Canada Wood’s Advocacy Efforts Lead to New Opportunities for Wooden Apartment Construction in South Korea

By: Tai Jeong

Country Director, Canada Wood Korea

The Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MoLIT) has announced a change in the building regulations for wooden multi-family residential buildings. The new legislation will eliminate the existing requirement for thick concrete floors that serve as sound barriers between units in wood frame apartment buildings. Previously, all multi-family buildings were required to have floors with a minimum thickness of 210 mm of concrete slab.

This requirement made constructing wooden apartment complexes challenging and costly, particularly due to the unrealistic thickness and weight of the concrete needed, as well as issues with securely connecting different parts of the building. Many industry professionals, including developers and builders of wooden structures, have argued that this was a major obstacle in constructing wood-framed multi-family homes.

The new regulations will not impact townhomes with party walls, such as duplexes, which do not have shared floors and therefore face no wood usage restrictions. However, they will significantly benefit older types of Korean multi-family buildings, like Dagagu and Dasaedae, that traditionally required concrete floors. Dagagu buildings, typically single-owner structures with multiple rented units, are usually limited to three stories. Dasaedae buildings are low-rise multi-family homes, often condominiums, with each unit individually owned and a similar size limit. Previously, the requirement for concrete floors resulted in the loss of a market for 800 annual Dagagu housing starts for Canadian wood products. The removal of this requirement is expected to revitalize this market, potentially restoring Canadian wood as a primary material in these constructions.

The new changes are the result of extensive discussions among various stakeholders, including the National Institute of Forest Science (NIFoS), the Korean Wood Construction Association (KWCA), and Canada Wood Korea (CWK). These discussions focused on finding a solution that would allow for wooden construction while meeting safety and quality standards. As part of this initiative, a new standard for measuring impact sound using a device with lower impact forces was introduced in August 2022, replacing the older, more damaging method. This is seen as a key step in making it easier to build wooden multi-family homes.

Canada Wood Korea, along with other organizations, has been advocating for these changes to support the use of wood in building construction. The upcoming amendment, which will come into effect in July 2024, reflects these efforts by shifting from mandatory concrete use to allowing wooden structures based on performance measures.

A midrise project in Korea that applies Wood Infill Wall system using Canadian SPF