Light-Frame + Prefab

Preferred and pre-fabulous.

Due to its cost advantages, availability, and ease of assembly, wood is often the go-to framing choice for single family homes, multifamily, and commercial buildings⁠—Type III and Type V construction. Light-frame construction is often used for retail, healthcare, school, and commercial buildings.

Interior of a light-frame home construction project

Increasingly, elements of light-frame buildings are fabricated off site and assembled on the job.

Wood is well-suited to off-site prefabrication, offering cost, quality, and scheduling advantages. Assembling wood buildings as a prefabricated “kit of parts” has the added benefit of being a low-carbon alternative.  Light frame and prefab are both well-suited to meet demands from owners, designers, and tenants for better buildings.

Sitting and laundry area in Yobi microhousing
Yobi Microhousing
Neiman Taber Architects
View project

Construction types.

There are several types of light-frame construction, each suited for specific applications.

Platform is the most common form of light-frame residential construction, where individual floors are framed separately. Balloon and semi-balloon are popular in industrial and retail applications, with vertical structural members extending from the foundation to the rafters, typically two stories. Often used for multistory projects due to its fire-management abilities, semi-balloon framing has floors suspended from the double top plates of the walls below them, with the walls stacked.

Illustration of a Platform and Balloon structure
podium

The use of concrete-and-steel podiums allows light-frame construction to be used for taller mid-rise buildings.

This helps project teams economically respond to the growing demand for high-density, mixed-use buildings featuring office or multifamily residential space atop ground-level retail and dining. Updates in the 2015 International Building Code (IBC) allow for multistory podiums, allowing project teams to accommodate ground-floor anchors such as grocery and other retail.

An illustration that shows two different Podium buildings
Mike Stock architect portrait
Mike Stock
Developer, Owner and Operator
Shiloh Commons
Budget is always a problem for a developer so wood was a cheaper route for us.
Shiloh Apartments exterior rendering
Featured Project
Shiloh Commons Apartments
Shiloh Apartments light frame construction

Why do multifamily developers think wood is good? Find out in this blog.

Wood meets code.

Modern building codes take fire safety seriously.

Wood meets and often surpasses prescriptive building code requirements for fire, seismic performance, and wind resistance. Light frame structural systems must employ fire-resistance rated building assemblies to prevent, for a certain period of time, the spread of fire, smoke, and heat from one unit to another and to ensure that the structural integrity of the building is maintained. Fire resistance-rated walls and floors are also required for exit corridors and stairways to ensure that people can safely leave the building in the event of a fire.

Arena District exterior street view
Arena District Apartments
Mahlum Architects
View project
Think Wood Support

Ready to build? Find design tools here.

Back to top

Get wood innovation
in your inbox.

Sign Up!