at up to twenty storeys in northern Europe for a number of years, where increasingly stringent energy-efficiency requirements are a key driver. Exterior infill walls are light, as they are designed to take only the load of their weight and the wind and seismic loads that directly affect them. They can be pre-fabricated in a factory or built on-site and have very good insulation characteristics in relation to their thickness, providing substantially better energy performance than traditional concrete, masonry or steel construction.

Where wood frame is used for interior walls in concrete and steel structures as partitions, it provides flexibility of design, including floor layout, fire safety, sound insulation and renovation. Wood infill partitions are non-structural, lightweight, and are suitable for a range of interior finishes. They can also be designed to meet the fire and sound requirements for apartment partition walls. Wood frame partitions are approved up to eighteen stories.

Top left: High-rise apartment building using wood frame infill wall panels, Europe Above: Assembling pre-fabricated wood frame exterior infill wall panels in a multi-storey concrete structure building, Europe


Hybrid construction: wood frame roofs on concrete structures

Many of the typically concrete medium-rise residential buildings throughout China have flat roofs that tend to leak and are poorly insulated for energy conservation and thermal comfort. These existing roofs can be covered with a pitched wood frame truss roof. This is a cost-effective way of keeping the rain out, improving the look of the building and, with additional insulation in the roof cavity, reducing energy costs. It is also an effective way of delivering a thermally comfortable attic space for extra accommodation, or of installing mechanical systems for heating, cooling, and ventilation. This system is as competitive for installing roof systems on new concrete structures as for replacing old concrete roof systems.

Above: Re-roofed apartment buildings with habitable attic, downtown Beijing Top right: Attic living space, downtown Beijing Centre right: Installing thermal insulation in wood frame attic living space Right: Re-roofed apartment buildings, Xu Hui district, Shanghai


Engineered wood construction: solid wood panels

Solid wood panel structures provide a leading-edge alternative for six to ten-storey buildings. Although the technology is relatively new and not yet recognized in Chinese codes, it is widely used across Europe. The tallest built so far is a nine-storey residential building in London, England. Cross-laminated boards are glued together and used to build walls and joists. Panels are machined in a factory to fine tolerances by computercontrolled equipment. The panels arrive on site with apertures for doors and windows, and wiring and plumbing channels already prepared. The walls can be insulated to provide a high level of energy-efficiency. Superior load-carrying characteristics, including lateral stability against wind and seismic forces, as well as excellent fire safety performance, make cross laminated timbers suitable for medium and even high-rise buildings. And the amount of timber used means buildings made with solid wood panels are highly effective carbon stores. These environmentally-friendly solid wood buildings offer longer-term opportunities in China, particularly for high density housing requirements.

Top left: Assembling solid wood panels in multi-storey apartment building, Europe Above: 9-storey apartment building with solid wood panel structure, Europe


Engineered wood construction: glued laminated timber (glulam)


In North America and Europe, structural glue laminated timber is widely used in constructions where span width is an issue and/or the unique beauty of the wood is to be exploited architecturally. Glulam beams and columns have a strong aesthetic appeal, as the structure of a building can be expressed in the exposed beauty of the wood. Glue laminated timber engineered wood beams and columns - are used in homes, schools, sports halls, railway stations, industrial and commercial buildings, such as shopping centres and expo buildings, and public buildings, such as museums and concert halls. They are also used in landscaping and infrastructure applications such as glulam bridges. Glulam beams and columns come as standard products, with a variety of cross-sections and lengths. Custom designed beams and columns are pre-fabricated according to customer needs and can include curved shapes and mechanical interfaces to concrete or steel structures etc. Glulam is a mature technology in Europe, where large span buildings are still in use after almost 100 years. Modern design methods are available and national codes design, production, fire - supporting glulam construction in China are to be approved in 2010.

Facing page, top: Entertainment park entrance building in curved structural glulam, Chengdu, Sichuan province Facing page, left: Glulam and wood truss shopping mall, Europe Facing page, right: Swimming pool with structural glulam roof, Beijing Top right: Entrance to Swedish pavilion in structural glulam, World Expo 2010, Shanghai Bottom right: New temple with glulam post and beam structure, Zhejiang



Top: Heavy duty structural glulam road bridge, Europe Right: Western red cedar landscaping, Canada


Wood products, treated with the latest environmentally-friendly preservatives, or using naturally durable wood such as China fir, Western red cedar, or yellow cedar, are used extensively for landscaping. Whether decking, pathways, fences, retaining walls, or small structures like storage sheds and gazebos, wood products fit naturally into many urban and suburban environments, parks and other recreational projects.
Above: Wood landscaping, Guangzhou Below left: Wood decking and seating, Pudong, Shanghai Below right: Glulam structural arch footbridge with wood decking, Shanghai


Wood construction: on-site or prefabrication

The traditional way to construct wood frame buildings in North America is on-site, particularly when there is labour availability. In Europe, wood frame assemblies are typically pre-fabricated. Engineered wood construction, such as glulam, is most commonly erected piece by piece on-site. In China, almost all wood buildings are currently constructed on-site. Building materials and structural components are freighted to the building site and the various assemblies walls, floors, etc. are framed on-site. The method requires organization and planning on the building site and measures must be taken to avoid moisture damage to materials. On-site construction relies on a skilled work force and, while much faster than using other materials, is slower than using prefabricated elements. On-site construction does not require the initial capital costs for plant and machinery, nor the need to maintain capacity utilization. It is

particularly appropriate where housing volumes are not large, where labour is reasonably priced and plentiful, and where flexibility and low overheads are important. While more capital-intensive, off-site pre-fabrication has the benefit of controlled factory conditions, less dependence on on-site labour and faster construction times. In the case of wood frame construction, only a few days on the building site are needed to assemble a water-tight structure, complete with roof. The panels can be pre-fabricated with insulation, windows and doors. Entire units can even be made complete with electricity, water and waste pipes, kitchens and wet rooms, floors and papered walls.

Above: On-site construction of new roof on existing apartment building, Beijing Facing page, left: Pre-fabrication of wood panels, including installation of services Facing page, right: Production line for pre-fabrication of wood panels


Pre-fabricated components are relatively light and can be erected at heights of several storeys using simple lifting equipment, such as the cranes on the trucks that deliver components to site. Components may need protection against the elements to prevent dampness. The extent of pre-fabrication varies widely between countries and companies, depending on economic factors. It does require an up-front investment in plant and equipment which could impose an uncompetitive burden. While this is essentially the case in China at present, over the longer term, pre-fabrication may prove advantageous.



Reducing CO2 emissions and improving the environment

Wood products store the CO absorbed by growing trees


Substantial reductions of CO emissions can be achieved by substituting wood for other materials

Wood buildings also reduce CO emissions as a result of their energy-efficiency


Life Cycle Assessment demonstrates the low environmental impact of wood buildings Whole Life Costing demonstrates the costefficiency of wood buildings


Growing trees absorb CO2

Coping with climate change should be a major strategy for national economic and social development There should be greater public awareness in addressing global climate change and encouraging low-carbon life styles and consumption.
State Council, Press Statement, 27 November, 2009

Wood is an extraordinary natural resource. It provides a highperformance building material without depleting the earths resources. It grows in forests and plantations which clean the air, creating the conditions that make the planet habitable, while providing a natural habitat for leisure and wildlife. On average, trees absorb one Wood plays a major role in combating climate change. Trees reduce CO2 in the atmosphere, since one cubic metre of wood absorbs around one tonne of CO2. Greater use of wood in construction can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by stimulating the expansion of Chinas forests and by reducing requirements for fossil fuel-intensive products.
Above: Growing trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen2

tonne of CO2 and release almost three-quarters of a tonne of oxygen for every cubic metres growth. The CO2 is stored in the wood as carbon. Young, active trees replace the mature trees, absorbing yet more CO2.


Wood products store CO2

China is going to reduce the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP in 2020 by 40 to 45 per cent compared with the level of 2005 Appropriate handling of the climate change issue is of vital interest to China's social and economic development and people's fundamental interests, as well as the welfare of all the people in the world and the world's long-term development.
State Council, Press Statement, 27 November 2009

Throughout their life, wood products continue to store the carbon sequestered by the harvested trees. Further CO2 gains can be achieved by extending the life of the wood product, by recycling into panel products, and by recovering the energy in the wood at the end of its life by using it as a biomass fuel.

Managing a forest sustainably means ensuring new trees replace the harvested trees. So the forest maintains its carbon store. And the amount of carbon stored in the product made from the harvested wood is a net gain. This means the wood can be described as carbon negative it stores more carbon than the equivalent CO2 it emits from the harvesting, processing, transport and fabrication. This helps reduce the growth of CO2 in the atmosphere, slowing down climate change.

Since wood products store the carbon initially trapped in trees, carbon is removed from the atmosphere for as long as the wood product remains in use, and beyond, when the product is re-used or recycled for secondary material or energy recovery.
European Commissions DG Enterprise3


Substituting wood for other materials reduces CO2 emissions

The index of carbon dioxide emissions cuts, announced for the first time by China, would be a binding goal to be incorporated into China's medium and long-term national social and economic development plans Given the country's huge population, prominent economic structural problems, coal-dominated energy consumption structure, and increasing demand for energy, the government needs to make strenuous efforts to realize those targets.
State Council, Press Statement, 27 November 2009

Using wood in construction is a good thing in itself. Its effects are even more positive when the CO2 savings made by not using other construction materials are taken into account.
Lumber (kiln dried)

Wood has lower CO2 emissions than any other building material. The wood industry is also one of the biggest users of biomass energy, often contributing excess energy to national grid networks. Even the recycling of materials such as steel and aluminium, whilst a necessary part of modern materials production, requires large energy inputs compared with wood.

Steel girders Concrete columns and beams Injection moulded PVC Roofing tiles








Substituting a cubic metre of wood for other construction materials (concrete, blocks or bricks) results in an average saving of 0.7 to 1.1 tonne of CO2.2

CO2 emissions will vary by country, according to the predominant energy source. Chinas energy production is heavily dependent on coal, which produces high levels of CO2 emissions.

