Designing for Durability

Strategies for achieving maximum durability with wood-framed construction
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Design: Toward a Durable Wood Building Envelope

Although wood structural systems are capable of meeting service life objectives, there are potential threats to longevity that must be considered, as there are with any material. Moisture is one of the most challenging, and no material is immune. In steel-frame buildings, for example, warm, moist air can condense on the cold steel members, creating problems such as rust, corrosion, and mold on adjacent drywall. In concrete buildings, condensation can occur on cold surfaces, creating similar problems. In exterior applications, concrete can spall due to water seepage, rusting its steel reinforcing. Likewise, if masonry isn’t detailed for proper drainage and drying, spalling can result. In wood buildings, moisture may lead to decay, mold, and other issues. However, with proper detailing to prevent bulk water intrusion and moisture entrapment—i.e., to avoid excessive wetting and promote drying—these issues can be avoided.

For wood, an additional consideration is protection against insects. In some parts of the country where termites pose a significant problem, building codes require the use of preservative-treated wood or wood species that are naturally insect resistant.

Regardless of material, long-term durability starts with good design—including proper detailing, product selection, and quality control.

 

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Originally published in Architectural Record

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