Removing Barriers to Tall Wood Building In South Korea

By: Tai Jeong

Country Director, Canada Wood Korea

In July 2020, South Korea’s government adjusted its building code to abolish the height and floor area limits on wood buildings. As such, both the government and the building industry now recognize larger, taller wood buildings as viable options. Recently, the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) announced it has included KSF 3021 standard Glue-laminated Timber (Glulam) made with Species Group “A” on its fireproof structure list, meaning it can now be used without fire-testing in buildings up to 12-storeys tall.

This announcement will allow the use of Canadian Douglas-fir North, the species of which is under Group A as lams for locally made glulam products, and also increase the use of Canadian SPF for in-fill wall segments of glulam post-and-beam buildings.

Previously, the structural glulam component was required to pass the stringent fire test on the project-based approach according to the regulation. The process could be costly and time-consuming which discourage the use of glulam in Korea’s construction market.

With this change in certification standards, KS F 3021 glulam manufacturers using materials from Species Group “A” can obtain fire-resistance certifications through factory inspections, rather than undergoing the regular, stringent fire testing that was required before. This code change will mean considerable cost and time-saving for project that employs glulam as structural components.

It should be noted that the certification only applies to Species Group “A” in Table 5 of KS F 3021 (Glulam) as shown in the table below.

Larch in Species Group “A” of KS F 3021 is equivalent to Species Group “Larch” in Table 4 of KS F 3020 (Softwood Structural Lumber) as shown in the table below.

In order to expand the use of domestic timber, and to supply eco-friendly wooden construction, NIFoS has developed medium- to large-sized wooden construction technology. The technology enables the country’s highest wooden structure – the 5-storey tall ‘Hangreen Wooden Pavilion’ – which was completed in Yeongju, Gyeongbuk, in 2019. At the time of construction, the 2-hour fireproof structure certification test of the wooden structure was still required, which made the test costs high and the waiting time about one year long.