Kilograms CO2 per tonne

Above: Cradle to gate carbon footprints for materials used in construction, Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management2


Wood buildings have lower CO2 emissions throughout their lifetime

Saving CO2 emissions from the construction phase is just one part of the story. At the moment around two-thirds of a buildings CO2 emissions come from the in-use phase. Because of woods naturally low thermal conductivity and the capacity for low cost, effective insulation, wood construction provides a competitive way to achieve higher energy-efficiency. As the walls do not have to be so thick to achieve good insulation, houses built using wood have more livable space (see Chapter 3 Energy-efficiency).

Besides, the more wood products replace other materials, the more the so-called substitution effect further reduces CO2 in the atmosphere.
European Commissions DG Enterprise3

Right: Zero carbon demonstration house, Europe Below: Wood frame apartment building, Europe


Life Cycle Assessment shows wood building elements have lower impacts
Governments world-wide are increasingly concerned about issues like recycling, waste disposal, and the environmental impacts of materials production, as well as energy emissions. As a result, building regulations internationally are requiring that principles of sustainable development apply to construction. In some cases these standards are mandatory. This has led to demands for materials and products to be assessed over a complete life cycle. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool which assesses the environmental impacts of a building component right the way through its lifecycle in three phases:

Production phase Extraction Production Transport to site Construction

In-use phase Energy use Thermal properties Maintenance

End-of-life phase Recycling Recovery Disposal

It helps designers, clients, specifiers and developers understand the full environmental impact of the materials they choose. It gives them the information they need to choose materials which will contribute towards more sustainable buildings.

LCA has been widely used to compare the environmental impacts of building materials such as wood, steel and concrete, and scientists world-wide have come to the same conclusion: compared to the alternatives, wood buildings produce less air and water pollution, require less energy across their life cycle, and generate lower CO2 emissions.

Left: Wood frame structure apartment building, Europe


Whole Life Costing shows how competitive wood solutions can be

Whole Life Costing (WLC) is a commonly used technique which assesses the cost of a product or project over a specific period of time. It takes into account all relevant financial factors from the initial capital costs, through future operational costs, to disposal. WLC, together with LCA, can provide a thorough economic and environmental assessment to support decision-making and an effective procurement strategy.

Right: Glulam construction for rapid transit system, Canada Below: 8-storey apartment building, glued solid wood structure, Europe


Case studies of the CO2 emissions savings to be made by using wood

Example 2: Two multi-storey apartment blocks Research in Sweden in 2007 compared the CO2 balances for two fourstorey buildings, one with a timber frame and the other with a concrete frame, over a 100-year period.5 The study researched the entire construction process from cradle to grave. A 4-storey wood framed building with 16 apartments (1,190 m2 area) was compared with a similar concrete frame construction. The concrete frame building showed emissions of around 96 tonnes of CO2, while the timber frame building showed no emissions - instead it showed a net uptake of 150 tonnes of CO2. - The construction of the building with the wooden frame required less energy - Wood waste from the construction process could be recycled and used as an alternative to fossil fuels - Carbon from CO2 emissions is stored in the wood - Concrete production has significant CO2 emissions - The more wood used to replace steel and concrete, the better for the climate.

Example 1: A solid wood panel school building The more wood used in a building, the lower its carbon footprint. This school uses solid timber as its primary structure to achieve a negative materials footprint of -40.9 tonnes of CO2.4
Wood frame building Concrete building

Emissions of around 96 tonnes of CO2 from the concrete building compared with a net uptake of 150 tonnes of CO2 from the timber frame building

Above: Low carbon demonstration school building using solid wood panel construction Facing page left: The wood frame apartment building in the Swedish carbon dioxide comparison study Facing page right: A low carbon apartment building under construction using solid wood panels, Europe


Example 3: A solid wood panel multi-storey apartment block This apartment building in London has a solid wood structure. It was pre-fabricated offsite using laminated panels up to 12.5m long, 2.9m wide and 170mm thick, produced from sawmill offcuts. The glue content of the panels is 2 per cent and the building uses 360m3 of lumber, saving around 400 tonnes of CO2 emissions compared with a concrete and steel construction.4


LCA case studies

Example 1: Wood versus steel, and wood versus concrete, a study of single family homes in the USA

Environmental impacts of wood house vs steel house

Embodied energy (Gj)

A study by the Athena Institute, Canada, looked at the environmental impacts of wood compared with steel and concrete in single family homes in Minnesota and Atlanta, USA. Results showed considerable benefits for wood construction in both instances, across a range of environmental impacts, including air and water pollution and solid waste.

Global warming potential Equiv. CO2 (kg) Air pollution (index) Water pollution (index) Solid wastes (kg)
0 0

Wood Steel 11
2 2 3 3 4 4


6 6




10 10

Environmental impacts of wood house vs concrete house

Embodied energy (Gj) Global warming potential Equiv. 0 CO2 (kg) Air pollution (index) Water pollution (index) Solid wastes (kg)
0 0,1 0,2 0,3 0,4 0,5 0,6 0,1 0,2 0,3 0,4 0,5 0,6





Wood Concrete














Example 2: A comparison of wood, steel and concrete apartment construction in China7 A study carried out by Beijing University of Technology (BJUT) compared the life cycle performance of similar wood, steel and concrete apartment buildings over a 50-year service life. The study focused on the production and in-use phases. The LCA considered all energy and material flows from the environment, as well as emissions to air, water and ground from the three building designs. The findings showed the wood frame construction was about 25 per cent more energy-efficient than either the steel or concrete frame designs across the overall life cycle. They demonstrated the importance of the energy embodied in materials (the production phase), even compared with the long-term operating energy consumption. And they highlighted the importance of improving building insulation levels, air tightness and other energy conservation measures.

Example 3: An exploratory study of Energy Use and Environmental Impacts of Wood Frame Structures Relative to Other Structures in China8 A second study compared the environmental impacts of three different construction systems, wood frame, steel frame and concrete frame, using three houses of the same footprint (223m2) and total floor area (607.8m2). To simplify the data, the study considered the impacts of six main building materials within each house: cement, steel, timber, glazing, OSB and I-joists.

The energy consumption for each phase and life cycle of three types of building

Embodied materials


From the table it can be clearly seen that the wood frame construction produces the least damage to the ecosystem, and consumes the least resources (except for timber, which is, of course, renewable).

Use and Operation

Whole Life Cycle Wood Frame Construction Steel Frame Construction Concrete Frame Construction

Ecosystem damage and resource consumption

Wood structure Steel structure Concrete structure

Ecosystem damage Resource consumption Total



China needs increasing energy supplies

But most energy production has an impact on the environment Energy-efficient buildings are part of the answer Wood buildings are more energy-efficient Wood frame buildings are easier to insulate Research confirms wood buildings save energy They outperform Chinese energy codes And reduce the cost of meeting the codes


China is facing an energy challenge

It is important for fast growing economies to promote energy savings in new building development and green buildings, and to renovate existing buildings using green and energysaving technologies.
Deputy Minister Qiu Baoxing, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development10

The energy consumption of buildings takes about 28 per cent of the total energy consumption in China, but it is expected to increase in the coming years. However, most urban buildings are expected to be retrofitted by 2020 in order to improve energy efficiency.
Deputy Minister Qiu Baoxing, Ministry of Housing and Urban Rural Development11

China is experiencing rapid economic development. It has the worlds second largest energy consumption, exceeded only by the USA. In 2003 its total energy consumption was 1.68 billion tonnes coal equivalent. By 2010, according to a recent government estimate, energy consumption could exceed 3 billion tonnes a year.9 This growth in consumption has led to energy shortages, which can hold back economic development. And, in spite of extensive domestic fossil fuel reserves, China has become one of the largest energy importers in the world.

Improving energy-efficiency and developing renewable energy supplies have therefore become a priority. Energy production has a serious impact on the environment Chinas current energy supplies are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, which emit large quantities of CO2. Rapid economic development, accompanied by higher energy consumption and the use of fossil fuels, is presenting serious challenges to air and water quality across the country. Improving energy conservation and using environmentally friendly and renewable materials can reduce the impact of economic development and provide a better living environment for Chinas population.

Left: Energy-efficient wood frame infill wall installation in a concrete structure building Facing page: Energy-efficient wood frame ski lodges, Xiliang mountain, Sichuan


Energy-efficient buildings are vital to Chinas development

The construction and operation of buildings create greater environmental impacts than most people realize. Globally, buildings are responsible for 20 per cent of all water consumption, 25 to 40 per cent of all energy use, 30 to 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and 30 to 40 per cent of solid waste generation.

Global construction spending 2007 (US$bn)16 USA Japan China Germany Italy France UK Brazil Spain Korea Mexico Australia India Other 0 200 400 600 800 1000

Estimates suggests that the building sector now accounts for about one-third of Chinas total energy use, and this is expected to grow in the future.13 The residential sector accounts for about 38 per cent of total building energy use, a proportion that is likely to continue to rise along with increasing affluence and urbanisation.14 It is important to consider the scale of Chinas construction and the pace of change. China has the largest construction volume in the world. Almost two billion square metres of new buildings are completed each year. Although more than 80 per cent of buildings are categorized as energy-inefficient, with energy consumption per unit area currently two to three times higher than in developed countries, China has set ambitious targets and will work hard to achieve them.15 According to Jiang Yi, professor in architecture at Tsinghua University, energy use in the building sector will double by 2020 if no serious action is taken.15 Using wood in buildings is an important step towards meeting these demands.

