What resources are available for wood construction in high seismic areas and why build with wood in earthquake-prone areas?


AWC Wood Frame Construction Manual (WFCM) 2015 Edition is presently referenced in model building codes such as the IBC (International Building Code) and IRC (International Residential Code). The WFCM is an ANSI approved document that provides engineered and prescriptive requirements for wood frame construction based on dead, live, snow, seismic, and wind loads from ASCE 7-10 Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures.

AWC Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic (SDPWS) 2015 Edition is presently referenced in model building codes such as the IBC. The SDPWS is an ANSI approved document that covers materials, design, and construction of wood members, fasteners, and assemblies to resist wind and seismic forces.

Wood has a high strength to weight ratio. Since wood is lighter than steel or concrete, there is less mass to move – a critical factor during an earthquake. Wood members connected with steel fasteners create a very ductile (flexible) assembly which is less prone to brittle failures often seen with unreinforced masonry or concrete structures.

Multiple, repetitive wood members (studs, joists, and rafters at 16”-24” on-center) provide redundancy in wood assemblies making them less prone to catastrophic collapse. Wood's renewability, low life-cycle environmental impacts, and ability to sequester carbon provides the optimal combination of green building and stability for earthquake-prone areas.

Tests have proven the viability of wood frame structures under seismic loads: http://www.awc.org/news/2010/02/03/america's-leading-wood-building-products-companies-pledge-to-help-haiti-rebuild-stronger-safer-buildings.