Seismic Testing: What If Mass Timber Buildings Can Become Earthquake-Proof By Using A New Wood-Based Lateral System?

Wood buildings in the U.S. have been predominantly constructed using platform light-framed wood construction for decades. Light-framed wood systems are very cost-competitive in the low-rise residential market, but its application is restricted by the current building code in terms of height and area. Because of the use of wood bearing walls as the main gravity system, it can be challenging for light-framed wood buildings to have an open floor plan for commercial applications.

Low rise apartments with wood framing

There is currently no codified all-wood design option for an open-floor plan mass timber building for regions affected by earthquake hazard. Thus, a significant boost of performance in mass timber design is worth pursuing.

Most existing commercial buildings were designed to meet building codes, which is a set of minimal requirements that ensure life-safety. This means after a strong earthquake, these buildings are expected to remain standing without collapse but will experience costly damage or even need to be demolished. If mass timber buildings continue to use existing code-compliant concrete or steel lateral systems, the damage to these buildings will be similar to that of concrete and steel buildings, which is very costly. So what if mass timber buildings can become earthquake-proof by using a new wood-based lateral system?

This is the key motivation behind this research project.

This report is focused on the full-scale shake table test of a two-story mass timber building conducted during the summer of 2017 at NHERI@UC San Diego outdoor shake table.

As one of the industry partners of the NHERI TallWood Project, the Softwood Lumber Board provided significant financial support to the 2017 testing program. The project team would like to acknowledge this valuable support.

Interested in learning more? Take our Designing for Earthquakes CEU.

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