China Introduces Tall Wood Building Code

The Chinese tall wood building code officially takes effect on October 1st, 2017.

On February 21st, 2017 China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) issued “Technical standard for multi-storey and high-rise timber buildings (GB/T51226 – 2017)”. In line with a global push towards taller wood structures, the code aims to broaden the scope of application of timber structures beyond the current 3-storey limit.

The new code allows wood structures up to 5-storeys. Moreover, on a case-to-case basis, structures up to 56 meters or 18 stories may be approved for construction in the lowest seismically rated zone in China (6 degree seismic) subject to local authority approval and expert endorsement.  The code officially takes effect on October 1st, 2017.

Barriers remain for wood

While the code marks another step forward in the Chinese market, it is unlikely to result in a tall wood construction boom. Several barriers remain:

  • the new 5-storey provision applies to residential and office buildings, situated in 2nd and 3rd tier cities. In such places, wood remains an unfamiliar method.
  • floor area in five storey construction is restricted to that previously permitted under the 3 storey limitation.   Therefore individual floors will be proportionately smaller in footprint.

A lot of work remains to be done with fire code authorities to enable larger buildings in height and area.  Local fire bureaus may need education to understand the new TWB code.

University of British Columbia’s Brock Commons student residence is the first mass wood, steel and concrete hybrid project taller than 14 storeys in the world at 18 storeys.

Canada recognized as an expert in tall wood 

Thanks to the 18-storey Brock Commons residence at UBC Canada is widely viewed as a leader in tall wood. Accordingly Canada Wood is a member of the TWB code committee.

CW China provided Canadian research findings and best-practices to support the code development process.  Canadian experts also collaborated with the Tianjin Fire Research Institute on joint fire safety research.

Shanghai Wood & Prefab Seminar attracts over 200 industry professionals

Registration desk for the Wood & Prefabrication Seminar in Shanghai

Prefabricated Construction has become a hot topic thanks to the Chinese Government’s push for modernizing the construction sector. To capitalize on the opportunity arising from prefabrication, Canada Wood China held a “Wood & Prefabrication Seminar” in Shanghai on March. 3rd, 2017. Over 200 professionals in the wood construction industry including builders, designers and academics attended the meeting.

Mr. Weldon Epp, Canadian Consul General to Shanghai, opened the event; he discussed the large potential for bilateral trade between Canada and China, highlighting recent high-level meetings between Prime Minister Li Keqiang and the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.

Haiyan Zhang delivering presentation of China prefabricated construction policy

Highlights of the event included presentations by two prefabrication experts from the U.K. and Canada. Mr. Michal Zajic, Partner of Milner Associates, introduced technical considerations for prefabricated wood construction in Britain from designing, construction and educating trade. Zajic has rich experience in light and heavy wood constructions. He has more than 20-year experience in wood structure engineering.

Mr. Bradley Parson, CEO of Caterra Construction Consulting, complemented his presentation by discussing the business case for prefabrication.

200 professionals attended the seminar

In addition to these guest speakers. Haiyan Zhang, Director of Codes and Standards at Canada Wood China, delivered an instructional presentation of “China Prefabricated Construction Policy” to help people understand that China Central Government’s positive attitude on prefab-construction and the policy of encourage industry to use prefabricated components, especially wood in some areas.

Representatives from Tongji University, Crown Home and F&Y Partner Designing Company introduced outstanding prefabricated wood projects in China.

Watch the video to learn more about the conference!

China Economy, Construction & Lumber Shipments

January economic highlights (China): 

  • China’s economy situation was generally positive in 2016 thanks to a growth in consumers spending and a property market rebound.
  • GDP grew 6.8% year-on-year during Q42016, which is slightly more than the grow forecast of 6.7% as indicated in a Reuters poll of 42 economists.
  • China’s economy managed to expand the fastest rate in Q4 in 2016 despite that the property market was tightened with less decisive policy support. Experts believe that increasing retail sales and manufacturing activities are the main source of growth.[i]
  • China’s wood import in 2016 has reached 80.24 million m3 – setting a new record -and increased 13.2% compared to last year.

