Building with wood in the Arctic

IRG/WP 18-50335

J N R Ruddick

During the last five years there has been a significant increase in interest in Canada in the Arctic, with research on the Franklin exploration of the mid19th century searching for the North West Passage, which coupled with the impact of Global warming on the loss of sea ice has rendered the North West Passage now navigable during the summer months. Building with wood in the Arctic has proved extremely effective even with untreated timbers. However, significant improvement in service life of structural components can be made with moderate preservative retentions. Evidence suggests that the Use Category System greatly overestimates the biological hazard faced by building timbers in the Arctic. Since the Arctic is a sensitive environment for the use of chemicals it is suggested that the UCS in Canada be modified for timbers to be used in the Arctic. Global warming has resulted in a lowering of the permafrost increasing the depth of the active layer. Since fundamental building strategies in delta areas of the Arctic have depended on fastening piles into the permafrost, data is needed in order to predict the depths needed for long term building life. Alternative strategies have been developed which seek to either permanently freeze the active layer, or replace the active layer with a thermally inert insulating material, and which can therefore form a base for building construction. The emergence of new building technologies and materials, requires assessment for their use under Arctic conditions. It is recommended that a data base on treated timber performance in the Arctic is developed, to support future treated wood use in the Arctic.

Keywords: Wood buildings, Arctic, Global warming, Franklin, UCS

Conference: 18-04-29/05-03 Johannesburg, South Africa

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