Why wood-frame mid-rise construction works
By now you've heard of the fire that destroyed a condo project in Richmond. If not, check out CBC News or other news outlets for coverage. Still under construction there were no deaths reported but, undoubtedly, you'll start hearing from 'experts' why they think five to six-storey mid-rise wood frame projects are unsafe versus similiar height concete projects.
One of the key arguments against six-storey wood frame is in regards to rescuing those out-of-reach of the fire department's ladder trucks. This argument catches alot of support until you ask yourself "if the fire department's ladders can't reach the sixth floor of a wood frame condo building (making it unsafe) then how is it any easier for them to reach the sixth floor (or higher) of a concrete building?". The answer is the sixth floor of a concrete tower is no easier to reach than the sixth floor of a wood-frame mid-rise.
Another argument made is that a wood-frame building will burn quicker than a concrete building. In last night's case keep in mind neither the fire sprinkler system nor the siding been completed. Both of these componants are designed to stop or slow a fire, allowing residents to get out and minimize damage to the building and surrounding structures.
As for any argument against the structural strength of six-storey wood frame versus concrete, if you've got a few minutes check out the six-storey wood-frame Japanese Quake test to see why that argument holds no merit. In this experiment they built a complete six-storey wood-frame condo building on a tri-axial shake table inside a purpose-built facility and subjected it to once in two-thousand year earthquake forces. The results speak for themselves.
To help you learn more about why wood-frame buildings are now allowed to be built as high as five to six storeys, check out six-storey wood-frame facts at the Wood Works! BC.
B.C. continues to attract new residents and we need to address future housing needs. Six-storey wood frame condos create a more affordable alternative to concrete towers in municipal downtown neighborhoods. In fact, did you know that mid-rise wood-frame condo buildings was the norm in the early 1900's and that you can still find examples of these buildings in Vancouver, occupied and in use!
Take a few minutes to check out the above links to learn more and form your own opinion.
Bob Sethi, BComm
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