China’s GDP growth rate in Q42016 reached 6.8% with 6.7% growth in the full year, which fit the estimation from head of China’s state planning agency; consumption constitutes for 64.6% GDP in 2016 while annual per capital consumption was up 8.9% year-on-year to RMB 17,111 (USD 2,490).[ii]

Caixin PMI decreased to 51.0 in January 2017 from 51.9 in December 2016. December had marked the seventh back-to-back month growth period.[iii] Exports from China dropped 6.1% year-on-year to USD 209.42 billion in December 2016 with a revised 1.6% drop in November against an expected drop of 3.5%; Sales decreased 7.7% in the full year of 2016 which is the second year of decline and the lowest since the global financial crisis of 2009.[iv]

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China Consumer Price Index (CPI) dropped to 102.10 Index Points in December (102.30 in November 2016).[v] USD/CNY fluctuated from 6.89 (December 1st) to 6.94 (December 31st) and 6.94 (January 1st) to 6.88 (January 30th)[vi]; CAD/CNY stayed level at 5.17 on both December 1st and 31st but increased from 5.17 (January 1st) to 5.28 (January 30th)[vii].

Real Estate Construction Market

 In 2016 the total investment in national real estate reached RMB 10258.1 billion, growing 6.9% year-on-year;[viii] in the same year construction floor area started increased to 1.67 billion m2 with 8.1% growth year-on-year; residential floor area started was up to 1.16 billion m2 with 8.1% growth year-on-year.[ix]

Construction: floor area started

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Building material prices

 Common building material prices, price for cement in China declined 0.45% from RMB 294.83 per metric ton on January 1st to RMB 293.50 per metric ton on January 31st [x]; rebar steel was worth RMB 2,994.67 per metric ton on January 1st and then increased 7.50% to RMB 3,219.33 per metric ton on January 31st [xi].

Wood Export to China 

  1. China’s wood import in 2016 has reached 80.24 million m3 – setting a new record -and increased 13.2% compared to last year. To be specific, lumber growth was 19.3% in 2016, close to 10% higher than log import; the proportion of lumber import increased from less than 20% in 2009 to 39.3% now.[xii]
  2. Sources of wood import was spread out but highly concentrated in four countries: Russia, New Zealand, US and Canada constituting for 29.82%, 15.44%, 10.24% and 10.15% of imports, respectively. They were followed by Thailand, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands with 2% to 5% share each.[xiii]
  3. In January 2017 during Chinese New Year, the market was closed and transaction volumes were predicted to decrease significantly; however wood price is expected to remain stable due to the continuously high cost of wood import.[xiv]

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[i] Focus Economics (January 24th, 2017). China Economic Outlook

[ii] Leslie Shaffer (January 19th, 2017). China’s Q4 GDP up 6.8% on-year, beating expectation for 6.7%

[iii] Trading Economics (January 2017). China Caixin Manufacturing PMI

[iv] Trading Economics (January 2017). China Exports

[v] Trading Economics (January, 2017). China Consumer Price Index (CPI)

[vi] XE Currrency Charts: USD to CNY

[vii] XE Currency Charts: CAD to CNY

[viii] National Statistics Bureau (January 20th, 2017). A good start of “13th Five Year Plan” in 2016

[ix] National Statistics Bureau (January 20th, 2017). Development, Investment and Sales of national real estate in 2016

[x] Sunsirs (January 2017). Spot Price: monthly for cement

[xi] Sunsirs (January 2017). Spot Price: monthly for rebar steel

[xii] BOABC (January 2017). China Wood and Its Products Market Monthly Report

[xiii] BOABC (January 2017). China Wood and Its Products Market Monthly Report

[xiv] BOABC (January 2017). China Wood and Its Products Market Monthly Report

Shanggu Shuijun – A Wood Truss Hybrid Project

Shanggu Shuijun Phase 1

Shanggu Shuijun Phase 1

Shanggu Shuijun (上谷水郡) is a commercial residential project located in Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province. Its total construction area is 1.3 million m2, consisting of eight phases of construction. For the first phase, there are 115 townhouses (over 400 units), which are concrete structures with wood-truss roofs. The total construction area is about 60,000 m2, consuming more than 2,000 m3 of Canadian SPF. Construction started in June, 2016.


