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    • CommentAuthorSimonH
    • CommentTimeMar 30th 2009
     
    Prompted by a couple of other threads...

    Why do we use steel on all commercial buildings in the UK?

    Why do the Amercians use wood on nearly all buildings?

    Some examples I've seen going up.

    US
    Largest shopping mall in Phoenix - Arizona Mills.
    300 flat apartment complex.
    3 storey hotel blocks.

    All "stick built" on site in timber.

    UK.
    Pick any office block built more than 1 storeys in the last 40 years.
    Pick any commerical / industrial unit with a floor area > 100 m2. and it will have steel columns supporting the roof.

    Conclusion. People stick to what they know.

    Is steel cheaper in the UK? Or is it a case of no one ever got fired for using hollow core concrete blocks on steel frame?

    And in the US - the lack of local clay, lime or coal deposits meant everything came in by rail to the west. And therefore localish timber set the precedent as it's lighter / cheaper then alternatives were?

    Simon
  1.  
    Posted By: SimonHWhy do the Amercians use wood on nearly all buildings?
    Some examples I've seen going up.
    US
    Largest shopping mall in Phoenix - Arizona Mills.
    300 flat apartment complex.
    3 storey hotel blocks.

    Are you sure? I spent quite a bit of time in Phoenix/Chandler and all the commercial buildings I saw going up were steel framed. Now apartment complexes are certainly stick built and anything less than around 4 stories. I really doubt that Arizona Mills would be stick built though. Steel is much faster to erect for large low-rise buildings and gives much larger unsupported spans too.

    As for residential, remember that the weather in the US is much warmer than the UK and so there aren't the same problems building with wood that there are in the UK. Also, it's a question of the availability of skilled trades. Framing is typically a low-skill job compared to bricklaying and one has to remember (and this is not meant to sound derogatory at all) there are a lot of unskilled immigrants and illegal immigrants in states that have a border with Mexico (like Arizona, Texas, etc.). Almost anyone can bang 2x4s together whereas building a brick wall requires much more skill and/or experience.

    Also remember that the UK is a very small country - smaller than many US states and so nowhere in the UK is very far from a cement works or a brick factory (or a port since a lot of this stuff is imported now). All that said, Arizona doesn't really have much of a forestry industry as it's mainly desert around Phoenix so I'm not sure where the wood comes from. Actually, I do. It used to come from Canada, but then the US imposed illegal tariffs (despite many protestations to the WTO etc. google "canadian softwood lumber dispute"). The US was the largest export market for Canadian wood until the housing crisis decimated the trade in the past year.

    Where did you see that Arizona Mills was stick framed?

    Paul in Montreal
    • CommentAuthorSimonH
    • CommentTimeMar 31st 2009
     
    RE: Arizona mills I was staying in the Inn Suites motel across the road for around a month back in 1998. I watched them building it - didn't know what it was as the time, but recall thinking - I hope no one is smoking over there! It looked like the biggest collection of stud walls I'd ever seen. Went back in 2000 and thought - wow - you wouldn't even know. I'd expect there to be some steel cantilevers in the roofs - especially the larger spans but from what I saw most of the framing is in timber with the stucco overcoat that is common round Phoenix. Admittedly - it might have had some steel columns in amongst the timber but it was a bit dark from the outside.

    There was one building I worked in where there was a new 2 storey office going up next door. They used some kind of light weight aggregate blocks for the stairwells (fire proof) and then the timber went in afterwards. I didn't envy the [mexican] workers who were building it, it was about 108 degrees at the time. They did however have a slow and steady attitude to work.

    The weather comment is probably the most important. I guess most of us in the UK fear wood in our damp climate. Preferring nice solid baked clay and have the preception wood will be rotten in 10 years time unless regulalry treated with some nasty chemical concotions. However that doesn't reflect commercial designs - which predomioncately used glass panels infilled with some concrete, GRP composites or corrugated steel.

    I have noticed a fashion over the last 2-3 years for all new apartments to have a bit of wood somewhere on the facades. Either a balcony or a bit of a panel either side of the windows. Trouble is - they all look the same again now, lightish coloured smooth flat faced bricks, grey window frames and a bit of cedar.
    • CommentAuthorTimber
    • CommentTimeMar 31st 2009
     
    SimonH - one of the reasons we never used to build much out of timber (last 50 years at least) is that the UK climate isn't condusive to growing structural soft wood.

    Other parts of the world where structural softwood is more available, it is the natural choice.

    As for size and types of building, typically timber frame is confined to buildings up to 6 - 7 storeys, although there is the KLH cross lam block of flats at 9 storeys in london (8 of timber).

    Tesco and Sainsburys have started to build their new supermarkets from timber, and i have seen a design for a timber carpark (was more of an idea than a concept to actually be built).

    Timber
    • CommentAuthorSimonH
    • CommentTimeMar 31st 2009
     
    <blockquote><cite>Posted By: Timber</cite>SimonH - one of the reasons we never used to build much out of timber (last 50 years at least) is that the UK climate isn't condusive to growing structural soft wood.

    Other parts of the world where structural softwood is more available, it is the natural choice.

    Timber</blockquote>
    Ah, so does the fact that we now have OSB I beams available from UK produced timber, mean that it's more likely that this method will ramp up the number of buildings using it? If so - I might get round to buying some woodland sooner than I thought ;-)

    ( PS site needs a better font to see why they're called I beams !)
  2.  
    "Quicker, cheaper. simpler" were the words my structural engineer put to me when I said that we wanted to replace the wooden A frames with like material and not the steel beams he'd suggested. He still reckoned steel won on all points though. I think we'll try to use timber, though, if the planners will let us. Would you believe that for the renovation of an 18th century cottage it's actually hard to be allowed to use old style materials!? Anyway, we've got a few Scots pine that need felling....

    Bright Green
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