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Mass Timber Benefits go Beyond Sustainability

22 August 2023

Early Results in World’s Biggest Test of Its Kind Raise Possibility of More West Coast Timber Projects – Buildings made from wood have long provided a warm, aesthetically pleasing atmosphere, while appealing to real estate investors trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Now, results from a new research project show wood buildings have another benefit: they may fare just as well as traditional construction in earthquakes.

An experiment started a few months ago at the University of California, San Diego involving more than 40 corporate and academic professionals is indicating that high-rise timber buildings are able to resist violent shaking. Tests on a 10-story timber structure, called TallWood, built for the project on the campus so far find a greater degree of earthquake resistance than expected.

“We were expecting some sort of damage but what we have observed is that this is the most boring test ever,” said Shiling Pei, a civil engineering professor at the Colorado School of Mines leading the San Diego experiment. “Nothing breaks” even when subjected to the most intense earthquake simulations, he said, adding that more testing is planned for later this summer.

These early findings are significant for the commercial real estate industry because of the increasing popularity of structures made mostly from timber in the United States. Architects and engineers are seeking to expand the use of timber as building codes change and taller timber structures are built.

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