Wood truss on concrete structure

In the beginning, the reason the developer considered wood truss technologies is the significant speed of wood construction, coupled with its safety and beauty. In addition, prefabricated wood-truss roofing systems is in line with the recently issued national prefabrication policy.

Canada Wood China helped the developer understand that wood can be well suited for structural applications. The developer wants to use the wood-truss as a way to experience lumber as a new building material. To date, their experience with wood-frame construction has been good and they are considering to continue using the “concrete frame + wood roof” solution for Phase II, adding ten or more pure 3-storey wood-frame townhouses. During the construction, Canada Wood technical experts continue to provide technical support.

Prefabricated wood trusses on jobsite

Prefabricated wood trusses on jobsite

To use prefabricated wood trusses, the builder, Wuhan Bodique Construction Company, built up a temporary prefabrication factory just beside the job-site to manufacture the trusses and transport to job-site easily. Chen Dilong, the general Manager of the builder said this is the most efficient and cost-saving way to apply into the current industry.

Temporary prefab factory beside job-site

Temporary prefab factory beside job-site

CW China positions wood as a solution for China’s rapidly changing construction practices

On December 1st 2017 Canada Wood China signed an MOU at the Canadian embassy in Beijing with Tianjin based BSD-TEDA on the research, development and application of prefabricated non-load bearing Energy Efficient Wood Wall technology at the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) funded Sino-Canadian low-carbon eco-district project in Tianjin. The project is an opportunity to participate in China’s rapidly changing construction practices and to help find a lasting role for wood as a green building material.

eco Picture1Canada Wood China is excited to be involved in the construction of three 4-storey office buildings in the area. Pilot projects such as these are critical for driving the construction industry forward – the trial project will allow CW China optimize and fine-tune the production and installation of the wood infill wall solution within an actual construction project. Actual

Master drawing of BSD-TEDA project

Master drawing of BSD-TEDA project

performance is required to convince future partner companies that this system is feasible for them. It will also provide CW China with a better understanding of the cost viability of the wood infill wall and help flag any technical issues that need to be resolved.

BSD TEDA views the wood infill wall system as an energy efficient solution that can be prefabricated and help speed up their construction time. Tianjin has one of China’s strictest requirements for energy efficiency.

The MOU was signed during China-leg of the annual B.C. Forest Sector Mission to Asia, during a reception for influential Chinese stakeholders at the Canadian embassy in Beijing.

Background on the Tianjin eco-district project

MOU Signing with BSD-TEDA and CW China on the commercial trial project at the Sino-Canadian Low Carbon Eco-district demonstration project

MOU Signing with BSD-TEDA and CW China on the commercial trial project at the Sino-Canadian Low Carbon Eco-district demonstration project

The Tianjin eco-district project is China’s first large-scale community-sized demonstration area for wood in construction. The Tianjin Sino-Canada Low Carbon Eco-District Demonstration Project aims to adapt suitable Canadian best practices in sustainable urban planning, community infrastructure and buildings for mixed-use, waterfront developments. The project also hopes to maximize the opportunities to integrate the use of innovative Canadian products, services and technologies. This includes, but is not limited to, wood in construction, energy efficiency and alternative energy and clean technologies for water and waste.

MOHURD’s involvement in the eco-district project will enable buildings to be legally approved as test cases, which presents an opportunity to demonstrate wood construction designs that go beyond the current code limitations, for example, building height and limitations on the use of innovative wood materials such as cross-laminated timber (CLT). This type of approach can be an effective way to relax current code restrictions.


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