Global construction spending growth 2008 (% change)16

USA Japan China Germany Italy France UK Brazil Spain Korea Mexico Australia India Other -2 0 2 4 6 8 10


The government has implemented energy-efficiency measures

There are two sets of national building energy standards in China, one for public buildings and another for residential buildings. Both standards are set as mandatory by MOC, and China is addressing the challenges of enforcement. In 2005, MOHURD (the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development) began a building inspection programme to monitor the implementation of building energy-efficiency. Under this programme, design institutions, developers and construction companies will lose their licenses or certificates if they do not comply with the regulations.

principle for sustainable socio-economic development in China and an urgent issue to address. In the Conservation Plan, energy saving targets for buildings have been emphasized: - During the Eleventh Five-year Plan period, new buildings should be subject to a strict 50 per cent energy-saving design standard. Several major cities, such as Beijing and Tianjin will go further, implementing a 65 per cent energy-saving standard - Existing residential and public buildings will be subject to energy-

In November 2004, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) issued the China Medium and Long Term Energy Conservation Plan (Conservation Plan), which stressed energy conservation as the key

saving retrofit measures as part of urban reconstruction. Large cities are expected to improve 25 per cent of building areas, medium cities 15 per cent and small cities 10 per cent.

Top: Wood construction office building, Shanghai


Wood buildings are more energy-efficient

Tsinghua University investigated the energy conservation performance of wood construction using standard building techniques with comparable concrete and steel construction. The wood buildings generally out-performed both concrete and steel.
Professor Lin Borong, Tsinghua University, March 2010

Wood construction consumes minimal energy. Wood is light and easy to put together on site. Foundations are minimized. Transport requires less energy. And wood construction is quick, requiring little or no use of heavy-duty equipment. Wood is a good thermal insulator. It is 400 times better at resisting thermal conductivity than steel, and 10 times better than concrete or bricks. This means extra insulation or thicker walls are required for steel, concrete, or masonry structures to achieve the same level of thermal resistance.

Above: Wood frame construction provides thermal comfort Right: Thermal insulation in the cavities of an exterior wood frame wall reduces wall thickness and maximises usable living space by two to five per cent


Wood frame buildings are easy to insulate thermally

Unlike solid concrete or masonry structures, wood frame walls, floor joists, and roof joists inherently provide space for fibrous insulation, the most economical way to achieve better insulation. Application of mineral insulation is a standard element of any wood construction project. It is conducted with minimal additional labour or material expense and provides significant returns. Woods low thermal conductivity means 90 per cent of the insulation value can be realized, with only 10 per cent lost to thermal bridging. Wood structures can also be readily insulated on the exterior or interior if additional energy savings are desired. Light steel frame walls also have cavities for insulation. But the high thermal conductivity of steel means only 50 per cent of the insulation value can be achieved. Extra measures are always required to reduce local energy loss and vapour condensation as a result of steel thermal bridging. It can also lead to ghost marks; dark vertical marks that appear over the framing on the interior surfaces of exterior walls, as a result of faster dust accumulation on cool surfaces.

An energy consumption field test by the Harbin Institute of Technology considered a wood building using 38 mm x 140 mm studs, cavity insulation and 30 mm of exterior rigid panel polystyrene insulation. This was compared with a brick building clad with 60 mm rigid panel polystyrene insulation. Harbin is an area which experiences severe cold.17 The test measured the thermal transfer coefficients (K) of the walls as 0.244 for wood buildings and 0.526 for brick buildings. The timber building reduced coal consumption by about 50 per cent.

Above: Insulation is simple to fit in wood buildings Facing page: Infra-red temperature imaging of exterior wall


Field tests in China confirm wood buildings save energy

Wood frame construction outperforms Chinese Energy Codes with no additional cost Wood frame buildings are generally rated as more efficient and economical than other construction types. They outperform all the relevant requirements for building energy efficiency in China with no additional cost. JGJ 26 Standards for Energy Design for Severe Cold and Cold Areas requires buildings in Beijing to have thermal transfer coefficients (K) from 0.55 to 1.16. Typical wood frame walls can achieve thermal transfer coefficients from 0.3 to 0.5 depending on stud size, spacing and insulation materials. The energy-efficiency of wood construction reduces the cost of According to calculations by Shanghai Xiandai Architectural Design Group, the effective thermal transfer coefficients of conventional wall assemblies with 38 mm x 89 mm studs, range from 0.46-0.49 and 0.37-0.40 with rock wool and glass fibre insulation, taking into account the thermal conductivity of the studs. These thermal transfer coefficients (K) can be further reduced to 0.3 or lower if 38 mm x 140 mm or wider studs are used for framing, or extra exterior insulation is applied. By comparison, steel, concrete, or brick walls would require extra and more expensive, rigid insulation panels in order to achieve similar insulation performance, and walls would be thicker. meeting the codes All concrete, masonry, and steel frame structures need rigid insulation panels in order to meet Chinas energy efficiency requirements. In Beijing, concrete or masonry buildings need additional 50 mm to 80 mm thick insulating panels. In Shanghai, they need 50 mm thick panels in order to meet the minimum energy requirements. By comparison, conventional wood frame construction using fibre insulation meets the requirements without additional insulation, using 38 x140 mm studs in Beijing and 38 x 89 mm studs in Shanghai. A considerable saving can therefore be made. If additional insulation is not used, steel and concrete buildings will consume much more heating and cooling energy. The savings in cooling and heating costs of wood frame building envelopes have been confirmed and praised by developers and property managers who have experience with these constructions in China. As one of the worlds largest countries, China is subject to extreme climate variations. The energy-efficiency of wood structures is beneficial in all climates, but particularly in Chinas colder regions, where heating is required.

Thermal conductivity is the rate of heat transferred by conduction through solid materials
subject to a temperature difference on each side of the material.

material or assembly. It is the reciprocal of conductivity (1/K).

A lower K or a higher RSI means better thermal or insulating performance. Thermal bridging refers to the higher thermal conductivity of a structural component,
within the insulated assembly, providing a bridge for more rapid heat transfer through the assembly and thereby reducing the overall thermal performance of the assembly.

Thermal transfer coefficient (U-value or K-coefficient) is a measure of heat conductivity

through a building assembly, comprising a number of materials.

Thermal resistance (RSI) refers to the resistance to conductive heat transfer through a




Wood frame is popular world-wide There are many studies showing it is costefficient in construction and operation Studies in China show it can be cost-effective across many segments, including commercial, recreational, and residential Particularly when high energy-efficiency and seismic safety are required As building with wood becomes more popular in China, costs will become even more competitive


The most popular system in the developed world

Wood frame construction (WFC) products and components are manufactured in a factory, which means higher construction efficiency, shorter construction period, lower cost, quicker capital turnover. It takes around 100 days to build a 300 m2 single family residence with WFC, while a concrete building needs around 145 days. Also, wood houses are light. The dead weight of WFC walls is only about 1/10 of concrete walls, and the dead weight of WFC floors and roofs is about 1/8 of the concrete ones. So WFC has much lower requirements on foundations, which is cost-saving.
Mr. Zhu Guangqian, President, China Timber and Wood Products Distribution Association, 2010

It is never easy to compare the costs of building with different materials and systems. So many factors are involved. For example, the relative costs of different materials change according to supply and demand as well as currency fluctuations. Local conditions vary significantly. And there are many different ways to build in different materials. Building with wood could involve anything from traditional wood frame, to technologically advanced engineered systems, or even hybrid construction. And building efficiencies vary, depending on the regulatory system, scale of development, knowledge and skills, the extent of off-

site construction, and how adept and experienced the construction company is at planning and managing the building process. It is worth noting, however, that wood frame systems account for around 70 per cent of residential construction in the developed world. And 90 per cent in North America. One of the reasons for its popularity is its cost-effectiveness, which includes a much shorter construction time and less waste than other systems.


Cost-competitive world-wide
International comparisons show cost advantages for building with wood over concrete and steel for many types of residential and commercial buildings. These demonstrate the potential for cost savings in China from building with wood, recognizing that modern wood construction in China is new and full economies have yet to be realized. One study, carried out in South Carolina, USA, showed wood frame houses saving 14 per cent in construction costs compared with identical steel frame houses.18 A recent cost study comparing wood and concrete for the construction of a three-storey motel building in the United States demonstrates that using wood can achieve a saving of 7-9 per cent in material costs alone.19 Cost comparison between wood and concrete construction for three-storey buildings in the USA19







As wood is a better thermal insulator than other structural materials, wood frame buildings reach the high insulation standards increasingly demanded by governments world-wide more easily.



Experiences in Europe demonstrate that wood construction can cut costs substantially, depending on design and application. If off-site pre-fabrication is used, construction time can be reduced by as much as two-thirds, compared with other construction types. Even in areas like Taiwan, where wood frame construction is still relatively new, it has been shown by local design professionals that wood construction can be cost-competitive with concrete buildings. Wood roofs were shown to be less expensive than concrete roofs.20

There is also the additional benefit of a two to five per cent increase in living space, as the wood frame walls can achieve excellent insulation values with a substantially thinner cross-section than other materials. This is a significant cost advantage on the basis of liveable space, which is generally not taken into account in standard cost comparisons. Research in the United Kingdom shows that wood frame construction becomes even more cost-competitive when higher energy-efficiency building envelopes are required.21
Above: 6-storey wood construction apartment buildings, Europe Facing page: Wood frame apartment building, Canada


Cost-competitive in China
Although modern wood construction is new to China, with full cost savings yet to be realized, in-depth research shows that wood frame construction is competitive depending on its application. For example, a cost comparison study was conducted in China looking at identical building designs constructed with different structural materials. The results showed the construction costs of wood frame houses without living space in the lofts were lower than for concrete or masonry. In particular, materials and cost savings could be made in the foundations. When living spaces were built into the lofts, the cost of wood frame could be higher. But when comparisons are made per square metre of living space, they still work out cheaper to build than comparable concrete houses. The study also demonstrated that wood roofs can be cost-competitive with concrete roofs, as well as having better thermal, seismic and occupant comfort performance. Wood frame houses are promising for rural areas Research has shown that small-scale rural wood frame houses can be built for about 1000 RMB per square metre.22 This is affordable for a large percentage of the population in rural China. Construction of such a new building system to replace traditional masonry and concrete houses would improve occupant comfort, thermal performance and seismic safety. It would be an important signal of improved living standards for Chinas large rural population. Wood infill walls could revolutionize high-rise construction European experiences with non-load-bearing wood infill walls in concrete high-rise buildings suggest they would be cost-competitive in China. Combining wood with concrete could revolutionize high-rise construction in China, with cost advantages, lighter weight, better thermal and seismic performance, and environmental benefits. Wood construction could make a significant contribution to Chinas green revolution.

