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Demystifying Wood-Based Construction

Some think that wood burns fast and is not the most solid material available… but those preconceived ideas are now changing with regards to wood as a construction material. More and more major wood-based projects are being developed in Quebec every day. This is the case with the Origin project in the Old Quebec area of Quebec City. Twelve of the thirteen stories of the condo building are all wood structures. Even the firefighters trust this material – recently four fire stations have been built out of wood, and another dozen are in construction or in the design phase. It is sometimes worthwhile to dispel certain myths.

Myth #1: Wood Burns Easily

Obviously, wood is combustible. However, there are effective strategies to protect wood structures, including gypsum installation and the use of oversized beams. Thanks to these approaches, wood-based buildings respect the same fire-resistance criteria as any other type of construction. Wood is also an excellent thermal insulator. In the event of a fire, it takes longer for the heat to penetrate the core of wooden structural elements than their equivalents in concrete or steel. And, as the weakest points in a wooden structure are generally metallic connectors, which are easily deformed by heat, they’re protected by integrating them as much as possible within the wood pieces.

Myth #2: Wood Is Less Resistant Than Concrete or Steel

Wood is just as resistant as other construction materials when comparing structures of the same lifespan and designed to support equal loads. It also has the advantage of being lighter. That means a wooden beam supporting the same load is 30% lighter than a steel beam and 900% lighter than a reinforced concrete beam. Lighter structures mean less expensive foundations as they have a smaller load to support. Not to mention that the production of wood consumes less energy than other materials. And it acts as a carbon trap, making it a good choice from an environmental perspective.

In short, wood is heartier than the myths surrounding it, and in spite of its relative lightness, this material has what it takes to compete with the heavyweights of the construction arena.

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