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‘Tall Wood’ Code Options being Evaluated in China

Paul Newman

By Paul Newman

Executive Director - Market Access and Trade, COFI Vancouver

February 10, 2016

tall wood

Photo courtesy of CEI Architecture

In an interesting development, China’s Ministry of Housing, Urban and Rural Development (MOHURD) recently announced its intention to evaluate and draft within one year a ‘tall wood’ building code for loadbearing wood structures which could eventually far exceed current height, area and occupancy limits.  Driven by objectives including pollution mitigation, improved energy efficiency and ‘industrialization’ (prefabrication) China’s policy makers are looking for solutions beyond conventional construction methods.

Multi-year Canada Wood collaboration with the Ministry of Public Security Fire Bureau responsible for fire safety provides a ready conduit to input research and experience-based requirements into the new code.  The fire code, last updated in May 2015, now allows 5 storey light wood-frame structures and hybrids to 7 stories.  Seismic, acoustic and other key building parameters will also be closely considered.

Realistically it will likely be some years before tall mass timber building are commonly approved in China for heights now being seen in some European and North American cities (however one-off approvals might be possible).  Nonetheless the new initiative has the potential to pave the way for six storey mid-rise acceptance and increased limits for hybrid wood structures combined with steel or concrete.  China could rapidly pull level with North American and European codes.  Commercial uptake will be the next challenge.