Durability & Adaptability

Durability & Adaptability

History has shown that, with proper design and maintenance, wood structures can provide long and useful service lives equivalent to other building materials.

The key is careful planning and understanding of environmental loads and other external factors likely to impact a building over its lifetime. This involves four main methods of control:

  • Moisture control
  • Control of insects and other living organisms
  • Use of durable materials
  • Quality assurance

The publications listed below include detailed recommendations for preventing damage from moisture and living organisms. However, while durability is crucial to the design of any structure, designers should be aware that many buildings are demolished before the end of their useful service lives. A survey of buildings torn down between 2000 and 2003 in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area demonstrated that buildings in North America often fail to make the 50-year mark, regardless of material, because of changing needs and increasing land values as opposed to performance issues. Overall, wood buildings in the study had the longest life spans, showing that wood structural systems are fully capable of meeting a building’s longevity expectations—but, when you consider the embodied energy in demolished buildings and the implications of material disposal, the fact that wood is adaptable either through renovation or deconstruction and reuse is a significant advantage.

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