Opportunities For Wood in Low-Rise Commercial Buildings

A versatile and economical approach to large openings, tall walls, and open floor plans
[ Page 1 of 4 ]  Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 next page
Sponsored by Think Wood
By Scott Breneman, PhD, SE, PE, WoodWorks

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explain how wood-frame systems can be used to achieve design objectives commonly associated with commercial structures, such as tall walls, flat roofs, parapets, and open-front floor plans.
  2. Identify cost savings associated with Construction Types III and V compared to Types I and II, per the International Code Council’s Building Valuation Data.
  3. Discuss opportunities for achieving unlimited area for wood-frame commercial buildings under the International Building Code and implications of multi-tenant occupancies.
  4. Review applications of wood-frame construction in low-rise commercial buildings, with an emphasis on restaurant, retail, and office occupancies.


1 PDH*
AAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
This course can be self-reported to the AANB, as per their CE Guidelines
AAPEI 1 Structured Learning Hour
MAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
This course can be self-reported to the NLAA.
This course can be self-reported to the NSAA
NWTAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
OAA 1 Learning Hour
SAA 1 Hour of Core Learning
This course can be self-reported to the AIBC, as per their CE Guidelines.
This course is approved as a Structured Course
This course can be self-reported to the AANB, as per their CE Guidelines
Approved for structured learning
Approved for Core Learning
This course can be self-reported to the NLAA
Course may qualify for Learning Hours with NWTAA
Course eligible for OAA Learning Hours
This course is approved as a core course
This course can be self-reported for Learning Units to the Architectural Institute of British Columbia
This test is no longer available for credit

When designing restaurants, stores, and low-rise offices, certain features come to mind as typical. These buildings tend to have large openings that allow plenty of daylight. Many have high ceilings and (by extension) tall walls, open floor plans, and the ability to reconfigure the interior as tenant needs change. They often include irregular shapes, such as architectural features that make a chain restaurant instantly recognizable in a row of strip mall stores. Many also have flat roofs and parapets that hide rooftop mechanical units.

Photo of the Diamond Foods Innovation Center.

Photo: Eckert & Eckert

Diamond Foods Innovation Center
Location: Salem, Oregon
Architect: ZGF Architects
Engineer: KPFF Structural Engineers

Wood construction has the flexibility to meet all of these needs; wood can achieve the structural performance and quality objectives of even a large ‘big box’ store, cost-effectively, while providing a host of other advantages

This course is intended for building designers who want to learn more about the use of wood framing systems in low-rise commercial projects. For many, the motivation will be cost. As this course illustrates, wood structures can cost significantly less than comparable buildings made from other materials. Others are attracted to the idea of wood’s versatility, ease of use, and adaptability, while others still appreciate its renewability, sustainability, and light carbon footprint. Depending on the application, aesthetics and the growing body of research supporting wood’s biophilic qualities—i.e., the positive impact that exposed wood can have on a building’s occupants—may be the biggest driver for its use.

Intended to provide practical information that can be applied to projects, the course begins with code-related topics, including cost implications of construction type, opportunities for achieving unlimited area, and implications of multi-tenant occupancies. It provides an overview of wood wall and roof systems commonly used in commercial buildings, and highlights key design considerations. Examples of wood-frame buildings are highlighted, and a recent cost and environmental comparison of a big box store designed in wood versus steel is summarized. Code references refer to the 2015 International Building Code (IBC) unless otherwise noted.


[ Page 1 of 4 ]  Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 next page
Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in July 2016