Proven and effective construction methods are not static, instead they’re always improving. In Quebec, Canada, light wood frame and modular manufacturers are always pushing the limits of innovation. Their craft is now linked to building systems on a bold scale with offsite light wood frame construction.
The light wood frame industry has risen to a wide variety of new building challenges and has developed many new specialized components in the last decade. Cost competitiveness is still present, but may no longer be the primary factor, as there now exist many building systems that can really only be delivered with skilled technical staff and automation of offsite facilities. For Eli Gould, US Representative for the Quebec Wood Export Bureau, light wood frame is a technical and detail-oriented technology that offers much more to your project that any other method.
“There’s a broad difference between typical homebuilders, even good framers, and the level of technical skill at offsite manufacturing companies. I have learned a lot from watching the details that go into multistory shear walls, fire rated walls, continuous insulation requirements, and even new light wood component solutions such as custom portal frame trusses.”
Quebec has developed light wood frame and offsite construction know-how for a variety of products, including modular construction. Custom fabricators can make integrated roof and floor systems with trusses, hardware, and structural sheathing, while nationally distributed manufacturers provide engineered components including I-joists, open-web wood joists, and LFL (laminated finger-jointed lumber). These innovative products promote three major benefits for architects (as well as contractors, engineers, and advocates of embodied carbon in buildings): design freedom, efficiency/cost savings, and sustainability.
Design Freedom for Architects
Light wood framing is highly adaptable to a wide variety of projects, from residential to large commercial developments. Its design flexibility makes it useful for an entire building or any combination of wall, floor/ceiling, and roof applications. It is also easier to adapt to different kinds of soils and site conditions, with the highest strength per weight of any building type.
The architectural freedom provided by light wood framing is also unique. Wood is easy to mix and match with other elements in order to reach the level of customization necessary for your project. Offsite manufacturing is also a crucial advantage when looking for flexibility, as products needed for the site can be customized and manufactured in parallel with the jobsite’s progress, helping to meet crucial milestones and deadlines.
Sustainability and Embodied Carbon Benefit
Light wood frame construction checks another crucial box on your list: improved sustainability. Much like our own lifestyles, the construction world is changing for a better tomorrow. Wood contributes to the construction of sustainable buildings and efficient use of resources in several ways. First, light wood framing is the only renewable construction material in its field. It is manufactured specifically for each project; there is almost no job site waste and manufacturers can re-use any leftovers for stairs, other architectural elements, or even as biofuel.
The other aspect to offsite light wood framing is its small carbon footprint. Wood products typically require less energy to manufacture than other building materials, and most of that comes from renewable biomass. Furthermore, in a wood building, the carbon is kept out of the atmosphere for the entire lifetime of the structure. It stores more carbon than the entire process of harvesting, transforming, and installation could produce. Increasing the proportion of wood in construction can help reduce the use of other, less environmentally-friendly construction materials, such as concrete, steel, and brick.
Due to skilled labor shortages, compressed schedules, and a potential for greater quality control, offsite wood construction has become increasingly popular. Because light frame wood is manufactured for specific applications, it is well suited to a high degree of prefabrication at the plant, leading to increased speed and efficiency of installation. For example, Panels are prefabricated, complete with pre-cut openings for doors, windows, stairs, service channels, and ducts, and shipped directly to job sites so they can be quickly and efficiently fitted into place. This can shave months of the construction schedule.
The Quebec Wood Export Bureau will be launching its own Offsite Wood plug-in on the Autodesk App Store in January. This means that it will be easier to find and use Quebec-sourced products for your project. We welcome interested early adopters to work with us during the soft launch phase. Make sure to take advantage of our industry expertise by contacting QWEB for a no-obligation review of plans, design assistance request, or to consult our bid portal.