Wood frame construction (WFC) is considered by some to be expensive. I have to explain this: In China at the present time WFC is usually designed for villas with foreign housing finish which is even more luxurious than our domestic highend finish. So the costs can get high. Changing the standard of finishes, designing for low to middle-income people and localizing the production of materials, are certain to bring costs down.
Mr. Zhu Guangqian, President, China Timber and Wood Products Distribution Association, 2010

Above: Wood frame house used for comparative energy study by Harbin Institute of Technology


While modern wood construction in China is very recent, there is evidence that the overall cost of wood buildings, when considered over the full life cycle, combined with superior performance relating to energy and the environment, seismic safety, and comfort, will provide better value for the developer and the homeowner in comparison with traditional construction systems.

Wood construction costs are becoming even more competitive in China Wood construction costs in China are continuing to decline in comparison with traditional construction. This is as a result of the introduction and revision of building codes and standards, more extensive training for design, construction and maintenance, more building experience, new building methodologies and larger scale construction. Continuing cooperation between China and Europe and Canada in code development, quality issues, cost-saving building techniques, training and skill development, and research will accelerate improvements in cost performance. It is important that wood frame buildings are correctly and appropriately designed and constructed to achieve their full efficiency and cost-saving potential. On balance, any meaningful comparison of competitiveness must move beyond costs alone into a broader evaluation of all the major performance attributes, where wood construction outperforms traditional construction in many other respects.

Above: Wood frame replacement housing Qingchuan county, Sichuan Right: Light-weight wood frame storeys can be added to new or existing multi-storey concrete buildings



Safety and durability

Codes and standards ensure wood buildings are constructed for safety and durability

Wood frame construction has superior seismic performance, even in the most severe earthquakes Fire safety is assured by fire-rated, finished assemblies, which have been fire-tested in China Different climatic conditions require appropriate detailing Surveys in China demonstrate the durability of wood buildings Design and construction practices are backed by extensive research


Seismic safety

Tongji University is actively involved in research to determine how well wood construction performs under seismic conditions. We tested a full scale, two storey wood building on our shake table, simulating the most severe of earthquakes. The wood building performed well and without problems.
Professor He Minjuan, Executive Dean of the College of Continuing Education, Tongji University, March 2010

Wood frame construction has superior seismic performance Wood frame buildings are safer than concrete and masonry buildings in areas with a high risk of earthquakes. They save lives and reduce the cost of reconstruction. Wood is strong, light and flexible. Wood buildings weigh less than concrete buildings. This reduces loads on the structure, as well as the danger of heavy weights falling from above. The flexibility of the wood components allows the structure to deform and deflect momentarily in response to seismic forces without breakage, collapse or disconnection. Uplift and lateral loads are shared by the many wood members that make up the framework, the wood structural panels fastened to them, and the thousands of fasteners and connectors which tie the components together. This structural redundancy is stronger than predicted by conventional engineering analysis.

Additional measures can be taken in areas of greatest risk In areas such as Sichuan, where severe earthquakes are likely, the structural design of a standard wood frame can be enhanced simply and inexpensively. Additional measures include braced walls, reinforced connections between foundation and floor, and walls to roof, as well as steel rod tie-downs that clamp the top wall to the foundation. Engineered shear wall

Wood structural panels of specific grade and thickness Specific nail size and spacing requirements

Specific stud species Hold down anchors Base shear anchor bolts

Above: Site of Beichuan middle school tragedy, Sichuan


A survey of wood frame construction in severe earthquakes world-wide23 The survey covers wood frame buildings of all ages and provides evidence of the superior safety of wood frame buildings in severe earthquakes world-wide, including Japan and the United States. A very high proportion of wood platform frame buildings survived peak ground accelerations of 0.6 g and greater with no collapse or serious structural damage. The resulting injuries and deaths were few. There were very few specific failures, as for example from hillside collapses. Virtually all modern wood frame buildings survived with no visible damage.
The Richter Magnitude Scale M is a commonly used measure of the overall size of the earthquake as determined by the total amount of energy released. The maximum horizontal ground motion generated by earthquakes is measured by seismographs as a fraction of the force of gravity (g). Very severe earthquakes can generate ground motions in excess of 0.6 g, but substantial

Right: Three undamaged modern wood frame buildings (background) next to an older building (foreground) whose ground floor has collapsed completely, Nishinomiya, Japan. Hyogo-ken Nanbu Earthquake, 1995.

structural damage can be caused at much lower levels. The Kobe earthquake was measured as high as 0.8 g.

Table: Casualties in earthquakes world-wide


Richter Magnitude M

Estimated number of wood platform frame houses strongly shaken

Total number of casualties

Casualties in wood platform frame houses

Alaska, USA, 1964 San Fernando California, USA, 1971 Edgecumbe New Zealand, 1987 Saguenay Quebec, Canada, 1988 Loma Prieta California, USA, 1989 Northridge California, USA, 1994 Hyogo-ken Nambu, Kobe, Japan, 1995 6.8 8,000** 6,300 0** 6.7 200,000 60 16 + 4* 7.1 50,000 66 0 5.7 10,000 0 0 6.3 7,000 0 0 6.7 100,000 63 4 8.4 130 <10

* Foundation failure caused collapse of buildings on hillside. ** Relates to wood platform frame, known as 2x4 houses, in the affected area.


Seismic safety
A survey of wood frame construction following the Wenchuan earthquake, Sichuan24 A survey was conducted following the tragic earthquake of May 12, 2008. The evidence showed that wood frame buildings had outperformed buildings constructed from other materials. They suffered only minor damage, while many brick infill walls collapsed and concrete buildings suffered severe damage.

The capability of a building to absorb seismic energy is a key point, in addition to the performance of its structural system. The damping of a steel structure is usually low. The damping of a concrete and brick hybrid structure is high, but the damping of WFC is even higher WFC has performed well in many earthquakes and reduced casualties. There were a lot of traditional buildings that collapsed in the Wenchuan earthquake in May 2008, but wood frame buildings suffered no damage.
Prof. Lu Xilin, Dean of the Institute of Structural Engineering and Disaster Reduction, Civil Engineering College, Tongji University, March 2010

In Dujiangyan, 40 km NW of Chengdu, about 21 km from the epicentre of the Wenchuan earthquake, many concrete and masonry structures were seriously damaged. Many collapsed, including three school buildings. Although not all the concrete and masonry collapsed, masonry infill walls were severely damaged, causing potential danger to occupants. Reconstruction is now underway in the Sichuan area. Chinese authorities and specialists are working closely with Canadian and European counterparts in the support of the rebuilding, which includes houses, schools, and special facilities. These are permanent structures, meeting all building code requirements. This is a good example of how light wood frame construction is proving to be cost-competitive in rural China, and responsive to local needs in regions where annual incomes are low. Moreover, these newly constructed wood-framed buildings are comfortable, energy-efficient, with lower annual energy costs, and resistant to severe earthquakes.

Left: Wood-frame houses survived the Wenchuan earthquake with only minor damage, which could be easily repaired Above: Beichuan, 100 km northwest of Chengdu, after the Wenchuan earthquake


Scientists use the latest research as the basis for building codes International scientists have been working closely with Chinese experts on seismic testing of wood frame building, using the shake test table facility at Tongji University. They aim to provide technical data on seismic performance. This will be used to develop building codes further, as well as to establish seismic safety design guidelines for wood frame construction and wood hybrid structures. The seismic intensities used for testing were comparable to the extreme earthquakes of California.25 Tests show multi-storey hybrid structures can survive the most severe earthquakes A full-scale, seven-storey mixed use condominium tower (six wood frame storeys above a one-storey steel structure) was tested. Conducted in Kobe, Japan, this was the largest full-scale earthquake test in the world. The building was subjected to a simulated quake that was 180 per cent of the Northridge earthquake in California, and suffered no significant damage. This demonstrates that even mid-rise wood buildings can survive the most severe earthquakes. The test used Japans massive E-Defense Shake Table, the largest shake table in the world.

Above: Shake table test, Tongji University, Shanghai Left: Seismic test of 6-storey wood frame building, Japan


Fire safety

Buildings constructed from wood have to meet the same fire safety codes as all other buildings All countries take fire safety very seriously. In China, wood buildings must meet the same fire codes and standards and safety performance levels which apply to other forms of construction. In fact, when new systems, such as wood frame, or glulam construction are first introduced into a country like China, fire safety codes tend to be overly cautious because of the lack of domestic experience with the building system.

codes are up to date with the latest research (see Chapter 7, Codes and standards). International fire safety statistics show no difference in losses between countries which use wood extensively in construction and those which do not. In North America and Europe, statistics show that people are just as safe in a code-compliant wood frame house as they are in a code-compliant house built of light frame steel, concrete, or masonry. The limits for fire safety performance of large structural wood members

Building regulations in Europe and North America have been based on function, rather than material, for many years. They stipulate what fire load the structural assemblies and members must be able to withstand and then require the designer to demonstrate that the stipulations can be met. Extensive research into the fire performance of structural wood assemblies and materials used in wood frame construction is now well underway in China. The Tianjin Fire Research Institute is working closely with fire safety research specialists from Europe, Canada, and the United States. They are assessing fire safety relating to new opportunities for wood construction in China and ensuring fire safety

can be readily determined and incorporated into building design. As wood burns in a predictable and controlled manner, it is possible to estimate how much of the cross-section of a structural member will remain unaffected by fire after a specified period of burning. Dimensions can then be specified to ensure the unaffected part of the cross section has the ability to bear the required load over the specified period. Steel, on the other hand, loses all its load-bearing capacity at the temperatures of a fully developed fire.
Top left: Tianjin Fire Research Institute (TFRI) fire test of structural glulam column (in fire test furnace), 2007 Top right: TFRI fire test of wood frame wall assembly; thermo-couples attached to gypsum plaster board cladding; (below) after the test, 2007


