Fortifying CLT Walls for Earthquake-Proof Buildings

29 July 2022

Wood has similar strength to concrete, yet one fifth of the weight, meaning timber buildings naturally have much lower earthquake loads. A novel approach to the way cross-laminated timber (CLT) is used in low-rise construction could significantly reduce earthquake risk.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission provided NZ$75,000 to fund a two-year research program at the University of Canterbury, during which multi-storey CLT walls were tested under conditions mirroring those associated with an earthquake scenario, to observe their behaviours.

“With the right connections, CLT buildings can be really strong and resilient in an earthquake,” said Associate Professor Minghao Li, an expert in seismic activity, who led the research.

Li and his team created high-capacity wall connections containing steel dowels designed to help timber walls resist the force of an earthquake and protect their integrity. Under testing, the dowels bent to absorb energy, reduced the speed of shaking observed, and prevented timber walls from significant damage or collapse.

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