Wood or Cement or Does it Matter?

IMG_7750, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

I’ve noticed the building going up at 14th and Florida is using quite a bit of wood? Is that normal? What is the benefit of using wood instead of concrete?

19 Comment

  • It’s only normal in America’s short-sighted, throw-away culture. That wood structure will be ready for the wrecking ball in 30-50 years.

    The rest of the industrialized world uses concrete, steel, and masonry to build dwellings that will last centuries. We use sticks.

  • Whats the answer to 9 out of 10 questions ?


  • Wood can last longer than concrete or steel.

  • It’s cheaper on the construction costs.

  • I would never buy a condo in a wooden structure as they are not very soundproof. Do you really want to hear your upstairs neighbor taking a leak at 2 in the morning?

  • There are plenty of stick-built structures that last 100+ years and it is a common technique for contemporary construction. And the distinction is not “wood vs. concrete”; it’s wood vs. cold-formed steel for bearing walls and light-gauge for partition walls. It’s a debate that is on-going among builders and there is no clear winner. Wood is more biodegradable that steel, especially cold-formed steel.

  • Expat: Just about everything built today will be ready for the wrecking ball well within that timeframe having nothing to do with the construction. We just like to knock old stuff down and build new stuff, e.g. RFK stadium.

    For the record, the wood does not make a structure disposable. If anything, it can last longer if built and maintained properly. The vast majority of houses in New England built 100-200 years ago are still standing. Concrete hasn’t even been around that long, but look at what’s happening to all the bridges in this country built 50 years ago.

    As far as soundproofing goes, there is no reason wood can’t be just as good as concrete. Insulation between the joists is a very effective sound barrier.

  • Honestly I think that much of the wood is used as support/mold for concrete that will be poured later.

  • I’ve also heard an argument that wood is more environmentally friendly because it uses much less energy to produce compared to steel or concrete, it’s a renewable product, and the trees planted to replace it absorb carbon from the atmosphere to offset energy used in construction. Of course the wood should also come from well managed forests or this is all moot!

  • I’ve got a brick party wall on my rowhouse and you can hear the phone ring in the neighbors place. We studded out the wall and added insulation and now you can’t hear anything, so the wood vs. masonry argument for soundproofing is retarded.

  • Jamie – “Concrete hasn’t even been around that long?” I believe the Pantheon in Rome is built out of concrete and is holding up pretty well despite being build in 125AD.


  • Concrete production is indeed extremely energy and carbon-intensive. Lime (the major component of non-hydaulic cement) and hydraulic cement production have consistently been two of the most energy-intensive non-petroleum related industries in America.

  • Personally, I think this building is totally nuts. Wood vs. concrete debate aside, does the way they’re building it make any sense? And what’s up with those big metal frames? And the wacky way that they’re stacking and jamming bits of wood to fill in the holes? Yikes. I’m very curious to see the way this one turns out.

  • I wonder if the same people building it are the same people doing the New Hampshire and Upshure Folly?

  • and can I add that one of the best things about Florida Ave Grill was the huge parking lt that is now covered by this building.

  • i’d go with adobe.

  • to the previous poster-but-one, this isn’t the building by florida avenue grill, it is the one on the n.w. corner of 14th and Florida.

  • A lot of construction in the Pacific Northwest is wood for structures less than four storeys tall. There’s nothing really wrong with it. And I’ll agree that it does *look* like it’s about to fall down, but all of those skinny pieces like the railings along the roof and dangling in the large openings in the middle will be taken off before they put on the exterior walls.

  • I suspect another point is that when you are going to pour a concrete floor, you have to put something to pour the floor into. that generally means that you construct a wooden mold, lay rebar, then pour concrete into it.

    On the other hand, I don’t do construction so I could be wrong…

    As far as the sound & longevity arguments go: they are bunk.
    – Longevity: In this country many (most) houses are wood. Mine was built in 1909. The main thing about longevity is care and upkeep. In my house, the wooden floor (and wall) joists holding up the floors are essentially petrified – I think they will last if kept dry. The floor-joists under the bathrooms that were kept wet for years when the place was a crack-house had to be replaced. Keep the wood dry, and not on fire – and the place should last a few hundred years. (Barring being demolished.)

    -Sound: The exterior walls in my 1910 house are brick. Three bricks wide in most places. Sound goes right through the common-walls to the neighbors. These walls are plaster on brick construction. Wood (or aluminum) framing with drywall and no insulation will also be very loud. Insulation will deaden the sound. In older houses (pre 1920ish) the interior walls are usually made with lathing (thin strips of wood) over the wall joists, and covered with a plaster (or several coats) that includes horse-hair (or straw) for strength. This material makes a good sound insulator. Slightly newer homes often have a similar plaster spread over a wire mesh screwed to the wall. (Ha-ha. Your wireless sucks because you live in a Faraday cage.)


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