Viewpoint on the wooden construction future: Professor Frank Lam

Published 8 March 2016
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​What will be the coming trends and developments in the wood construction industry? What are the key success factors for wooden construction in the future? In the following, Professor Frank Lam from the University of British Columbia shares his views on these questions.​

“The upcoming trends and developments in the wood construction industry are towards taller and larger high profile structures, more than 8 storeys high, built with heavy timber and engineered wood products. These may be constructed mostly out of wood or using wood in combination with other building materials to form hybrid structures,” says professor Frank Lam.

Frank Lam is Senior Chair Professor for Wood Building Design and Construction at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. The Wood Science department’s research and development programmes focus on industrial manufacturing of wood products, biotechnology and bio-products, management, marketing and sustainability as well as wooden construction technologies.

"In order to change the norms, research plays an important role but nevertheless this is a slow process.”

“Even though the share of wood construction and taller wooden buildings has been increasing in North America, the building codes do not fully deal with these types of buildings or new engineered wood products,” adds Frank Lam. “In order to change the norms, research plays an important role but nevertheless this is a slow process.”

High rise buildings increase confidence in wood construction

Professor Lam sees high rises playing an important role in the development of wooden construction industry as they can act as example structures that boost confidence in building smaller (4 to 6 storey) commercial or residential buildings.

“We should also keep in mind that the wooden construction sector should not be limited to countries already familiar with timber as a building material but also in emerging and new markets where the use of wood is a somewhat new concept”, Lam reminds.

Four factors for success

In general, Professor Lam sees four critical areas that will define the success of the wooden construction sector in the future. “First of all, cost and quality control from the products and building perspective is important; secondly the industry needs to be able to define and quantify performance not only on the product level but also on the component, system and structural levels. Proper quantification of performance allows wood-based solutions to be compared against other building materials in an objective and scientific manner,” Lam argues.

“In addition to these two, future success calls for continuous development of new products, and the refinement of existing products is needed as the industry moves into new markets. Last but not least, support for timber design education and research is critical.”

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