Can Mass Timber Constructed Buildings Survive an Earthquake – Even “The Big One”?

The use of timbers in the building industry has been growing over the past decade. As a result, mass timber manufacturing has also been growing as well. And with it the square footage of large timber buildings, which has increased four-fold in the U.S. To date more than 44 wooden structures six-stories or above have been constructed around the world in the past six years, using massive timber products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) and large timber construction technology. However, some people are wondering whether tall timber structures could survive in an earthquake-prone region, “the Big One” such as the West Coast of the United States. Oregon State University (OSU) has under taken an in depth review of all the factors that contribute to the design and building of mass timber construction and have concluded that yes,  tall timber buildings can survive “the big one” because our engineers are ensuring that the buildings remain light, have adequate stiffness, and have components in place to take the earthquake energy. In some cases, these timber buildings have gone beyond safety requirements to limit damage and downtime after an earthquake. At OSU, research is ongoing to continue to improve current systems and validate their performance over the course of 50-years.


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