State sets standards for taller wood buildings

SALEM, Ore. - The State of Oregon Building Codes Structures Board recently approved and the Oregon Building Codes Division adopted code language providing for taller wood building construction in Oregon.

The Aug. 1 approval provides greater predictability for owners, developers, contractors, and designers to have additional choices in construction. Oregon is the first state to take such a step at the state level, providing an assurance that if state standards are met, local governments will recognize these taller buildings.

National building code committees are not expected to recognize taller wood construction until 2021, but BCD has been working with manufacturers, designers, contractors, fire officials, local building officials, testing labs and universities to ensure these new provisions meet fire, life safety and seismic standards.

“Oregon is fortunate to have a system in place at the state level where these and other emerging markets can be developed with all stakeholders at the table,” said Oregon Building Codes Division Administrator Mark Long.

The new document, known as a statewide alternate method, or SAM, provides prescriptive technical requirements for tall wood buildings ranging from eight to 18 stories, depending on design and construction methods.

Oregon’s approach recognizes a composite design incorporating steel, concrete, or masonry building components and wood members for a first-of-its-kind approach, the agency said in a news release Wednesday.

“Many other states must rely on national standards, which could take years to develop and become available to the business community. This is another example of regulatory success in Oregon,” said Long.

Current national codes require both the designer and local building official to agree on the code requirements for wood buildings over six total stories. Action taken by BCD reduces uncertainty and provides a statewide opportunity for designers to consider taller composite wood structures.

To review the new Tall Wood Buildings - Statewide Alternate Method, go to

The Building Codes Division is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit

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