Atlanta suburb alters building codes to prohibit wood-framed construction for tall structures
- The Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs, GA, has amended its building code to ban wood framing in buildings more than three stories high and bigger than 100,000 square feet, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
- Proponents of the ban on wood said that steel and masonry buildings are safer and last longer than those made of wood. However, Georgia Forestry Association and American Wood Council officials said this new building code would harm the wood industry.
- Most cities typically allow wood framing up to five stories, according to The Charlotte Observer. In addition, wood is generally cheaper and faster to install.
As Sandy Springs is banning wood-frame apartment buildings, other developers and designers are pushing wood skyscrapers — or plyscrapers — all over the world, using cross-laminated timber (CLT). In April, a liberal political party in Stockholm, Sweden commissioned Anders Berensson Architects to design a 436-foot-tall, 40-story CLT skyscraper, which would be the city's tallest building. The architects said they want the structure to serve as a model for a possible solution to Stockholm’s population growth.
Designers in London submitted a similar plan to city officials in March for an 80-story, 984-foot-tall wood residential high-rise for the city's Barbican housing estate. Similar to Stockholm, design partners PLP Architecture and the University of Cambridge said the building would help to alleviate the shortage of housing. If completed, the structure would be London's second tallest building and the tallest wood building in the world.
Advocates of the material say CLT panels are similar in cost to concrete and steel buildings and are just as safe, yet represent a renewable, sustainable and lightweight option to traditional materials. In April, researchers at the University of Oregon announced that they would test CLT under fire and seismic conditions, and they hope the results eventually spur a change in building codes to allow more CLT.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also advocated for the use of CLT and sponsored the U.S. Tall Wood Building Competition last year. The winners were two teams from Portland, OR, and New York City, both of which were awarded $1.5 million to pursue development of their design proposals. The USDA said that in addition to showing off wood's practicality, an increase in the demand for CLT could reinvigorate the wood industry in rural communities, possibly creating up to hundreds of thousands of jobs. However, overcoming building codes and fire codes, as well as public perception of the safety of working or living in wood high-rises, will likely be a challenge as these development teams strive to join the plyscraper movement .
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sandy Springs bars wood framing in mid-rise construction
- Charlotte Observer Atlanta suburb bans wood-framed construction in large new buildings
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