Mass Timber Series Week 5: The Lifespan of Mass Timber Structures

Does mass timber construction lengthen or shorten the lifespan of a building?

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Mass timber operates in a different manner than many other materials when constructing buildings. While mass timber structures may take less time to build over mediums like concrete, the limited education surrounding the specialized material could be detrimental. With such ideas in mind, do you believe that mass timber construction lengthens or shortens the lifespan of buildings? Why?

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Just based on the material, we will not know until it has been used in practice. Intuitively, it seems unlikely to last longer than steel when both are properly maintained.


This interesting article shows the estimated “service life” for a few dozen Mass Timber buildings at about 50-100 years, with most between 50-60 years and a couple outliers at 100 years.

Is that accurate to what you are hearing out there?
@Shay_Kurzinski @Juan_Bugarin @Jing_Kong @Damien_Mocke @Lauren_Kembi @Dusan_Milutinovic @Aitor_Arteta @David_Rau @Phyllis_Chong @Franco_Piva @Oleksiy_Alex_Chygryn


Conversely though, perhaps there’s an interesting opportunity to be able to recycle mass timber building components when the structure reaches the end of its lifespan. Even though wood might be less durable in certain circumstances, it’s also less wasteful than concrete, which typically can’t be reused in the same way. That being said, a building’s lifespan also really depends on how its specific cladding performs in the climate, as opposed to just the internal structural material.


The oldest wooden building in the world ins the Horyuji Temple in Nara Japan and it is over 1,300 years old. I was fortunate enough to visit it multiple times when I lived and worked in Japan in the 90’s. This temple was built using traditional Japanese post and beam construction methods.

So, if the structure is built correctly and the timber is treated properly, there is no telling how long Mass Timber structures will last.

Notice how the roof structure protects the timbers from the elements.



What maintenance is needed for mass timber structures? Is it expensive?

@David_Stallcop @Bella_Carmelita_Carr @Shay_Kurzinski @Juan_Bugarin @Jing_Kong @Damien_Mocke @Lauren_Kembi @Dusan_Milutinovic @Aitor_Arteta @David_Rau @Phyllis_Chong @Franco_Piva @Oleksiy_Alex_Chygryn @Nic_Maloski @ARNIE_DIDIER @Oleg_Semenov @Jerry_Truex @KayCee_Hallstrom @Neill_Gibson @Andrey_Tikhomirov @David_Bagdy @Burford_Bolander @Ben_Jordan


Moisture management is the key for mass timber construction to extend the life of the structure indefinitely. Making sure any exposed timber to the outside elements is coated with a UV protectant and waterproof coating is extremely necessary. You do have to go back and apply a new coating every few years similar to how you would re-stain a cedar deck every 4~5 years.

Conversely, while I was in Dubai in March I was able to go and visit the D1 Tower at Jaddaf Waterfront. This glulam roof structure that was supplied by HESS TIMBER (part of the Hasslacher Group) was built nearly 10 years ago and unfortunately the owners of the building didn’t periodically contact HESS to get them to come and reapply any special UV coating to it, so with the extreme heat and sand storms that beat down on the structure it has weathered to a point where it doesn’t look very fresh anymore. With it being in such a shiny city as Dubai, just “letting it go” wasn’t a very wise choice in my opinion.

Here is the link to the project: DUBAI D1 TOWER