We have been working closely with European and Canadian research scientists and fire safety specialists to study the fire resistance performance and safety aspects of wood buildings in China. Extensive fire tests of wooden frame assemblies and structural glulam have been carried out at TFRI national fire lab. This research will assist us in determining appropriate, fire-safe applications of wood products in construction assemblies, as well as the codes that relate to these uses. We expect that this will lead to new opportunities for wood in construction in China.
Mr. Ni Zhaopeng, Director, Tianjin Fire Research Institute; Vice-Chairman of GB 50016 fire code committee, March 2010

The controlled charring rate of wood is clearly demonstrated when fire testing for structural glue laminated timber. The charring rate is 0.7mm/min, and the remaining unaffected wood and its load bearing capacity can be easily calculated as a function of time exposed to fire.

temperatures until they fail structurally. Wood framed structural wall and roof assemblies are required to survive these high temperatures for a minimum of one hour before structural failure. Moreover, fire safety in low and medium density housing of all types

Fire safety depends on building assembly performance In fact, fire safety performance in conventional wood frame construction has little to do with the combustibility of the structural materials. It relates to the finished building assemblies, like walls and roofs, which are actually assessed in the tests. Wood framed assemblies are finished on the interior with gypsum wall board panels. These have very low combustibility ratings. Cavities are filled with non-combustible, mineral fibre insulation. Testing requires these assemblies to be burned under controlled conditions in fire research laboratories at very high

is rarely related to structural failure, but rather to the inhalation of toxic smoke and gas. Fewer than 0.25 per cent of fire fatalities in these buildings are caused by the collapse of roofs, walls, or floors. Nonflammable surface materials, sprinkler systems and smoke detectors can be used to ensure safety from toxic gases during the early stages of a fire. Codes require that all buildings, including wood, be designed and constructed to provide residents with a fast and easy exit in the event of fire.

Char layer

Pyrolysis zone

Normal wood

Top: Structural glulam beam after fire test. Wood surface chars at a predictable rate. The remaining uncharred wood retains its structural strength Above: Wood burns at a predictable rate Right: Gypsum wall board lining fulfilling fire requirements


Zone 1: Low Hazard

Having assessed the durability performance of wood construction in China, I am confident that wood buildings can be durable, providing that code requirements and good building practices with respect to design, construction, and wood protection and maintenance are followed.
Dr. Jiang Mingliang, Group Leader of Durability and Protection, Chinese Academy of Forestry, March 2010

Zone 2: Moderate hazard, no termites Zone 3: Moderate hazard, with termites Zone 4: Severe hazard

# Harbin $ Changchun $ Shenyang

Beijing # # # Dalian Tianjin Taiyuan Jinan $ Yinchuan $ Shijiazhuan # Qingdao Hohhot

# #

Ancient wooden buildings demonstrate how durable wood can be In human history, wood has always been an important building material. There are many examples of wooden buildings from around the world, including China, that have lasted for centuries in all climates. They provide evidence that wood construction can last virtually forever, providing it is designed and built properly to meet specific climatic conditions, and maintained appropriately over its full life cycle.

$ $ Xining Zhengzhou $ $ Lanzhou Nanjing $ Zone 1 Xian # Zone 3 Hefei# # Shanghai $ # Hangzhou # Wuhan Zone 2 Chengdu Nanchang # Chongquing Lhasa Fuzhou # $ $ Changsha $ $ Zone 4 Guiyang Xiamen $ u # Taipei $ #
Kunming Nanning

Guangzhou # Macao Hong Kong


Design, specification, treatment and maintenance need to be carefully considered for the different climatic conditions across China Appropriate design, material selection, construction, and maintenance will ensure that wood is safe from the decay and mould associated with exposure to excessive moisture, as well as from the termite infestations found in the southern China regions. Durability depends on protecting wood from excessive moisture. Building envelopes should be designed to prevent water vapour condensation within envelope cavities and to allow any dampness to dry out. In wet climates, more steeply sloped roofs, large overhangs and rain screens can be used. As with any building system, the building envelope must be sealed against rain penetration around windows, doors, and other exterior wall openings, including roof penetrations and balconies. In areas with termite hazard, effective prevention and control can be achieved with appropriate design and construction practices. In recent years, multiple lines of defense have been developed and integrated into modern wood construction to ensure moisture and termite resistance.

Left: Stave Church, Norway, from 1150, post and beam structure Above: Combined decay and termite zones in China26


Exterior wood products used for decks and other landscaping projects are either made from naturally durable wood species, such as the heartwood of China fir, Western red cedar and yellow cedar, or pressure treated with chemical preservatives. Strict environmental and health regulations ensure these chemicals are benign to humans but resistant to insects and fungi. Good design, workmanship, and maintenance are also critical for prolonging the service life of outdoor wood products. Modern wood frame construction has a good record of durability Modern systems of wood frame construction also have a good record of durability. This building type has a long history in Europe and North America, and there are still houses standing from the original developments. Many North American and European wood houses are over a hundred years old. In 2005, 17 per cent of the US housing stock was over 75 years old. Wood frame is the most popular type of residential construction in North America, even for areas like Hawaii and the Southern USA, where decay and insect hazard are severe. Similar construction methods have also been adopted in areas such as New Zealand, the UK, Japan, Korea and China. Progress in design, material use and treatment, construction techniques and maintenance have been made in recent decades to make sure that wood buildings can endure indefinitely. A survey on wood building service lives27 Buildings are rarely demolished because they are beyond repair, or have become structurally unsound. Generally it is to make way for a larger or more modern building. Simple to maintain and repair, wood buildings
0 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 100+ 76-100 0-25

are easily renovated to adapt to new requirements. At the end of their economic service life, they can be demolished, with recovered materials being reused, recycled or used as biomass energy. Distribution of 94 non-residential buildings by age class and structural material

Age 26-50 class - years


Concrete Steel Wood

Per cent of buildings

Durability survey in China28 Forintek carried out a durability survey of wood frame houses in China during 2006 and 2007. Results demonstrated that, with the durability measures introduced into the relevant codes and standards in China, including the Shanghai Technical Specification for Wood-Frame Construction, wood construction in China is durable (See Chapter 7, Codes and standards).

Above left: Liuhe Temple, Hangzhou, over 1,000 years old Above right: 150 year old house, Canada - modern wood frame construction has a good record of durability



Sustainable forestry
Using wood from sustainably-managed forests helps reduce climate change Trees reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and provide products based on a renewable resource

Wood construction provides the economic incentive for renewing and expanding sustainable forests China is the world leader in growing sustainable forest plantations In the long-term China could be self-sufficient in structural wood Current demand is met by international trade of lumber from sustainable forests There are international third party certification schemes to assure supplies of wood products from sustainable forests


Forests have an important effect on climate change

The battle against climate change cannot be won without the worlds forests - this is now clear. This initiative [the UN-REDD Programme, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries] will not only demonstrate how forests can have an important role as part of a post-2012 climate regime it will also help build much needed confidence that the world community is ready to support the implementation of an inclusive, ambitious, and comprehensive climate regime once it is ratified.
Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, 24 September 200830

Second only to the oceans, forests are the biggest carbon sinks on the planet. They store roughly 300 billion tonnes of CO2. Deforestation continues to be a major source of CO2 emissions, but is largely confined to tropical rainforests. In North America, Europe and China, forests are growing, absorbing CO2 and providing a sustainable low carbon material for buildings and products. Trees sequester CO2, produce oxygen, and provide renewable, sustainable building materials Trees sequester CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. During this process they absorb about a tonne of CO2 for every cubic metres growth and store it in the wood. At the same time, they release around three-quarters of a tonne of oxygen. This carbon absorption is fastest when trees are young and slows down as they mature. Eventually it reverses when they die or burn. If the trees are harvested and used before the carbon cycle reverses, carbon from the atmosphere can be stored in buildings and other wood products for their service life. This carbon storage in wood products can be extended through recycling. At the end of life, energy can be recovered from the wood as a biomass fuel.

Forestry plays a major role in building an ecological civilization and shoulders an important historical commitment in combating climate change and maintaining ecological security. Forestry has become one of the focuses of world-wide concern. In 2010, the forestry sector [in China] will push forward forestry reform, strengthen the development of forestry industries, and further intensify ecological protection and forest management
Mr. Jia Zhibang, Minister, State Forestry Administration (SFA)29

Left: Conifer seedling nursery for sustainable forestry plantation, Europe


There is now a common theme between actions to face climatic change, to speed forestry development, and to strengthen the function of carbon sink.
Mr. Jia Zhibang, Minister, State Forestry Administration31

Using wood products helps reduce climate change How does wood construction using products from sustainable forests help reduce climate change? It encourages replanting and planting of new forests, because sustainable forest management obliges forest owners to replace harvested trees and because there is an economic incentive to do so. It provides the market for mature trees, which enables regeneration of new forests which are more efficient at absorbing carbon dioxide. It enables additional carbon storage in the wood products. It reduces the use of alternative carbon intensive materials. Forests world-wide Forests cover about 30 per cent of the Earths land surface, a total area of just under 4 billion hectares. Forest cover is distributed unevenly. In 2005, 43 countries had over 50 per cent of their land area under forest

cover. Five countries, the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, United States of America and China, accounted for more than half of the planets total forest area. In Asia and the Pacific region (excluding the Russian Federation), forests and other wooded land together cover about a third of the land area approximately 734 million hectares - accounting for 19 per cent of the global forest area. This region experienced an annual net increase in forest area of about 633,000 hectares between 2000 and 2005, mainly due to new Chinese plantations.32 Tropical areas mostly produce hardwoods, while areas in the north, such as Europe and Canada produce large quantities of softwoods, which are superior for structural use. Over 11 per cent of the worlds forest area has been designated primarily for conservation of biological diversity.


