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The Seismic Design and Performance of Wood Buildings

The seismic behaviour of wood buildings is often one of their best attributes. Despite this inherent advantage, experience has shown that inadequate seismic analysis and design can lead to significant structural damage during a strong earthquake. This is all the more important at a time when there are more and more mid- to high-rise wood-frame buildings in Canada.

British Columbia, whose major urban centres are in high seismic hazard areas, was the first province to allow mid-rise wood-frame buildings. Given the growing number of these buildings, the 2015 National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) increased the seismic hazard values (and consequently the seismic design loads) for southern Vancouver Island. These increases will be implemented in the next edition of the BC Building Code. In addition, increases in seismic loads are expected to be incorporated into the 2020 NBCC.

These changes, as well as the architectural demand for larger openings and longer spans, can make it difficult, if not impossible, for designers to use existing design solutions in higher seismic hazard areas. New solutions are therefore needed to accommodate increased seismic loads or designers may completely abandon mid-rise wood frame buildings in high-risk areas. FPInnovations plans to initiate a research project and collaborate with designers and universities to address this issue.

Significant economic losses that occurred during recent strong earthquakes have shifted the seismic design philosophy towards so-called « resilient” or « low-damage” structural systems. These innovative systems aim to reduce structural damage while offering the same or higher level of safety to occupants. FPInnovations has initiated a research program to assess the performance of a system of post-tensioned beams, columns and walls utilizing energy-dissipating devices under different load stresses, and is developing design guidelines to make the system available to the larger design community as a wood-based solution for mid- to high-rise resilient buildings.

Published on 19 April 2018