Tall Wood Buildings in Quebec: What Should You Know?

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Wood is a very popular building material in Quebec and across Canada. Wood has many excellent qualities, including solid structural and decorative value and the ability to help maintain building temperature.

For small buildings, wood is a good choice of material for roof trusses, wall panels, and exterior siding – in fact, for all parts of the framework. For medium and large buildings, builders often prefer concrete or steel. However, in some cases, it is possible to construct large wooden buildings.

Challenges of mid-rise wood construction in Quebec

The construction of large wooden buildings (five- or six-storeys) poses specific challenges, especially in terms of fire safety and the settlement of the wood under the load of so many floors. The National Research Council of Canada has established strict rules governing the use of wood for exterior cladding and stairwells, and the Régie du Bâtiment du Québec has established guidelines to ensure occupant safety within wooden structures .

Wood settling

Wood settling or shrinkage is a major concern in construction, as it can lead to technical difficulties when fixed elements must be integrated into building levels. If these levels have changed shape, these elements will need to be adjusted to fit.

Under the load of multiple floors, and depending on humidity levels, wood can change or ‘settle’ with repercussions of more than 3 cm for a six-storey building. When it is time to install fixed elements like water pipes, exterior cladding and concrete stairwell, this shrinkage can pose problems.

Technological solutions do exist to make integration of fixed parts easier in the case of structural settling in large wooden buildings.

Resistance to wind and snow

Wood may seem more fragile than concrete or steel. However, it can offer good resistance to wind, heavy loads and ground movement.

Wooden constructions are known for their high strength-to-weight ratio, as well as their ability to resist lateral loads. Builders use lightweight bracing walls and diaphragms to stabilize buildings during construction. They may also use wood sheathing, typically plywood or oriented strand board, as a lateral resistance system which distributes loads to the floor or ceiling joists and provides resistance to wind and earthquakes.

Large wooden structures can be further strengthened using other systems like rigid framing, girders, braces and struts. 

A regulated industry

In 2013, the Quebec government, in collaboration with the Régie du Bâtiment du Québec, published guidelines for the construction of wood residential buildings up to 12 stories high

Amended in 2015 in the National Building Code, this decision allowed Quebec to become the second province in Canada, after British Columbia, to encourage the construction of large wooden buildings.

Advantages of using wood to build high-rises

There are many advantages to constructing houses out of wood. These same advantages apply to the construction of wooden mid- and high-rises.

Reduced construction costs

Since wood is lighter than concrete or steel, it requires less handling, which reduces overall construction costs. The wood itself is also much less expensive. 

It is also possible to use prefabricated roof trusses, built in a factory and not on the construction site, to save even more time and therefore money. 

Tall buildings require a large foundation, which means more concrete. Large wooden buildings are significantly lighter than those built of steel, and therefore require less concrete for their foundations.

With all of these elements combined, the cost of a large wooden building (6-storeys tall) is estimated at 20-50% less than a similar structure made from steel.

Significantly reduced construction time

Using wood to build high-rise structures reduces construction time, which is a major advantage in Quebec where long winters make for a shorter construction season overall. Using wood means completing more projects in the limited time available.

An eco-friendly choice

Wood is a renewable and recyclable resource. It naturally traps CO2, one of the primary greenhouse gases humans are struggling to manage. 

Using wood in construction is an eco-responsible choice that we promote by producing prefabricated structural wood products

When choosing wood for construction, it is important to harvest it from sustainably managed sources. Large wooden buildings can have a major environmental appeal, an advantage in today’s market.

5 amazing tall wood buildings!

At UsiHome, we have been building structural wood products, such as custom engineered wood floor joists, for 50 years. Building prefabricated structures is our passion!

Get inspired with us as we take a look at some of our favorite tall wooden buildings around the world.

Hoho Wien (HoHo Vienna)

HoHo Wien is a 24-story multi-residential wooden structure in Austria. It is currently the tallest wooden building in the world. We can only be impressed by the technical prowess of this construction.

Smart Mill

Smart Mill - Crédit Photo

Built in 2021 in Lévis, Quebec, this commercial building is the headquarters of Smart Mill. It places the use of wood in construction at the forefront.

Oakwood Tower

Oakwood Tower à Londres

This 315 meter high tower in London, England, is a residential building containing 1000 apartments. This tall wooden building was made using a combination of concrete and wood products.

Brock Commons

Brock Commons

Built on a university campus in Vancouver, British Columbia, this is 18-storey building was constructed in only 70 days! Quite a feat for a university residence that boasts over 400 units.

Kizhi Pogost

Kizhi Pogost

This 150-year-old monument is standing proof that wood is a sustainable material! Kizhi Pogost as been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990, and is currently the largest wooden monument in the world.

Trust UsiHome for structural wood products

Wood is a versatile material that can be used in the construction of buildings of all sizes. It has long been acknowledged as an excellent choice for building smaller structures, but today, technological advances make it an equally viable choice for larger projects.

As a manufacturer of prefabricated wood structures in Quebec, UsiHome creates custom-made wood parts ready for delivery to any construction site. We know wood, and we love it,  and we would love to partner with you on your next project! Contact our team of experts today.

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