Chinas forests are growing

The planted forest area in China is now the largest in the world. The annual increase compensates for reductions elsewhere in the Asia-pacific area, leading to overall growth The strategic choice to face climatic change for China is to develop forestry China co-operates with many international organizations.
Mr. Jia Zhibang, Minister, State Forestry Administration35

In 2005, China had a total forest area of 197 million hectares, with 58 per cent managed primarily for productive purposes. The forest area has been increasing dramatically since 1980, partly in order to stabilize land, reduce flooding and improve air quality. Between the second and the sixth National Forest Inventory periods (1977-1981 and 1999-2003), the total forest area increased by 60 million hectares. The forest coverage rate has been increasing too. In the early 1950s it was 8.6 per cent. In 2008 it had risen to 18.2 per cent. And the government plans to increase the rate to 26 per cent by 2050, with a target of at least 310 million hectares of forested land.

China leads the world in developing plantations Chinas 53 million hectares account for 40 per cent of the worlds plantations. Over the past ten years, government funding on forestry has increased at faster rates than total expenditures in order to meet the long-term objectives for product and land stabilization. This is a remarkable achievement.34 Recently, China started its Six Key Forestry Programmes on forest protection and regeneration, wildlife and wetland protection. By 2005, the government had spent US $ 22 billion, approximately US $ 6 billion a year, on afforestation and conservation. This represents a significant commitment to the forests and to the protection of the environment.

China has many native hardwood and softwood species. Important species for wood products include Korean red pine in the northeast, and China fir and Massons pine in the south. Common plantation species, which take 20-25 years to mature, include poplar in the north and China fir and eucalyptus in the south.
Above: China leads the world in plantation forestry


The government encourages developing a sustainable forest industry

Wood is the only major building material which comes from renewable resources. Sustainable forests not only continuously absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen for human beings, but also generate building materials. None of the other major building materials can be as sustainable and environmentally-friendly as wood. Steel, cement and plastics all come from unrenewable mineral mines or fossil fuels, which will be depleted soon based on the limited resources and the ever-increasing consumption. Only wood can always be available to human beings if forests are managed sustainably. Wood from sustainable forests should be encouraged to be used in construction where it is suitable to partially substitute other unrenewable building materials.
Mr Ye Kelin, Director, Research Institute of Wood Industry, Chinese Academy of Forestry

The government encourages developing a sustainable forest industry The multiple benefits of forests and forest products are well-understood and promoted by the government. The Key Forestry Industry Policy issued by multiple ministries including the State Forestry Administration states that developing the forestry industry is crucial for enhancing the harmony between man and nature. It concludes that promoting recyclability and replacing non-renewable resources is an important strategic direction. And that the renewability and natural organic decomposition of forestry products are part of the development of a sustainable society.

also points out that developing the forestry industry is a strategic measure for improving employment and incomes, particularly for the large populations in the rural areas. China could benefit from greater emphasis on the production of structural timber The Key Forestry Industry Policy focuses on developing fast-growing timber-producing plantations, as well as species with economic value. At the current stage, Chinas forest plantations are intended for pulp and paper and wood-based composites, rather than structural timber. New plantations to supply structural grade softwood for construction would provide China with a domestic supply over the longer term and retain economic benefits within China, particularly given the anticipated growth of the wood building sector.36

It recognizes that forests are important strategic resources, and that wood, alongside steel, cement and plastic, is one of the four key raw materials in the world. It states that the way to secure the national wood supply is to speed up the development of the forestry industry. And it


Wood construction contributes to forest renewal, not deforestation

Forests harvested for construction generate economic value in the wood products supplied by the forest, and in new forestry, transportation, and construction jobs. These economic benefits provide the incentive to regenerate recently harvested forest areas, plant new forest areas, and manage for sustainable development. Benefits from sustainable forest development are many: land stabilization, watershed management, wildlife refuge, protection of fisheries, preservation of plant and animal species, recreation, aesthetics, and spiritual values. Two benefits are particularly important for China: economic return and reduction of greenhouse gases. The global trade in forest products Trade in forest products reached a total value of US $ 460 billion in 2007, about 4 per cent of all trade. The trade value of sawnwood was about US $ 71 billion, roundwood about US $ 30 billion, and wood-based panels about US $ 68 billion.37 Europe is the largest exporting and importing region. In 2008, its total export and import value was over US $ 9 billion for sawnwood and close to US $ 3 billion for roundwood.38 Countries such as Canada, Sweden, Germany, Chile, New Zealand and the US are the largest sawn wood exporters. In 2008, Canadas sawnwood exports totalled about US $ 5 billion.39 China has become a large exporter and importer of forest products in the global market. It exports pulp and paper, hardwood flooring, wood panels, furniture and secondary wood products. It imports hardwood sawnwood mainly from Southeast Asia, and softwood sawnwood mainly from Russia, the US and Canada.40 It is also a major importer of industrial roundwood, particularly from adjacent countries in the northern boreal forest regions and in the southern tropical regions.41

Left: The logistics of the global trade in wood products are cost-efficient and reliable


Chinas domestic demand for wood products is increasing

Production, trade and consumption of sawn timber43
million m3 30






1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 Consumption (estimated by CAF) Production (estimated by CAF) Production (official statistics) Imports Exports

The domestic demand and supply of wood products has been increasing in recent decades due to strong economic growth and the associated increase in urbanization, living standards and population.

Production, trade and consumption of wood panels43 Chinas construction and decoration market is worth over 3000 billion RMB, much of which is materials. In Shanghai for example, the market for wood products in the construction and decoration sector exceeds the equivalent of 3 million cubic metres of roundwood a year, 50 per cent of Shanghais total annual consumption of wood and wood products. Rapid growth in demand for wood products is expected to continue. Foreign investment in this sector has been increasing. In 2007, there were 523 projects, mainly in fast-growing plantations and the wood processing industry, involving foreign investment of US $ 0.786 billion.42 As a result, employment in the forest industry and related construction and decoration industry has also been increasing.
1981 1983 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 Consumption Production Imports Exports 0 10 20 million m3 30 40 50 60


Construction timber can be readily supplied by imports

China continues to import increasing volumes of wood products for construction and other end uses. Fortunately, there are many softwood producing regions in the world with the capacity to supply growing Chinese markets with quality structural wood products from forest reserves certified for sustainable development. Importing softwood timber complies with WTO rules and Chinese government policies, which reduced the tariff rates for importing industrial roundwood and sawn timber to zero in 1999. The government particularly encourages imports of wood products from sustainable forest resources.44 This is partly to reduce carbon emissions. Research has shown that carbon emissions from transport are small relative to the carbon stored in wood, and in comparison with the potential carbon emissions from using fossil fuel-intensive materials for construction.


The importance of using wood from sustainably managed forests

Credible independent third-party forest certification is becoming an important tool for forest companies, governments and buyers around the world. Certification provides assurance that wood products are legally sourced, environmentally-friendly and from a sustainably managed forest. There is co-operation between China, Canada, and Europe in the exchange of information on modern forest practices, including certification and sustainable forest development. Canada has 91 per cent of its original forest cover, and more protected forest (over 40 million hectares) than any other country. It accounts for over 40 per cent of the worlds certified forests. Its deforestation rate has been virtually zero for decades.

Certified forests in different countries There are four systems which are accepted internationally to provide certification as credible evidence of legal and sustainable forest management. The four systems are The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and The Canadian Standards Association (CSA). The SFI and CSA also work in conjunction with PEFC.

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)

European forests are the most intensively managed forests in the world, providing about 25 per cent of the current world industrial production of forest products. Europes forests are expanding at an annual net rate of 661,000 hectares.32 PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification)

Certified forests
Canada Europe U.S.A. Australia Brazil Malaysia Chile 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140

SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative)

millions of hectares

Forest certification is a voluntary process. Planning, systems and performance of on-the-ground forestry operations are audited by a qualified and independent third party against a preset standard. It allows the forest sector to continually improve the way it manages forest resources, based on balancing economic, social and environmental goals. Certification, coupled with progressive legislation, means that harvested areas are being regenerated and wildlife habitat protected under sustainable forest development.



Codes and standards

There is a comprehensive wood construction code system It is forward-looking and backed by research It addresses health and fire and structural safety

And the protection of persons, property, durability, the environment and the public interest It fits in with the Chinese regulatory system and requirements that apply to all types of construction The system is evolving quickly to address new demands and opportunities Wood construction outperforms code requirements and other building systems in areas such as energy conservation and seismic performance


A comprehensive system

MOHURD established the essential regulatory requirements for wood frame construction with its updated version of GB 50005 in 2003. However, there are many other GB codes and standards that apply to wood buildings. Together, they provide a comprehensive regulatory system to assure that safety and performance objectives are met.
Mr. Long Weiguo, President of South West Design Institute, Chairman of China GB 50005 Code Committee, March 2010


Wood frame design and construction Wood, concrete and steel hybrid construction Glulam design and production Metal plated wood trusses Wood infill walls in concrete structures Visually graded and machine stress rated structural timber Chemically treated preserved wood Regional codes, such as the Shanghai Technical Specification Quality acceptance and inspection Fire protection and safety Durable design and construction practices Seismic design

China has an extensive system of national and regional building codes and standards. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) publishes a range of: National building codes, generally designated GB or GB/T National sector or industry standards, generally designated JGJ or JGJ/T In China, wood buildings are subject to the same regulatory The Municipal Urban-Rural Development and Transportation Commission publishes building codes and standards that address regional requirements. Regional codes are generally designated DBG or DGJ. requirements as all other types of construction. They address health, safety, fire safety, structural safety, protection of persons and property, durability, environmental protection and the public interest. Chinese building codes are continuously under review, expanding in coverage and evolving to meet Chinas housing and construction needs. Since the introduction of wood structures into the Chinese code system a decade ago, a comprehensive set of codes and standards has been developed specifically for wood construction and wood products. A number of more broadly based national building codes also set minimum requirements for wood construction. Some of the more Provincial and regional jurisdictions enforce mandatory national building codes and standards as minimum requirements. Regional codes cannot set requirements below those required by national codes. Both national and regional codes can include the T-designation which may affect the level of penalties for non-compliance with certain clauses.
Facing page: Structural glulam roof for indoor tennis centre, Europe Above: Wood framed structure under construction, Shanghai

Enterprise standards (designated QB) are published by industry. These are for manufactured products which are not covered by national standards.

important codes impacting the design, construction and inspection of wood buildings are described as follows.


