What is it about?

Timber is a popular building material because it is eco-friendly, affordable, light, and easy to work with. However, there are concerns about its use as a primary building material. For example, we do not know how well it can handle the strong forces encountered during natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes. A study has now tried to close this knowledge gap. In this study, researchers designed a support system called timber buckling restrained brace (TBRB). This brace can be added to mass timber buildings to help these buildings withstand lateral (sideways) forces. The TBRB was designed based on principles similar to those of existing steel and concrete BRBs that consist of a steel core in a concrete tube. The researchers created a model that is a downscaled version of a braced frame comprising a single-bay with the TBRB. They then tested its response to both vertical loads and lateral movements. After subjecting the structure to 14 cycles of lateral displacement, the frame's resilience greatly improved (by 4.0 to 8.6 times) compared to a frame without the TBRB. Each subassembly of the mass timber frame could bend or move sideways (drift) by at least 2.8% before the TBRB experienced a failure. These results suggest that the TBRB dissipates energy and enables the building to move and deform without failing instantly.

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Why is it important?

Guidance in current building rules does not cover timber strength regarding structures. This study, however, proposes a solution to make tall timber buildings safer in places where earthquakes or hurricanes are common. The study findings can help to save building costs and time. KEY TAKEAWAY: While more tests are needed, this study suggests the TBRB can make timber buildings more resilient to earthquakes and natural disasters. This research relates to the following Sustainable Development Goals: • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities • SDG 13: Climate Action • SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure • SDG 15: Life on Land • SDG 9: Partnerships for the Goals


In the near future we will see skyscrapers, over 50 stories tall, that are built using mass timber.

Chris Pantelides
University of Utah

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Design and Cyclic Experiments of a Mass Timber Frame with a Timber Buckling Restrained Brace, Journal of Structural Engineering, October 2023, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE),
DOI: 10.1061/jsendh.steng-12363.
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