High-Rise Wood Buildings: Interactive Map Shows Construction Around the World

It’s safe to say we have a thing for tall wood buildings here at the Forest Products Laboratory.

Dalston Lane is a 121-home development set to open in London this summer.

Dalston Lane is a 121-home development set to open in London this summer.

Case in point: We study what happens to their moisture content during construction, look at how they perform in earthquakes, test fire retardant treatments for their components, host workshops about them and post the presentations for all the world to see, and even sponsor large events, like the Mass Timber Conference happening in Portland, Oregon, this week!

With all that in mind, you can imagine our excitement when curbed.com published an interactive map (swoon!) of all the wooden high-rises in the world, some completed, others under construction or in concept. Scroll through the list or click a number on the map to read about the buildings’ features, see photos and drawings, and find out more via website links.

Even if you’re not quite as obsessed with wood as we are, we guarantee you won’t be disappointed with this cyber-trip around the world to see some truly stunning architecture.

Solid Research on Shaky Science: Building with Wood in Earthquake-Prone Regions

Nepal 2015—Japan 2011—Chile 2010.

In the past decade, these nations, and many others, have been host to some of the most destructive earthquakes in recent memory. Along with the inestimable human and emotional toll these events take on communities around the globe, the costs associated with reconstruction efforts are equally astronomical, often edging into the billions of dollars. Although we can’t effectively predict or stop earthquakes from occurring, we can be ready, and minimize the impacts of these damaging seismic events.

CLT concept and use in a nine-story mid-rise building in London.

CLT concept and use in a nine-story mid-rise building in London.

From relatively stable ground in Madison, Wisconsin, researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) are searching for better ways to build more resilient, taller, safer, and cost effective wooden structures for use in earthquake-prone areas of the nation. For the wood building community, the most viable tall building construction solution incorporates the use of cross-laminated timber (CLT).

A CLT panel consists of multiple layers of kiln-dried lumber boards stacked in alternating directions, and bonded together with structural adhesives. The end result is an inexpensive, strong, solid, rectangular panel that can be used for building walls, floors or roofs.

CLT has already established itself as an important building material in Europe, but is relatively new to North America. Wooden buildings over eight stories tall, which incorporate CLT into their design, have sprung up in areas of low seismic activity to include Sweden, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Experts believe that CLT could also be a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional construction materials for buildings up to 125 feet tall.

FPL, along with the Coalition for Advanced Wood Structures, is developing seismic design perimeters for CLT use that will meet or exceed both design and safety codes. The team hopes that the project will lead to the development of a performance-based seismic design (PBSD) methodology to investigate the feasibility of three prototype systems. This PBSD would allow for the construction of buildings in earthquake-prone areas up to 14 stories tall using CLT components.

Researchers believe that this project will lay the ground work for buildings with elongated natural periods, near elastic behavior, and an increased resiliency to the high forces and accelerations of seismic events.

The growing trend of urbanization has increased the need for taller buildings across the country, including in areas that are crisscrossed by tectonic boundaries like California’s San Andreas Fault or the Cascadia Subduction Zone of the Pacific Northwest. At the same time, more emphasis has been placed on environmentally and fiscally responsible construction. Properly rated CLT construction holds great potential for cities like Los Angeles or Seatte—urban areas that have already witnessed tragedy in the past, but hopefully, when and if the next disaster occurs, can be headline-making cities for their successful implementation of safer building techniques.

For more information on, see this Research In Progress report.


Soft?Story Woodframe Buildings: What are They and How Do We Protect Them from Earthquakes?

In a new paper in the Proceedings for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2014 Structures Congress, FPL’s Douglas Rammer discusses wood work pertinent to earthquake-prone areas of the world. In the recently published paper, Overview of the NEES?Soft Experimental Program for Seismic Risk Reduction of Soft?Story Woodframe Buildings, Rammer states that the existence of thousands of soft-story woodframe buildings in California is considered a disaster preparedness problem, which has resulted in mitigation efforts throughout the state.

A soft-story building is a building that has one or more stories with significantly less stiffness (and strength) than the stories above or below. This condition usually occurs at the bottom story of a multi-story building and is often the result of large openings that are used for main building entrances, store fronts, or parking garages. These buildings were generally built before 1970 and many as early as the 1920s, which means that the contractors used construction practices not considered acceptable by today’s codified standards. The wall lengths available to resist lateral loads, in general, are too short at the bottom story, thereby resulting in a soft-story.

The considerable presence of these large multi-family buildings in San Francisco prompted the city to mandate their retrofitting over the next seven years. The NEES-Soft project is a five-university multi-industry three-year project that has many facets including improved nonlinear numerical modeling, outreach, retrofit methodology development, and full-scale system-level experimental validation of soft-story retrofit techniques.

In 2013, two full-scale buildings were tested within NEES-Soft. A hybrid test of a three-story building consisting of a one story numerical substructure and a two-story physical structure above at the University at Buffalo, and a shake table test of a four-story building at the University of California-San Diego. A series of retrofits, based on methodologies ranging from FEMA P-807 to performance-based seismic retrofits developed as part of the project, were tested at both sites. Collapse testing for both building specimens was also conducted at the end of each test program. This paper presents a summary of selected test results for these full-scale building tests within the NEES-Soft project.