Posted in materials on August 11, 2015 1:43 pm EDT

Wood Works

A look at the benefits of wood products in churches and education space construction.

Glued-laminated timber is often used as a primary load-carrying member of buildings. Often selected for aesthetic reasons or its design flexibility, glulam also offers structural performance combined with long-term durability. Image courtesy of AWC.











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TAGS: architecture, design, materials, sustainability, wood,


By John "Buddy" Showalter

Faced with pressure to reduce carbon footprints in the construction environment, architects are increasingly being called upon to balance functionality and safety expectations with sustainability in their designs. Today, many designers of faith-based spaces are finding that wood, a traditional building material that has been used for centuries, can help achieve that balance.

Structurally sound and naturally renewable, wood products help environmentally minded designers achieve the aesthetically pleasing projects they desire for religious structures while meeting requirements of current building codes. The American Wood Council based in Leesburg, Va., works with code officials and building designers to educate on these benefits and offer guidance on how wood products can be applied.

Structural Performance

By their design, building codes are written so that compliant structures all provide the same levels of safety, regardless of principal materials used. As a result, when built according to code, wood-frame construction has a proven performance record for fire, seismic and high wind conditions.

From a fire perspective, the addition of sprinkler systems, fire-resistance-rated wall and floor/ceiling assemblies, and open space around a building can be used to increase the allowable size of wood-frame structures. Heavy timbers and engineered wood products, often referred to as mass timber, have a particular advantage in a fire because they char on the outside while retaining strength, slowing combustion.

Years of research have also proven that wood structures can meet or exceed the most demanding earthquake design and high wind requirements. The fact that wood buildings are lightweight and have redundant load paths and connections means there is less chance the structure will collapse during a high wind or seismic event. This is also why wood structures have inherent ductility, which allows them to dissipate energy when faced with the sudden loads of an earthquake, hurricane or tornado.

Building Codes & Education

While current building codes allow for a wide range of applications of wood in design, more education [may be] needed in the architecture and building code communities alike about the structural and environmental performance of wood products. The 2015 International Building Code took steps in the right direction last year to recognize expanded applications of new engineered wood products such as cross-laminated timber. And currently, the American Wood Council is participating in the Committee Action Hearings Process with the International Code Council (ICC) to grow this progress further with the 2018 International Building Code.

One of the drivers for these building code changes is the potential environmental benefit of wood. Life-cycle assessments (LCA) have shown wood products to have significant environmental benefits with a lighter footprint, lower production of greenhouse gas emissions, and energy efficient advantages for structures. With this data showing a reduced environmental impact, there is increased demand from the green buildings market to expand the parameters for wood use in buildings.





Learn more about the companies in this story:

American Wood Council



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