After Massive Raleigh Fire, News & Observer Begins Push to Stop Using Wood for Construction…

Excerpt From: News & Observer. Written By: Martha Quillin.

As flames chewed through hundreds of thousands of board feet of exposed lumber and plywood in a spectacular fire at an under-construction apartment building in downtown Raleigh Thursday night, a question swirled like smoke. Why build an apartment out of wood?

It may seem counterintuitive to see a full-scale return in 2017 to the same building materials colonists hewed from the forests when they first landed in the New World. But all over Raleigh, and especially downtown, along Hillsborough Street and around Cameron Village, wood-frame apartment buildings have proliferated in the post-recession housing-market rebirth because they’re an economical way to build highly demanded high-density housing.

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“There is a trend around the country to build these types of buildings all over the place,” said Barry Gupton, secretary to the N.C. Building Code Council, the 17-member board that oversees the state’s voluminous building regulations. “They’re all over Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, and other parts of the country too.”

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The Metropolitan, which burned as people watched from nearby streets and over internet feeds, was one of the most common types of modern wood-frame buildings. Known as a pedestal or podium building, it’s actually two structures: a poured-concrete first level – the pedestal – with four stories of wood-frame construction on top. Another popular form is wood framing directly on a concrete slab.

A change in the national building code in 2009, adopted by North Carolina, increased the number of wood-frame stories that can be built on a pedestal or slab from four to five.


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