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Timber Engineering Europe


Here are some examples of opinion from around the world.


One particularly interesting example comes from China. According to Ms Zhang Zhiping, Director of the Conservation Centre for Monuments and Sites at the National Institute for Cultural Heritage in Beijing, traditional timber-framed buildings have been built in China for thousands of years. And these buildings perform excellently in earthquakes. During the 1996 earthquake in Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, traditional buildings remained intact while more modern ones collapsed, even in the most seriously damaged areas of the town.


Wood frame buildings with stud walls generally perform well in an earthquake, unless they have no foundation or have a weak foundation constructed of unreinforced masonry or poorly reinforced concrete. Damage to wood frame buildings is generally limited to cracking of the stucco, which in fact, dissipates much of the earthquake's induced energy. The collapse of wood frame structures, if it happens, generally does not generate heavy debris; but rather, the wood and plaster debris can be cut or broken into smaller pieces by hand-held equipment and removed by hand in order to reach victims (FEMA, 1988)


Partial or total collapse of buildings where the floors, walls and roofs fail as large intact units, such as large pre-cast concrete panels, cause the greatest concern in terms of life loss and difficulties in victim rescue and extrication (FEMA, 1988). Thousands of people have died as a result of collapse of these kinds of buildings during earthquakes, such as in Mexico City (1985), Armenia (1988), Nicaragua (1972), El Salvador (1986), and Philippines (1990). Many of the parking structures that failed spectacularly in Northridge (1994) consisted of pre-cast components (EERC, 1994)


In urban areas of the world, the seismic risk is greater in non-reinforced buildings made of brick, stone, or concrete blocks because they cannot resist the horizontal forces produced by large seismic waves. Fortunately, single-family timber-frame homes built under modern construction codes resist strong earthquake shaking very well. Such houses have laterally braced frames bolted to their foundations to prevent separation. Although they may suffer some damage, they are unlikely to collapse because the strength of the strongly jointed timber-frame can easily support the light loads of the roof and the upper stories even in the event of strong vertical and horizontal ground


In rebuilding its homes after the earthquake it may be opportune for the Istanbul region to rediscover its tradition of timber frame construction because timber frame can offer a safer form of construction than the concrete that has proved so disastrous. It may also provide a simpler response to rebuilding than the use of concrete and masonry. This is not to suggest timber building as a form of temporary, emergency building but as a form of permanent construction safer against earthquakes and at least as suitable as concrete and masonry to the climate of the Istanbul region.

Haiti (2010)

Red Cross Red Shelter specialists have been working against the clock in Port-au-Prince to begin construction of replacement homes for those Haitians who became homeless as a result of the Earthquake on 12th January 2010. They have decided on a "core" construction based on timber frame principles.


Pierre Marie Gerard a 29 yr old Haitian carpenter working on new timber frame buildings
(3rd May 2010)

Sandra D'Urzo who is shelter advisor to IFRC says that as the core houses are built of timber and a "light weight structure" they will bend with the aftershocks we're still getting.
Corrine Treherne head of the shelter team at IRFC base camp in Port-au-Prince said "In Haiti, before the earthquake , 'disaster risk reduction' in building techniques was very minimal; inadequately reinforced concrete was the big killer in the quake".
The plan is to build 20,000 small homes very quickly and then extend or move as and when circumstances and resources allow.

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Timber Frame has rapidly become the ecological construction method of choice for replacing damaged buildings post earthquake globally.

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