Key national codes

Code for Design of Timber Structures GB 50005-2003 This is the most important national code for wood buildings in China, controlling the design of single, two or three-storey load-bearing wood structures. The eleven chapters and sixteen appendices address wood and other products; basic design principles; calculations for wood frame members and fasteners; sawn and round timber structures; glue laminated timber structures; light wood frame construction; fire protection; and preservation. The code is being revised to improve the elements relating to light wood frame construction, glulam structures, engineered wood structures, seismic resistance and technical issues related to fire protection. The publication of the revised code is anticipated in 2012. Code for Construction Quality Acceptance of Timber Structures GB 50206-2002 This code addresses the inspection and quality acceptance requirements for wood and other products, framing, and preservation used in wood frame structures in China. This original version has been revised substantially and is expected to be published in 2012. The eight chapters set out basic stipulations for inspection as well as specific inspection and testing requirements for 1) wood (including glulam), steel and connection products; 2) sawn wood, round timber, and light wood frame structures; and 3) wood preservation. The nine appendices address such items as testing methodology, grading rules, fastener requirements, and allowable tolerances. Expected to be published 2010. Expand the use of wood roof trusses on existing concrete buildings Provide for wood infill walls for mid-rise concrete structures Reduce fire protection requirements for single and multiple family units Extend wood construction to certain non-residential and industrial buildings Enable hybrid construction for multi-storey buildings Allow glulam columns and beams in some civil and industrial structures. At the time of writing, GB 50016 is under review. The proposed amendments relating to wood structures aim to: Code of Design on Building Fire Protection and Prevention GB 50016 2006 This code applies to all construction systems and governs the design of all buildings not exceeding nine-storeys, or 24 metres. It is the predominant fire protection code. All fire protection requirements in other codes must be consistent with GB 50016. Wood buildings in China must meet or exceed all Chinese fire safety and protection code requirements.

Code requirements for fire protection of wood buildings in China are conservative. They protect against loss of life and property. They are based on research and testing in China, but also take into account international experience and expertise.
Mr. Ni Zhaopeng, Director, Tianjin Fire Research Institute; Vice chairman of GB 50016 fire code committee, March 2010


Codes for special building systems

Codes and standards for wood buildings have been evolving quickly so as to encourage new opportunities for different applications. For example, proposed revisions to GB 50016 (national fire code) will, once approved, enable new forms of hybrid construction (combining wood with concrete and/or steel in one structure) and the use of infill wood walls in mid-rise concrete structures, glulam structures. In fact, this should expand the use of wood in construction and contribute to improvements overall in the Chinese building sector. Technical Code of Glued Lumber Structures GB XXXX This code, expected to be approved and published by MOHURD in 2010, applies to the design, construction and inspection of load-bearing glulam structures. It will expand the applications of timber to much bigger non-residential or industrial buildings. It will also increase the utilization of different species, as large engineered wood products can also be made from fast-grown species. The technical code for partitions with timber framework provides guidance and requirements for the installation within existing concrete structures of exterior (up to six stories) and interior (up to 18 stories) infill wood walls, opening up new applications for the use of wood construction in taller buildings. Technical Code for Partitions with Timber Framework GB/T 50361-2005 This national code was issued by MOHURD in 2005. It is the first wall code for wood in China. The code is applicable to residential, office and industry buildings. It covers basic requirements for materials, design, production and maintenance of partitions with timber framework, specifying the approval and acceptance process. This code is taken as an example by the Chinese government for applying more energy-efficient building systems and solutions.

Technical Code of Metal Plated Wood Trusses JGJ XXXX Expected to be published in 2010, this will be the first comprehensive code for metal plated wood trusses. The Code is applicable to the design, construction, inspection and maintenance of light wood truss systems. It will help control product quality through the standardization of the design and manufacturing process of wood trusses and will provide the technical foundations for wood truss design software, simplifying the design and approval process.


Important local code

Important advisories for wood construction

Design Manual for

To complement national codes, Shanghai officials and building specialists have worked closely with international wood-frame experts to draft a comprehensive code for wood buildings in the Shanghai Municipality. This Code addresses regional issues and objectives in such areas as durability and energy conservation.
Mr. Xu Junlun, Director, Science and Technology Committee, Municipality of Shanghai, March 2010

Timber Structures This Design Manual provides tools to help designers in the following areas: member design, traditional timber structures, glulam structures, light frame timber structures, wood composite walls, fire protection of timber structures, protection of timber

Shanghai Technical Specification for Wood Frame Construction DG/TJ08-2059-2009 This regional technical specification is a comprehensive wood building code in China. It was published in late 2009. This code is consistent with various national GB codes but is broader in scope and specifically applicable to wood products. It addresses such key items as foundation design and construction, hybrid construction, building envelope design, protection from rain and water vapour, termite control, energy conservation design, sound control, and inspection procedures and requirements. This code will open new opportunities to the use of wood for hybrid and mid-rise construction in Shanghai.

structures, maintenance, inspection, and reinforcement. National Building Standard Design Drawings for Wood Buildings, 07SJ924 The Standard Design Drawings provide designers with officially approved drawings on construction details for single or multi-family residential buildings up to threestoreys (including hybrids), low-rise commercial buildings and landscape garden areas and buildings. Wood Truss Re-Roofing Standard Drawing 2009 J/T-223 Re-roofing Standard Drawings (Shanghai) was officially published in 2009. The major function of this standard drawing is to provide an efficient tool to allow both the designer and the construction team to apply a wood truss system in 6-storey mid-rise re-roofing projects. The standard drawing provides typical truss systems according to the span of roof under load conditions common in the Shanghai area. It helps the designer develop the roof truss plan quickly and without complicated calculations. The other big portion of this standard drawings is architectural details, which include dormers, flashing, tile installation etc. With the truss roof plan, the construction team can reference all these typical construction details to finish the whole roof properly.


Wood products standards

The current code system also covers wood products, such as lumber, panels and engineered wood products. It ensures timber structures meet rigorous standards and inspection requirements. Some are under revision and soon to be published. The more significant ones are mentioned below. Machine Stress-Rated Sawn Timber GB/T XXXX Machine stress-rated sawn timber is widely used for timber structure components. It is a non-destructive means of establishing sawn timbers mechanical strength. Completion is expected imminently at the time of writing. This code will provide a technical framework for the production of stress-rated sawn timber, unifying the technical requirements and testing methods, and helping ensure production quality They set out requirements for the active ingredients of wood Standard Methods for Development of Characteristic Mechanical Values for Structural Lumber GB/T XXXX Final completion of the code is expected imminently. This will be the first to establish the standard procedures for the development of characteristic values of mechanical properties for Chinese domestic and imported timber species. It will provide conversion methods for typical values based on other standards and codes. preservatives and chemicals used to prevent mould and stain. They describe service conditions, bio-deterioration agents and applications for each use category. They set minimum requirements for preservative penetration and retention. Wood Preservatives LY/T 1635-2005 Use Category and Specification for Preservative Treated Wood LY/T 1636-2005 Preservative Treated Wood GB/T 22102-2008 These standards address chemical preservatives and wood products treated with those preservatives to ensure durability when wood is exposed to exterior moisture conditions. Chinese National Standard of Structural Glulam GB XXXX Expected to be published imminently, this will be the first manufacturing code for glulam. It will set the legal framework for some Chinese domestic species to be used in engineered wood products as well as for foreign glulam products to be used in building construction in China.


Codes partially applicable to wood construction

This code sets out five thermal design zones in China with general requirements for energy conservation design in each zone. Regional energy design codes set specific regional requirements. For example, JGJ 1342001 applies to the mixed temperature climate of Shanghai and DBJ 01-602-2004 applies to the cooler climate of Beijing. Even standard wood frame construction design exceeds Chinese energy code requirements by a considerable margin. Code for Seismic Design of Buildings GB 50011-2001 This engineering design code applies to all construction systems and all buildings. It is the predominant seismic code, and all seismic requirements in other codes must be consistent with it. Wood platform frame buildings are generally superior to other construction systems in exceeding Chinese seismic code requirements. Recognition of the superior performance characteristics of wood framed construction in comparison to seismic and energy code requirements is already encouraging the use of these systems in earthquake zones and in the cooler regions of China. Code for Design of Sound Insulation of Civil Buildings GBJ 118 This code is predominantly for sound control, addressing residential buildings, schools, hospitals, hotels, offices and commercial buildings. The target for a revision is 2010. Wood buildings are easily designed and constructed to meet and exceed all requirements for sound control.


Forward looking and backed by research

The wood construction code system in China is science-based, with contributions to continuing Chinese research from Canada, Europe and other countries. Much of this co-operative research is conducted in China during the development of codes. Examples include: - Fire tests at TFRI (Tianjin Fire Research Institute) to evaluate the maximum fire resistance for different wall assemblies (load and non-load bearing exterior and interior walls) - Shake table tests at Tongji University of a full-size two-storey wood frame house to simulate severe seismic conditions - In-grade timber tests at CAF (The Chinese Academy of Forestry) to assess the mechanical properties of domestic and imported timber used in China for structural use - Durability evaluations by Chinese institutes responsible for research in wood deterioration from biological agents to establish appropriate durability design and construction guidelines for Chinese climatic conditions. Co-operative research work in these areas, as well as in energyefficiency and environmental impact, is moving forward quickly. This will provide the base knowledge for future code revisions. Building codes, including those that regulate wood construction, will continue to evolve to meet Chinas priorities and objectives. This will benefit multiple family housing, building construction costs, annual energy savings, overall environmental footprint, and the expanded use of wood in its numerous applications.

