Chinese Wood-Frame Construction Sector Development

23rd April 2018

Are structural timber and prefabricated components processors ready for it?

Based on a significant interest for timber and prefabricated building components, Margules Groome continues to keep you updated on the latest global and regional developments.

The last 3-5 years produced record volumes of logs exported to China, sometimes, as in the case of New Zealand, exerting pressure on the local wood processors to pay export parity prices. This situation is set to possibly become more interesting due to changes that occurred in China over the past 12 months: a new tall building code and early 2018 the new design code for
timber structures.

Since October 1st, 2017, the new code “Technical standard for multi-storey and high-rise timber buildings (GB/T51226 – 2017)” allows wooden structures up to 5 storeys and on a case-by-case basis even taller, up to 56 metres or 18 storey in regions with very low seismic activity.

The following design code applies to residential and office buildings located in 2nd and 3rd tier cities.

From August 1st 2018, the new design code for timber structures coded “GB50005-2017” will be valid.

It encourages the Chinese construction sector to expand the use of wood and it improves the grading system of wood strength. Significantly, it also pledges to strengthen the design criteria for glued timber structures as well as light wood structures. Significant amendments brought by the new code 1 are:

  • To increase the use of domestic wood species and imported wood species (specifically, Japanese wood species and NZ radiata pine are now accepted for use as structural components)
  • To add additional design requirements on structure composite materials and engineered wood products
  • To unify the calculation requirements of wood structural components and connectors
  • To improve the design criteria for glued timber structures and light wood structures (as Glulam and CLT components are starting to attract interest from the market)
  • To improve the regulation of seismic design and structure requirement
  • Coordinate and improve requirements on fire-protection design and structure requirements
  • Improve requirements for durability design and structure requirements.

This change represents a significant step forward for the Chinese wood frame construction sector that until now has been experiencing significant challenges and barriers such as cultural
preference, economic development rules, available technical solutions and unfavourable industrial development policy and regulations.

Until now, driven by a national prefabrication policy, the “concrete frame + wood roof” solution was more prevalent in the market while fully-made-of-wood houses remained out of the regulated building environment. In major cities, the Chinese Government supported a large scale re-roofing program directed to the previously built buildings that required the use of wood trusses.

Will this change increase the structural timber use in the Chinese construction sector? How will it influence the demand for sawlogs and structural timber in the APAC region?