China Introduces Tall Wood Building Code
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 5-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.
Canada recognized as an expert in tall wood
Thanks to the 18-storey Brock Commons residence at UBC Canada, 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.