While codes and standards for wood construction and products are based on the latest in research and development and on current requirements, they will in the future continue to adapt and evolve to accommodate changing requirements and new opportunities.
Mr. Long Weiguo, President of South West Design Institute, Chairman of China GB 50005 Code Committee, March 2010


A summary of codes and standards

These codes and regulations are divided into three categories: 1) those that are applicable solely to timber structures and already published 2) those that are applicable solely to timber structures, under development and soon to be published 3) those that are partially applicable to timber structures. 1) Applicable solely to timber structures and already published: GB 50005-2003 Code for Design of Timber Structures GB 50206-2002 Code for Construction Quality Acceptance of Timber Structures GB/T 50361-2005 Technical Code for Partitions with Timber Framework GB/T 50329-2002 Standards for Methods Testing of Timber Structures LY/T 1635-2005 Wood Preservatives LY/T 1636-2005 Use Category and Specification for Preservative Treated Wood GB/T 22102-2008 Preservative-treated Wood Design Manual for Timber Structures 07SJ924 National Building Standard Design Drawings Timber Housing DG/TJ08-2059-2009 Technical Specification for Wood Frame Construction (Shanghai) 2009J/T-223 Wood Truss Re-Roofing Standard Drawing 2) Applicable solely to timber structures, under development and soon to be published GB XXXX Technical Code of Glued Lumber Structures GB/T XXXX Chinese National Standard of Structural Glulam JGJ XXXX Technical Code of Metal Plated Wood Trusses JGJ XXXX Technical Specification for Construction Techniques of Timber Structures GB/T XXXX Machine Stress-Rated Sawn Timber GB/T XXXX Standard Methods for Development of Characteristic Mechanical Values for Structural Lumber Alarm Systems GB 50193 Design Code for Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishing Systems GBJ 84-85 Design Code for Automatic Sprinkler Systems GBJ 140-90 Design Code of Extinguisher Distribution in Buildings GBJ39-90 Code for Fire Protection Design of Village Buildings Fire Safety GB 50016 2006 Code of Design on Building Fire Protection and Prevention GB 8624-2006, Classification for Burning Behaviour of Building Materials and Products GB 50045 Code for Fire Protection Design of High Rise Civil Buildings GB 50222 Design Code for Fire Safety of Inside Decoration GB 50166 Code for Installation and Acceptance of Automatic Fire Energy Conservation: GB 50176 Thermal Design Code for Civil Building GB50189 Design Standard for Energy Efficiency of Public Buildings JGJ 26-95 Design Standard for Energy Conservation for New Heating of Residential Buildings (cold and severe cold zones) JGJ 75 Design Standard for Energy Efficiency of Residential Buildings in Hot Summers and Warm Winter Zone JGJ 134 Design Standard for Energy Efficiency of Residential Buildings in Hot Summers and Cold Winter Zone DBJ 11-602 Design Standard for Energy Efficiency of Residential Buildings (Beijing) 3) Partially applicable to timber structures Structural: GB 50009 Code for the Load Design of Building Structures GB50011 Code for the Seismic Design of Buildings GB50068 Unified Standard for Reliability Design of Building Structures GB50153 Unified Standard for Reliability Design of Engineering Structures Foundation: GB 50007 Code for Design of Building Foundation


Sound GBJ 50121 Rating Standard of Sound Insulation in Buildings GBJ 75-84 Test Methods to Measure Sound Proofing GBJ 118-88, Design Code for Sound Control in Buildings (Chapter 3: Residential) GB 3096-93, Standard for Environmental Noise in Urban Areas GB/T 14623-93, Measuring Method for Environmental Noise in Urban Areas Building Envelope GB 50345-2004, Technical Code for Roof Engineering JGJ 103-96 Specification for Installation and Acceptance of UPVC Doors and Windows

Inspection GB 50300-2001 Unified Standard for Construction Quality Acceptance of Building Engineering GB 50319-2000, Code of Construction Project Management State Council Order #279, Regulation on Quality Management of Construction Projects, 2000 GB 50202-2002, Code for Acceptance of Construction Quality of Building Foundation GB 50207-2002, Code for Acceptance of Construction Quality of Roof JGJ 132-2001, J 85-2001, Standard for Energy Efficiency Inspection of Heating Residential Buildings (1999) JGJ 59-99, Standard of Construction Safety Inspection Shanghai Municipal Order #70, Shanghai Construction Engineering Inspection Management Interim Procedures


1 Premier Wen Jiabao, to the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), 13 November 2009 2 3 Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management, United Kingdom Comprehensive Report 2002-2003 regarding the role of forest products in climate change mitigation, European Commissions DG Enterprise Unit 4 4 Carbon footprint calculation by the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management, United Kingdom 5 Variability in carbon dioxide balance of wood- and concrete-framed buildings, Gustavsson, L. and Sathre, R., Mid-Sweden University, 2006 6 7 Athena Institute, Ottawa, Canada Life cycle assessment of multi-unit residential buildings built with wood, concrete and steel in Beijing, Beijing University of Technology, 2009 8 Published by the Institute of International Engineering Project Management and Institute of Building Environment Studies, China, 15 December 2006 9 10 11 12 Clean energy poised to take bigger share, Fu Jing, China Daily, 19 March 2008 Sector News, China Building Materials #1 Website, 25 November 2009 China Construction Journal, 7 December 2009 Sustainable consumption and production, United Nations Environment Programme (www.unep.fr/scp/bc) 13 Chinas building energy use, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Report LBNL-506E, David Fridley, Nathaniel Aden and Nan Zhou, 2007 14 Buildings and climate change, status, challenges and opportunities, United Nations Environment Programme, 2007 15 China pushes for more energy-efficient buildings, Xinhua, 2006 (www.chinese-embassy.org.za/eng/zxxx/t254500.htm) 16 World Construction 2007/8, Davis Langdon, 2008 http://www.davislangdon.com/upload/StaticFiles/EME%20Publications/Other%20Rese arch%20Publications/WorldConstruction07_08.pdf 17 Test report of energy-efficiency in buildings and air-conditioning system of light wood frame construction in Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) and C6 villa in Bishui Village, HIT Building Energy Technology Institute, 2008 18 Steel vs wood cost comparison, Beaufort demonstration homes, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research, 2002 42 19 Developing a costing/marketing tool to benchmark construction costs for wood against steel and concrete in the non-residential US market, draft project report for FII, Markets and Economics, FP Innovations, 2009 20 Cost-comparison of wood frame versus traditional construction in Taiwan, David Cartwright, 2004 43 44 Chinese Academy of Forestry statistics The promotion of timber and timber product applications and the Chinese Governments role in regulations and standardization, Liu Nengwen, 2009. IRG 09-20424 Database of State Forestry Administration of China, 2008 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 34 33 32 31 28 29 30 26 27 25 24 22 23 21 UKTFA Zero Carbon Project, Energy for Sustainable Development, United Kingdom, 2009 Rural case study, Canada Wood China, 2008 Performance of wood frame building construction in earthquakes, J. Hand Rainer and Erol Karacabeyli, 1999 Survey of wood frame construction following the Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan, China, Chun Ni, 2009 Shake table tests of a two-storey light wood-frame house, Tongji University and FPInnovations, 2009 Defining biological hazard zones in China, FPInnovations, 2008 Survey on actual service lives for North American buildings, J. OConnor, Wood Housing Durability and Disaster Issues Conference, Las Vegas, USA, 2004 Durability survey of wood-frame houses in China, FPInnovations, 2007 SFA meeting on 15 January 2010, as reported by Green Times UN and Norway Unite to Combat Climate Change from Deforestation, 24 September 2008 Press interview, China State Forestry Administration official website, 7 December 2009 State of the Worlds Forests, 2007, Part 1: Progress towards sustainable forest management, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome Demand and supply of wood products in China, Zhang Kun, Lu Wenming, Osamu Hashiramoto, 2007 FACTBOX: Developments in China's forestry sector, www.chinaview.cn 19 March 2009, 20:33:07, Editor: Lu Yanan ZhaoTong Daily, 18 July 2009 Key Policies for the Forest Industry, State Forestry Administration of China, 2007 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome Eurostat, European Commission Statistics Canada Customs Committee of Russia China Customs Statistics


Images courtesy of Cover Martinsons AB, Sweden (bridge) Page 2 3 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 22 23 25 30 Ole Jais AB, Sweden Polygon Homes Ltd, Vancouver, Canada Sino Scandinavian Building Adviser Company, Beijing Villa Nordic, Sweden www.naturallywood.com (main photo) Prof. Xiong Haibei, Tongji University (top); Mr Yang Xuebin (bottom) Derome AB, Sweden APA - The Engineered Wood Association (diagram) FII China Ltd www.naturallywood.com (right) www.naturallywood.com (bottom right) Hring & Co. AG, Switzerland (swimming pool) Hring & Co. AG, Switzerland (temple) Moelven, Norway (road bridge); www.naturallywood.com (landscaping) www.naturallywood.com (landscaping); Martinsons AB, Sweden (footbridge) The Stewart Milne Group, on behalf of the UK Timber Frame Association (main image) www.naturallywood.com 61 64 72 74 75 31 33 41 42 43 44 45 48 49 52 54 56 57 58 59 ProHolz, Austria (left); Kingspan UK (right) Martinsons AB, Sweden (main image) Derome AB, Sweden www.naturallywood.com Polygon Homes Ltd, Vancouver, Canada FII China Ltd Harbin Institute of Technology Polygon Homes Ltd, Vancouver, Canada Martinsons AB, Sweden FII China Ltd APA - The Engineered Wood Association (diagram) Prof. Xiong Haibei, Tongji University (left) Simpson Strong-Tie (left) Norman Werther, Technisches Universitt, Mnchen, Germany (TUM) SP Trtek, Sweden, for the technical guideline Fire safety in timber buildings (left); FII China Ltd (right) City of New Westminster, Canada (top right) SCA Skog, Sweden Simpson Strong-Tie proHolz, Austria FII China Ltd



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