Growing Trend: Light Wood Frame Construction

In recent years, one growing trend is the utilization of light wood framing (LWF) for midrise residential and commercial structures. Permitted under the International Building Codes for years, this construction has only recently become more accepted and popular in Northern Illinois. In fact, construction utilizing this method has been ongoing for years in Minnesota, California, Virginia, Oregon, Washington and other locales. As of yet, the practice does not meet the criteria of current City of Chicago code, but is a viable solution throughout Illinois’s suburbs and rural areas.
FitzGerald is currently engaged on one such project: Wheaton 121 is a seven total story, 306 unit apartment structure utilizing a two story precast concrete parking podium with five stories of LWF apartments above. The project is currently underway and will be delivered for various permits in March and April with an expected June groundbreaking. The building will contain all of the typical amenities found in apartment buildings, however because of the construction methods utilized, it will be delivered at about 85% of the typical cost of a similarly-constructed masonry or steel building.
Widely accepted as the most economical option for building other types of housing, light wood frame construction in the mid-rise sector has many advantages such as reduced construction time, sustainability, and most importantly reduced costs. In addition to a wider available of trade pools are available for this type of building construction. An average 15% to 20% reduction in a similarly framed steel or masonry building has caused other developers to take notice.
Contrary to commonly held opinion, timber harvests and replanting of forests utilized in the timber industry have come a long way since the slash and burn mentality of the early 20th century. Wood is locally available, a great carbon sequestration device and ultimately provides for a lighter overall structure reducing the footing and foundation sizes. Light wood frame construction can be regarded as somewhat environmentally friendly, even, as the young fast-growth trees utilized are frequently replaced on the order of 1.5 to 1.
At FitzGerald, we believe this practice will become more accepted and its benefits more apparent. With the experience to provide our clients with a comprehensive look at LWF construction, we encourage our clients to consider for their midrise residential and commercial projects as they strive to remain competitive in our cost-focused economy.