San Francisco Earthquake-Proof House – Timber Framing
Rate this post
Living in the Golden City has many perks, however, from time to time our way of life and tranquility will be rudely disrupted by the occasion tremor. Since the infamous 1906 earthquake, San Francisco has seen at least 2 major tremors with a magnitude of 6.7. The last one was in 1989 with more than 30 000 people displaced, more than 6 billion Dollars in damages and a bridge collapse.
What is a San Franciscan to do Before the “Big One”?
Seismologists have estimated that in the coming 30 to 50 years the Bay Area is due to experience a serious, more than 6.9, earthquake. We humans are quick to forget and want life returned to normal, however, mindfulness of property safety in case of a big shake is quite more important in the long run.
Can a Timber-Framed Building Withstand a 7.0 Magnitude Earthquake?
Stick framing is a very common method of construction, widely used all throughout the US. Timber framing, on the other hand does not enjoy so much popularity. What’s the difference?
A stick framed house uses a lot more material, usually held together by brackets and nails. This method provides a very quick and cheap way of constructing entire neighborhoods. However, there are severe downsides to this method of construction.
The most prominent downside of stick framing is the lack of joining between two timber pieces. Meaning that they are held together primarily by nails, carpenter screws and brackets. While they do provide quite a lot of load bearing strength, they are not so mobile. If the ground underneath is shaking, you need a structure to be able to move along with it.
Resistance to movement results in construction material stress and in faults created in the weight-bearing pillars and parts. This means that stick framed housing is not a viable choice for a seismically active city such as San Francisco.
Timber Framing in Construction – is it a Viable Solution for Earthquakes?
On the other side of the carpentry spectrum resides the art of timber framing. While stick framing uses hard nails and inflexible materials, timber framing has a more complex approach. The reason it’s not quite as popular of a construction method in the US is due to the complexity and training.
Rather than use brackets and hard nails, timber framing uses joints and pegs in order to connect each piece of timber to one another. All pieces are interconnected in one or another through individually cut and fitted joints.
This is quite an ancient method and has been used around the world for millennia. The first signs of timber-framed buildings found in Europe and Asia, dating back 4000 year B.C. What makes timber framed structures a good choice is the spaces between the joints, allowing for wood warping and movement.
The flexibility of a building with a timber framed skeleton is much more resilient to tremors and quakes. It’s far batter than regular masonry and even scores higher than concrete structures. Is such a construction approach more viable than what is found throughout San Francisco?
What Can We Learn From Japan?
The Japanese have had the tremor problem for quite a long time. This can be seen in their traditional timber constructions like pagodas, temples and traditionally built homes. A visually familiar sight is the high, vertical Japanese pagoda made entirely out of wood. Some can date back to 1500 years B.C.
How have they managed to survive so long in such a seismically active region? It’s all in the craftsmanship. While western timber framing uses quite complex joints, the Japanese are on a whole other level (what a surprise). Their methods include a lot of 3 dimensional, hard to accomplish jointing which provides stability and flexibility.
This process requires diligence, persistence and concentration because the only thing holing these joints is the friction and fit between them. The way different pieces of timber interlock and join together is what made these structures last more than 5 time as long as the entire history of the US.
Timber Framing is more Eco-Friendly!
Aside from providing quite a lot of stability, timber framing is also quite a lot greener than concrete and steel. The carbon footprint of concrete and steel mills is one of the biggest contributors to the increase of Carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses.
If sourced correctly, timber framed houses can be one of the most carbon neutral construction methods. It embodies the ideological lifestyle of the Bay Area, full of progressive and forward thinking minds from all walks of life.
How are Earthquakes Bad for your Property?
Aside from being extremely disruptive and unpredictable, earthquakes can also invite quite a lot of foundation, wall and window damage. Any movement in the masonry of a building can and will open cracks, inviting the elements in.
Any water from the outside invites mold and mildew, which can contribute to a lot of health problems. A property with moisture issues will inevitably develop fungal issues, and 4 out of 7 times those will be toxic bearing fungi. If you have experienced issues with a tremor or a quake and now have moisture issues, give GCD Restoration a call and get professional water damage restoration.
We provide a 24/7 disaster relief, emergency service suited for all kinds of scenarios, from flood damage to sewage back-ups and cleaning.